Falling Back & Sleep Patterns

Today marks the day we fall back one hour, thus gaining an extra hour (the good) and the start of leaving at the end of the workday in the dark (the bad).

For me, it also means an opportunity to play with my sleep schedule and commence an experiment to learn about my sleep habits and patterns. Yes, a new project.

Over the next few weeks, I will attempt to learn my optimal sleep duration and pay attention to how other habits of mine impact my sleep quality. To measure this, I will be using my Garmin watch, which has a sleep tracker. Similar to other activity trackers, it measures my movement and heart rate throughout the night. I can then see how long I spent in “deep sleep” vs “light sleep” vs awake.

Here is an example from last Sunday evening:


It breaks down the deep sleep, shown in dark blue, the light sleep, shown in light blue, and awake time, shown in pink. On this night, I got 5:02 hours of deep sleep, which I consider pretty good, especially compared to some other nights’ sleep. For example, on Tuesday night, I only got 3:13 hours of deep sleep.

It also displays movement patterns, as shown below. Looking at this, I can see that I was out cold from midnight to 1 AM but moving more before waking in the morning.sleep-tracker-movement

I have been asked before how much I trust activity trackers and whether they accurately track your sleep. While I cannot answer that definitively, I figure if they are inaccurate, they are at least consistently inaccurate. Therefore, I should still be able to learn about my sleep patterns by comparing my own data from night to night.

My ideal experiment would be to figure out my optimal sleep time by forgoing any alarm and just see when I wake up, but I don’t think that’s wise given the need to, um, show up for work on a daily basis. I do a version of this on the weekends since I don’t use an alarm, and from what I can tell, my body tends to wake naturally after about 7.5-8 hours.

In addition to tracking quality and duration of sleep, I will pay attention to my activity levels (e.g. steps, activity intensity, etc) and make notes about my energy levels and moods. Over time, I should get a sense of what daily habits impact my sleep. I would also like to test different suggestions for better sleep, like when to cut off screen-time or making the room completely dark.

And so, the sleep project commences.