I couldn’t believe what I learned after just a couple weeks of wearing a FitBit.
This post was originally published in January 2015; updated January 2019.
I didn’t even really know what a FitBit was! I kinda-sorta knew, and I’d heard others talk about them. But I had no desire for one. It seemed like a gadget to me, not something I would get real use from.
Then I got one for Christmas. I thought “Hmm, ok cool. A new toy.” In all honesty, a Fitbit is essentially a pedometer that you wear on your wrist (at least the model I have is). I had no plans to exercise more, no New Year’s resolutions. So to me, this gadget was just going to confirm that I am not nearly active enough. Yay.
It isn’t that I don’t want to exercise. I do. I still have about 20 pounds leftover from having my last baby. 17 months ago. Of course I’d like to be more active and healthy and lose that 20 pounds, and I have tried making plans to get exercise back into my daily routine.
I don’t want to make excuses.
I know that if I want to lose the weight and get healthier that I need to make choices that support that goal. It is Just. So. Hard.
Especially after having a baby, and especially with babies after your first.
With my first baby, I worked out during her naptimes in the beginning and when she started sleeping through the night I got up early every morning and worked out before her first feeding of the day. I lost all of the weight I had gained during pregnancy in the first 3 ½ months after she was born. It was a challenge, but it didn’t feel impossible.
It was different with my second baby. I have another child to care for, even while the baby naps. Also, she hasn’t been a great sleeper since she was about 6 months old. For the past year, we have struggled with her waking up in the night, often more than once, and not having any interest in going back to sleep.
(Side note, if you are pregnant or a new mom, this post on Postpartum Sleep may be helpful to you. 🙂 )
Because of this (and other reasons that I am discovering), I have been exhausted for the past year. No, actually for the past 17, almost 18 months since she was born. I mean, I have been exhausted.
I knew my exhaustion was due to poor sleep. You can’t wake up several times in the night and get good sleep. I just didn’t realize just how bad it was.
That is where the FitBit comes in. (“Aha,” you’re thinking, “now she’s getting to the fitbit part.”)
The Fitbit also monitors and tracks your sleep patterns. It does this by monitoring your movements while you sleep, and then it gives you a nice little timeline of when you were asleep, when you were restless, and when you were awake throughout the night. It isn’t perfect. If you lie really still, it thinks you are sleeping. But it gives you far more information than you’d get without it.
I’ve been wearing my Fitbit to bed every night since Christmas and the first couple of weeks were surprising and very informative. Each morning I checked my sleep log to see how much sleep I had gotten and I couldn’t believe what I found. According to my fitbit sleep logs, I was getting less than 5 hours of sleep every night – even though I was in bed for 9 hours.
At first I thought, “Ok, so 5 hours isn’t great. But I’ve been fine on 5 hours of sleep plenty of times.”
Then I really got to thinking about it. I’ve been fine on 5 hours of sleep many times when I actually got 5 hours of sleep in a row. Getting 5 hours of sleep over a period of 9 hours isn’t the same. I wasn’t sleeping for more than an hour and a half, maybe two hours at a time.
Here is one of my sleep logs:
The dark blue is my actual sleep, the aqua is restless (either asleep or awake), and the red is awake. Generally, the Fitbit only logs time as “awake” if you are up and walking around. If you are awake but lying in bed, it logs it as restless. If you toss and turn in your sleep, it logs that as restless too. You can see that I was in bed from 11:00pm to 8:00am and got 4 and a half hours of real sleep. This entire time was truly “sleep time” – no watching TV or reading in bed or anything like that.
The sleep cycle consists of 4 stages and REM sleep. You can read more over at National Sleep Foundation, but in summary, REM sleep comes at the end of the sleep cycle and provides the body and brain with energy and supports daytime performance. This portion of the sleep cycle typically occurs about 90 minutes after the sleep cycle begins. The sleep cycle happens over and over throughout the night.
Once I discovered I wasn’t getting much more than 90 minutes of sleep at a time, thus rarely entering REM sleep and sleeping very restlessly during the other stages, I realized that was probably a big part of the challenges I face during the day. And not just having to do with energy level, but many other facets of my daily life as well. Since the birth of my second baby, not only have I been exhausted but I’ve also had a lot of trouble concentrating and staying focused, feeling overwhelmed and impatient, and becoming stressed.
The big lesson here is that even though you are in bed and think you are sleeping 7, 8, or 9 hours each night, you may not actually be getting that amount of sleep.
I have already been able to make some changes to improve my sleep, and I can already tell a difference.
Sleep is so incredibly important. Don’t tell yourself “I can sleep when I’m dead,” and allow yourself to be worn and exhausted all day. What is the point of waiting until you’re dead to sleep if you are not able to make the most of life while you are awake?
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How much sleep do you need to feel rejuvenated? Are you getting that amount? What do you do to improve your sleep?
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