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WellTech: tracking stress levels and sleep cycles from your wrist

On an endless journey to improve my wellbeing, I’ve often wondered what life would be like if I could receive timely nudges about my erratic lifestyle’s effects on my mental and physical health.

After hearing about the Fitbit Sense, the latest in health smartwatch technology, I decided it was time to swap out the wristwatch (used only as an accessory) to take a deep dive into my daily routine and its impacts on my health.

A priority was to get to the bottom of my wildly unpredictable sleeping patterns. Wearing the Fitbit Sense to bed, although slightly anxious about the battery dying after wearing it all day, useful data started to populate about my sleep after three consecutive nights. And rest assured, with quick half-hour charges here and there, the Sense’s battery endured the test of time through both day and night.

It was quickly apparent from the Fitbit smartphone app that my sleep was a problem. Although some nights I was getting more than eight hours shut-eye, during this time, I was awake for approximately 12%, light sleeping for 73% of the time (the average is 59%), and barely making it through deep and REM sleep.

The Fitbit Sense

This state of affairs got me thinking, as did the Sense’s reminders to move more, that because I was neglecting the gym, perhaps I wasn’t tiring myself out enough to improve the quality of my sleep. So for the next few days, I reluctantly laced up my shoes, challenging myself to walk to more places, whether it was to the local supermarket for lunch or around the perimeter of the work building as a quick refresher. And it seemed the Sense was rewarding me for this new behaviour, with its encouraging screen notifications and a higher step count.

Around this time, I also received some pertinent advice from a wise friend. She advised that instead of avoiding exercise because I couldn’t be bothered committing to my daily goal of 30 minutes, I should commit to 5 minutes and see if it would take me further.

The change in mindset worked a treat. I found myself motivated to walk up and down the stairs in my apartment block, the next evening extending this to a quick walk around the block, and so on. Again, the Sense seemed happy, my step count was even higher, and I felt accomplished and energised.

Having gotten the hang of the Fitbit app, I was now fervently monitoring my daily ‘Stress Management Score’. Comprised of heart rate variability, physical exertion, and sleep patterns, the Sense forms a score based on these signs the body is stressed. The score ranges from one to 100, where a higher number means your body is showing fewer physical signs of stress.

As predicted, I was not a perfect picture of health, with my score varying from 58 – 66 over the length of a week. I wasn’t unnerved by this, just adamant that I needed to set better boundaries with time spent working and socialising to enjoy a little more downtime. The ability to see a number score was a relief. I had a benchmark to improve on instead of just going off a vague feeling that something needed to change.

By this stage, I was well and truly intrigued by the other features the Sense had to offer, including period tracking and prompts that I was neglecting my daily meditation. Luckily, the Sense came with a free 6-month trial to the Fitbit app’s premium features. This trial allowed me to tap into the wonderful world of Deepak Chopra’s Mindful Method, listening to guided meditations to reset my mood (perfect for those random and annoying slumps of self-despair), and indulging in progressive relaxation before sleep.

I’d highly recommend the Sense for those driven by data, using its valuable insights to take better control of your life. You still have to put in the work, but a little guidance and motivation can go a long way.

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