Sleep is one of those pieces of overall health that is difficult to master, but absolutely one of the most important. It might surprise some, but exercise is not the big factor in obtaining and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. In the perfect world, someone trying attain a healthy lifestyle would change diet and sleep first before embarking on an exercise plan. In fact, exercise is the last piece in the chain.
It goes in this order:
- Sleep (restoration)
I have diet and sleep separated out into two distinct components in the list, but in reality, these are both body requirements and if a person were already in a healthy state, they’d share the same line. But, from a lifestyle change standpoint, you should focus on altering diet first and then put emphasis on improving sleep functions.
Exercise is definitely important, but if you don’t get the first two under control, you make your exercise gains and goals much more difficult to obtain. I’m not trying to discount exercise at all (I’m a HUGE believer in exercise), just setting the base of understanding. You’ll definitely see improvements through exercise, just not as much as you could if you choose eat and sleep better.
In this day and age, where every gadget we own lures us away from conking-out before midnight and our work life hemorrhages into our private life, a good night’s sleep is difficult to achieve. But, unless you figure out how to make changes to master the call of the sandman, a piece of your overall health is at risk. The long term lack of good sleep can result in diabetes, limited brain function, stunted growth, inability to heal quickly and properly, subdued attention span and working memory, a decreased metabolism, a yearning for junk food, and impaired driving ability (this is also a short term danger) – to name a few. Also, did you know that you burn more calories getting a good night’s sleep (6-8 hours) than exercising for an hour? Imagine that – you burn calories just by being lazy and listening to your body’s actual requirements.
With sleep firmly in the second spot of importance and its overall value so deeply embedded in our body value, how can you use the Microsoft Band to improve? As part of its sleep tracking capability, the Microsoft Band offers data for sleep efficiency and sleep restoration.
Microsoft attaches a calculation to the amount of time you spend sleeping versus the time you actually spend in bed. This is essentially the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep after hitting the sack, and the number of times you woke during the night. The Microsoft Band determines your sleep state based on body movement and heart rate – so it knows when you’re getting good sleep versus a tumultuous sleep session.
You can improve your sleep efficiency, i.e., your ability to sleep (and, in turn get better sleep) by doing things like limiting stress, lowering the room temperature, reading a book in bed instead of watching TV, and covering gadgets with obtrusive LEDs, among other things. The idea is to develop different pre-sleep habits and eliminate good sleep stressors. People tend to think that since sleep is a natural body function there should be nothing to it. But, just like anything, it takes practice to get it right.
Sleep restores your body’s resources by helping it recover from physical and emotional stress factors. Restoration starts to occur when your body reaches a level of lowered activity. This lowered activity level doesn’t necessarily need to be actual sleep (you can capture some restoration just resting in a chair), but sleep creates the most concentrated form of restoration. Your body needs sleep, and as noted already, without it your body functions start to break down and your fitness gains and goals are more difficult to obtain. To get optimal restoration you need both a sufficient amount of sleep and high sleep quality. Good luck getting both at the same time in today’s world, right?
To highlight, it’s about sufficient amount of sleep and high sleep quality. Sleeping longer doesn’t necessarily mean you will get better sleep. You should structure your sleep to ensure you get just the right amount without overdoing it. Ever slept in on a Saturday and then felt tired and listless the rest of the day? Yes, you can get too much sleep.
The Microsoft Health dashboard gives you some insight into your sleep restoration capabilities, by assigning a value to your Microsoft Band-tracked sleep session. This value (poor to excellent) is primarily based on the amount of Restful Sleep you were able to obtain on any given night. Restful sleep is the deeper, restorative phases of sleep that your body needs to replenish and repair.
A lot of Microsoft Band owners look at Sleep Efficiency and Sleep Restoration as two separate things – just because they are listed separately in the Microsoft Health dashboard. But, in reality, the need to be use together to get the full picture. Optimum sleep restoration will come as a result of improving sleep efficiency through those (and more) suggestions I made previously. We all have our specific stressors, both physical and emotionally. Identifying them and then figuring out how to eliminate them is a big key to improving the second most important piece for overall fitness health.