Fitbit recently shared data on 6 billion nights of sleep with Yahoo News. I want to share some thoughts regarding Fitbit’s sleep data how it sheds some light to our sleep patterns in this country. I have seen many react to this report and write articles. It is exciting to see awareness being raised for the importance of sleep. Sleep is the foundation of health.
There are many variables that determine how we sleep or don’t sleep. One person can sleep so differently from night to night. Sometimes we need assistance to sleep better. This is why trained doctors, auxiliaries, and other sources of help are important. Ideally, trained professionals look for the most cost-effective, conservative therapy. We all should understand that we need sleep specialists and many other types of M.D.s, dentists, mattress companies, pharmacies, chiropractors, physical therapists, exercise therapists, massage therapists, pillow manufacturers, counselors, dietitians, wellness companies, and list goes on and on…you get the picture. They all can provide benefits but airway health and reducing pain should be at the top of the list when deciding where to begin to improve sleep.
The data provided by Fitbit of heart rate, the timing and amount of sleep, and movement can give good insight to sleep quality and health. As we put the effort in to improve sleep and health, we usually see some improvement. Also the “gamification” can motivate us and keep at the front of our minds, so well done Fitbit.
As far as sleep staging goes, I want everyone to understand what the data is really showing. I have patients come to me consistently and want to discuss their sleep quality from their wearable device. The different stages of sleep (Light, Deep, and REM) that is displayed will give “relative” description of an individual’s night sleep. Although there is some value to Fitbit’s algorithm that determines the stages of sleep throughout the night, understand this is not medically approved data . Some will tell me that they sleep great (while we are discussing all of their symptoms from poor sleep) but yet when I test them with an FDA approved sleep test, they have Obstructive Sleep Apnea or other sleep disorders. I appreciate the fact that their staging reports gets people to understand the importance of the different stages of sleep.
So on to the data. They first discuss male vs female and report that women sleep more than men, 6:50 for women and 6:26 for men. According to the data women get 1% more REM (Brain) sleep than men. They also say 40% of women are more likely to experience insomnia. When it comes to age, well just put sleep in with everything else that falls apart. Deep quality sleep is about 18% of sleep for 10 year old children and then declines to less than 12% once you are over 70. The average bedtime in this country is 11:21 pm. Then the last bit goes into bedtime consistency. This is one of the more important parts of the data, we have an average bedtime discrepancy of 64 minutes. Lastly, if your variance is more than 2 hours, then you will average 30 minutes less sleep a night versus someone who only varies their bedtime by 30 minutes throughout the week.
Breaking it down
Based on the data, let’s say that men need to sleep a little more and women need to have less on their mind. There is so much that goes into insomnia. Men are usually more sleepy and women are usually more fatigued, which is totally different. I recommend that adults try to sleep an average of 7 hours a day. Both men and women need more REM sleep. Maintenance, memory consolidation, and dreams are happening in REM sleep. With the increase in mental disorders, we must increase REM sleep to improve. Our sleep does not have to become worse with age and our symptoms do not have to add up as we face life each decade of life. As we sleep, diet, and exercise better we will get closer to a fountain of youth. It’s never too late to start to improve.
The lack of bedtime consistency reported by Fitbit is very interesting and is going to be a tough one to solve.
We have a way of life that gets in the way of our circadian rhythm correcting it will take some discipline. One of the most important concepts to improving sleep is consistency. Think of the power of routines. The body thrives on routine especially when it comes to the sleep/wake cycle. Your calendar being full of too many evening activities can set back your nighttime schedule. It’s easy to lose track of time playing (or working) on your smartphone before bed. Both of which will cause you to fall asleep later.
It’s important to go to sleep early enough that you can naturally wake up when needed. Setting an alarm for the morning will likely disrupt REM sleep, which is the most important sleep for your brain and happens towards the end of your sleep. Setting alarms to exercise or get to work early is a bad idea for your sleep. Activities before school for children is even worse and should not be allowed in my opinion.
imagn Solutions is raising awareness of how dentists have a role in helping people to sleep better. Dentists can provide early screening and conservative treatment of sleep disorders. If you do not breathe well when you sleep or have pain then your sleep is disrupted and your dentist can help. When your sleep is disrupted (even though you might not realize or remember these disruptions) your body and brain can not function properly. Disrupted sleep can cause you to be tired, grumpy, in pain, depressed, medicated, aging fast, gaining weight, diabetic, losing memory, impotent, and just plain feeling bad! This list goes on and on. It is time for our country to reverse this epidemic of poor sleep and poor health.
Fitbit gave us some good insight into our sleep habits but now what?
Monitoring and providing data can be helpful to improve sleep but monitoring can only get us so far. I look forward to devices and technology that improve sleep and overall health significantly. Not just tell us that we are sleeping poorly or have poor health. As a human race, we have spent money and time making devices better than ever. Now it’s time to make humans better than ever and improve our health. People can change their habits if they understand the factors affecting them. With proper sleep, the systems in our bodies will function better and feel better. It is possible to sleep better. This will positively affect our physical and mental state. Sleep Changes Everything™.