No doubt you have seen and heard of people tracking their sleep, ensuring they’re getting enough REM throughout the night to recover appropriately from their training.
So why is this so important?
Other than the term ‘rest and digest’ which is specifically our parasympathetic nervous system taking over, getting enough sleep allows for our body to repair and restore to keep us going for the next day. There are a few important factors we should look at to ensure we are treating our body to the sleep it deserves.
HRV – Heart Rate Variability
Heart rate variability refers to the variation we have between heart beats. Using this variable to track your sleep is important as it is an indicator of how our autonomic nervous system is working. To be more specific, a higher HRV indicates, a higher level of resilience and flexibility within your hormonal system. The higher the HRV ultimately shows that your body has the ability to perform at a higher level.
Although it is highly individual and you should track it over time to ensure the data is accurate to you, an average HRV for younger individuals will be in the 55-105 range.Any HRV lower than this is shown when either the sympathetic nervous system is taking over or the latter, the autonomic nervous system.
So how do we use this and change our habits to improve it?
Looking at things like stress, training intensity, rest days and appropriate nutrition will all have a positive or negative effect on your result.
If possible, with an Apple Watch or Fitbit, start tracking it and see what small life alterations you can make to improve it.
Also know as ‘Rapid Eye Movement’.
This is the period of sleep in which your brain is being repaired for increased memory retention, increased capacity to think and process things the next day. It is vital for long term education and growth. Rem sleep is also the state in which you dream and have the most brain activity – unfortunately decreasing in time as you age.
So how do we optimise the amount we get every night?
By ensuring that we get enough hours to have full cycles of both deep and REM sleep – so jump into bed those few hours early where possible. Every minute counts.
The amount of time we get every night is also important – looking back at REM sleep, there are also 3 other stages of sleep that play a key part in our function day to day.
Let’s look at the non- REM stages:
Stage 1 – when you’re first heading to sleep and your transitioning from being awake to drifting off. It is the lightest sleep stage your body will experience.
Stage 2 – the stage before you enter deep sleep. This is when your muscle and body relaxes, your heart rate slows and your eye movements stop. Your brain activity is also reduced. Stage 2 is where you will spend majority of the night, it is the most repeated stage within the cycle.
Stage 3 – the deepest of all stages. This is the stage that you need to have to feel refreshed when you wake up. Your brain waves almost entirely stop and it will nearly be impossible to wake you. Your heart rate will be at its lowest and you will be at a point of complete relaxation.
Now the length of time for sleep is not specific as every individual is different and can appropriately function with more or less hours.
What Is important is that we make sure we are providing our own bodies with the time required to see what we actually need and not assume that 4 hours is sufficient. This may mean we need to prioritise sleep over training super early or super late, or to leave a social occasion an hour earlier.
If we are consistent we will get to know our bodies better and treat them to the sleep they deserve.
So what have we been doing to track our sleep?
This alarm clock app features the ability to use your microphone on your device to monitor your movements, breathing and even snoring through the night to monitor your quality of sleep.
It even provides the option to measure your waking Heart rate using your pointer finger to the camera upon waking.
This is then combined with the health app to calculate your HRV.
The benefit of this app is it can also be used to wake you gently within a 30 minute window to ensure you are not suddenly woken from your deep sleep.
This app can also be used directly on your Apple Watch if you need to have a quieter alarm for those early morning gym sessions 😉
Free option available or the pro version is $2.49 in the Apple Store.
Again, using an Apple Watch, this looks further into your heart rate patterns, your stillness and your waking heart rate.
Using this information is can notify you of your readiness score for the day based on your recovery from the day prior. For optimal results, upon waking, it is recommended to use the breathe app provided on your watch to monitor your HRV.
It analyses data and provides you with trends and offers suggestions to optimise sleep every night.
We found this particularly useful for our crazy schedules and every changing working hours.
Available for $5.99
This app unfortunately does not offer a free version, but is totally worth the extra few dollars.
Give sleep tracking a go and see how you are trending in the next few weeks!
Marcelo Campos, M. (2020). Heart rate variability: A new way to track well-being – Harvard Health Blog. Retrieved 8 June 2020, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/heart-rate-variability-new-way-track-well-2017112212789
Normative Elite HRV Scores by Age and Gender – Elite HRV. (2020). Retrieved 17 June 2020, from https://elitehrv.com/normal-heart-rate-variability-age-gender