How I Improved My Days by Tracking My Sleep Through the Night

Like many young professionals, I neglected sleep for work and social activities for years. Yet, a recent exploration into sleep tracking showed me that I could better my productivity and my health by improving my sleep.
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For many millennials, gone are the days of boxy alarm clocks. Young adults, myself included, have opted to just use their iPhones. My morning routine is typical for the most part. When the alarm goes off, I grab my iPhone from the nightstand then check my email and scroll through my Instagram feed. Nowadays, checking my sleep has become another crucial part of my morning routine. Like many young professionals, I neglected sleep for work and social activities for years. Yet, a recent exploration into sleep tracking showed me that I could better my productivity and my health by improving my sleep.

When I made the leap into entrepreneurship, I didn't realize the impact that running my own business would have on my sleep. While my business was in its infancy, there were never enough hours in the day. Sleep was a luxury I could not afford. I had to drag myself out of bed in the morning. Dark circles under my eyes showed the world I was sleep deprived. Once, I even fell asleep at a fancy restaurant during my own birthday dinner. When I created The Barre Studio, I had a mission to build a boutique fitness studio that would inspire and empower my clients to healthier lives. Yet, I wasn't practicing what I preached. I struggled to motivate myself to work out, my diet took a turn for the worse, and I was irritable and moody. Something needed to change: I needed better sleep.

If I could quantify my sleep patterns, then I could make measurable changes to my health. From my nutrition certification and a bit of internet research, I had a basic knowledge of sleep cycles and what made good sleep. How many hours did I sleep? Was my sleep light or deep sleep? How much REM sleep did I get? And, what did my sleep look like on average over a week or a month? To get these answers, I turned to my fitness tracker. I already wore a Jawbone UP3 fitness band to track my activity and food, but it was time to put the sleep tracking to use. I had the answers I wanted right at my fingertips (literally, the data was on my iPhone).

One thing was clear right away - I didn't get enough sleep. On some nights, I slept just four hours, and I slept about six hours on average. According to the National Sleep Foundation, most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep. As I tracked my sleep, I found that I woke refreshed with just seven hours of sleep, but I was at my best when I slept more than eight hours. I set a goal to sleep eight hours, and I watched my hours of sleep move into the healthy range.

My sleep statistics from Smart Coach in the UP App also revealed most of my night was spent in light sleep. I lacked deep sleep or REM sleep. Since deep sleep is the stage in which the body repairs itself, and REM sleep restores the mind, I was missing out on very important benefits of sleeping. I knew a consistent nightly routine helps the body shut down. So I gave myself a 10:30 pm bedtime and set a sleep alarm on my fitness tracker to keep me accountable. I'm naturally a night owl, and putting away work or shutting down a Netflix binge was a battle. However, I made a conscious effort to stick with my routine as my sleep statistics began to show increasing deep sleep and REM sleep.

As I tracked measurable improvement in my sleep statistics, I noticed positive changes in other areas of my life. I found the motivation to get back to my exercise routine, which made me feel better physically. Cravings for sugary and fatty foods lessened, and I made healthier food choices. Being well rested also made it easier to regulate my emotions. No longer did I blow up or burst into tears over something small. I saw my productivity improve, and I was capable of handling the stress of having a new business. As I got longer and higher quality sleep, I could feel how entwined sleep was with my fitness, diet and mood. With that in mind, I continue to track my sleep statistics daily. It's not realistic to think that I will get eight hours of sleep every night or that I'll always be in bed at 10:30 pm, but I aspire to be a good sleeper most of the time. Tracking my sleep has shown me undeniably that better sleep betters life.