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Tracking Experiments With Sleep (Part 2)

Tracking Sleep

This is part 2 of the tutorial on how to use Better Mood Tracker to better understand influences on your sleep.

Caffeine and sleep

I’m a person who’s very sensitive to caffeine. While stuff like green tea it definitely does wonders for my productivity, it has a nasty side effect of keeping me awake hours past my regular bedtime. I simply do not feel tired, so I stay up and do not go to sleep!

So what? Many people know that!

The cool thing is that with Better Mood Tracker, I can mark exactly when I ingest green tea (or any caffeinated beverage) and get the sleep tracker to tell me my bedtime, and my sleep onset latency. By averaging data over several days, I was able to arrive to the number of hours that I will be awake after I drink even moderate amounts of weak green tea. The number is about 8, and my sleep onset time nearly doubles, from 30 minutes to over 60 minutes as a result of ingesting green tea in the afternoon.

Knowing how caffeine in the afternoon affects your body and mind would help you find a definite deadline when you should have your last cup of coffee/tea or other caffeinated products (including chocolate)  . Knowing this simple number will help you get the most out of your waking life, without sacrificing the quality of your sleep and feeling like a zombie the next day.

How to track your caffeine deadline:

  • Every time you put a cup of caffeinated beverage to your lips, pull out your iphone and start Better Mood Tracker
  • Tap the “Coffee” marker. That’s it!
  • Next time you go to sleep, use the sleep tracker.
  • Repeat for 5 to 7 days, so you get an accurate picture

Now you have the data you need.

  • Go to your History tab
  • Use the Filter option to show only “Sleep” – green and “Drug” – cyan markers.
  • Now you can see when you drank coffee and how late you went to sleep that night
  • Count the number of hours (using the grid on each row) between the time when you drank last cup of coffee and the bedtime marker
  • Add up all the numbers and divide by number of days.
  • This number is your new caffeine deadline.
  • If you want to go to sleep at 11:00PM, subtract the number of hours from 11:00 PM, and do not drink coffee or tea after that deadline.
  • The caffeine in your system should keep you active, energized and awake all the way until your bedtime.

Sleep Cycles and Circadian Rhythm

To my dismay, much of sleep science is focused on the disorders of sleep, and there are MANY. Guess what? Their exact cause is unknown, and millions of people go undiagnosed, suffering through poor quality of life, and at a tremendous loss of productivity to society. All because people lose the restorative power of sleep over extended periods of time.

Even an unexpensive actigraph, or a sleep log may alert you to the fact that something may be amiss! I’m not intending to treat or diagnose anything with my device, nor am I qualified to give medical advice. But it is easy to do a web search for Actigraph Circadian Rhythm, and you will see examples of what actigraphic recordings of various sleep disorders look like. With Better Sleep Tracker:

  • Your sleep log is automatic (Bedtimes and awakenings marked)
  • You even get a basic actigraphic record of your sleep
  • Your sleep metrics are calculated: sleep onset latency, number of intermittent awakenings number of minutes of sleep and a few more!

By taking a look at your history (if you use sleep tracking), you may notice that your sleep times get pushed later and later, or that your sleep onset is extremely long (70+ minutes). All of these things you can show to your doctor during your next medical exam or checkup. So many times I found myself feeling “Perfectly fine” during a medical examination, just to remember that I did have some problem once in a while. Unfortunately, verbal accounts of “something that happend a while ago” are a poor diagnostic criteria.

But if you show to your doctor the pattern of your sleep, meals and caffeine intake, the qualified medical professional would be able to make better judgements about your health! The professional may refer you to a sleep study specialist, who will use clinically validated tools to check on your sleep. Worst case scenario? You and your doctor did your due diligence. Best case? Your sleep condition is identified and treated!

How to get your sleep data

  • Use the sleep tracker in Mattress mode if you sleep in bed alone – OR-
  • Get an armband and use the sleep tracker in Wristband mode if you share a bed
  • Track your sleep for a couple weeks
  • Every time you get out of bed at night (bathroom, etc) add a marker to sleep tracker by tapping on one of the large icons you see.

How to look at your data

  • Use the Filter setting on your History tab to show sleep and system events.
  • The device will show your sleep episodes for the days, and the system markers will indicate your sleep onsets.
  • Additionally, you can take a look at sleep graphs for the nights by looking at your … More tab > Sleep Data