Getting enough sleep has always been a major source of anxiety for me. The slightest presence of stress can lead to a sleepless night — a few years ago this would be a final college exam, and these days it's an important work presentation, or the need to get up for an early morning flight. When sleep deprived, I lean more heavily on caffeine to get me through the day, which of course is counterproductive.
There were some challenges that got in the way of resolving my sleep issues, most importantly, my insanely busy job that requires seemingly endless travel. It's difficult to get consistent sleep when I'm hopping time zones or stuck on long flights.
It seemed pretty hopeless until two months ago… I'm not the soundest sleeper yet, but I'm on the right track, and finally beginning to enjoy the benefits of a normal sleep cycle.
The improvement started when I purchased a wearable device to serve as a sleep tracker and aid. I settled on the HONOR Band 5 after I caught a glimpse at how cheap it was. So cheap in fact that I was highly skeptical about its efficacy, though all of the reviews I came across indicated that it worked well. I figured that I'd finally get some data that confirmed how badly I was sleeping, which I could use as a frame of reference. However, I didn't expect that the changes to my sleep routine would be so comprehensive.
The early stats I got from the band were pretty discouraging. A typical night was 5-6 hours, and characterized by too much light sleep at the expense of deep sleep, but there was reason for some optimism. An ex-girlfriend of mine had mentioned that I snored an abnormal amount. I'd long thought that I might suffer from sleep apnea, a daunting condition that is linked with a lot of health problems, but the data indicated that my breathing during sleep was normal. Knowing that was quite a relief!
Fortunately for areas that need improvement, I've been able to use trial and error to rule out potential causes. The best example is caffeine. I'd long thought that caffeine must be an important cause of sleeplessness, so I cut out coffee in the morning. No dice. Then I tried doing the same with my post-lunch caffeine fix, either an iced coffee, can of soda, or iced tea… bingo! So no more caffeine after noon, that's easy!
But there's more. On nights after I had worked out, I was sleeping an average of 45 more minutes a night. I've gone from working out twice to four times a week. When I have a particularly long day at the office, I'm sure to hit the gym to get my body back in sync. Makes a big difference.
You'll notice that I woke up three times that night, even though my sleep was much improved, and indeed that was a nagging issue for me. The reason was so embarrassingly simple — I drink a lot of water at night, right before going to sleep, probably because I forget to stay hydrated throughout the day and try to make up for it by gulping a couple of glasses of water. Only when I saw the data did I think to drink more water in the afternoon. Now it's pretty uncommon that I wake up more than once on any given night, and I often get 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep!
I still have trouble getting to sleep sometimes, and need to work on how to better manage stress and jet lag, but it's been quite handy to have easy-to-reference data, which has helped me address any sleep issues systematically. If you're like me, and have struggled with insomnia, I'd definitely recommend that you get the HONOR Band 5, or some other similar product that has a high-level sleep tracker.