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Sleep Fitness 101:
A critical pillar of wellness

Sleep Fitness 101: <br/>A critical pillar of wellness

Sleep.  Once thought of simply as something we do when we’re tired, has now become a mainstay topic of our health and wellness discourse.  According to McKinsey & Co., today’s consumers consistently reference sleep as a pillar of wellness, along with health, fitness, and nutrition.  

Clinical research has previously explored the effects of exercise on sleep quality.  But now we’re beginning to understand the positive impact of sleep on health and wellness. According to the National Institutes of Health, sleep not only improves our alertness and mood, but also contributes to enhanced energy balance, quicker reflexes, improved blood pressure, and cardiovascular health.

It’s no wonder, therefore, that fitness enthusiasts are prioritizing sleep along with strength training, cardiovascular conditioning, weight management, and mindfulness.  Now, instead of focusing merely on sleep, conventional wisdom has shifted its attention to sleep fitness.

But what, exactly, is sleep fitness?  How do we measure it and what does it mean?  Most elements of fitness, such as body composition, can be broken down into their component parts.  We can, for example, measure lean body mass, fat mass, or bone density.  Sleep fitness can likewise be “deconstructed” into its constituent parts.  Analyzing sleep behavior, however, is no simple task, and requires advanced technology to tease apart critical aspects of sleep.

Fortunately, there’s the Oura Ring, a comfortable and lightweight smart ring - free of sleep-disrupting bright screens and vibrations - that "measures, tracks and provides insights on nightly sleep stages and other key sleep indices."

As measured by the Oura Ring, sleep is divided into four stages, each with its unique effects, that occur cyclically during the night.  Awake time - time awake, as the name implies - occurs before and after falling asleep, and may also include brief intervals of wakefulness during the night.  During awake time, the body starts to relax and brain activities begin to slow down.

Light sleep accounts for roughly half of one’s overall sleep time.  During this stage, muscles further relax, heart rate and respiration slow, and body temperature drops.  It’s during light sleep that memory is strengthened and cognition develops.

Deep sleep, third stage of sleep, is what experts refer to as the restorative stage, when physiological recovery occurs, growth hormone is secreted, and the immune system is bolstered.  Scientific evidence also suggests that it is during deep sleep that creative thinking is fostered.

The first three stages of sleep, collectively comprise non-REM sleep.  REM (rapid eye movement) sleep follows deep sleep, during which brain wave activity increases and dreaming occurs.  It’s also during this stage of sleep when we consolidate our spatial and contextual memory

Achieving a full seven to eight hours of nightly sleep allows the body to properly cycle through these important stages.  The Oura Ring, in addition to monitoring sleep stages, provides information that explains the efficacy of sleep, such as:

  • Sleep latency - the amount of time that it takes someone to fall asleep
  • Sleep efficiency - the ratio of time spent sleeping vs time awake
  • Sleep quality - an overall measure of how well you slept, whether it was restorative enough 

Today, we have the ability to monitor, and more importantly, act upon the elements of sleep that will positively impact our health and wellness.  The Oura Ring is an excellent device that not only monitors sleep behavior, but also measures other important health indicators, such as heart rate, heart rate variability, temperature trends, and stress.  Most importantly, it does so with a high degree of accuracy, making the Oura Ring our favorite health tracker.

Today, more than ever, sleep needs to be an integral part of one’s overall health strategy.  Maintaining effective sleep fitness, along with well-planned exercise and nutrition regimens, will lead to improved mental acuity, physical capacity, and most importantly, quality of life.

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