Fitbit and Sleep

This week my Fitbit Charge 2 started offering me data on the “quality” of my sleep. It has presumed to know when I’m sleeping as long as I’ve been wearing it, and it has been wrong only when I’ve managed to stay awake through an entire episode of a TV show while lying on my couch. Truth be told, I struggle to stay awake watching TV unless I am riding an exercise bike or elliptical machine the whole time. If I stay still, I will fall asleep within 20 minutes. My dad, my husband, and I all share this affliction, but I am the only one who tried pedaling while watching to stay awake. If not for my exercise bike, I wouldn’t have had the privilege of seeing every episode of Man Men, Foyle’s War, and George Gently.

My sleep data that I’ve seen on my Fitbit app does not motivate me in the slightest to use this information to “perfect” myself. Actually, it makes me question if using a fitness tracker has helped me at all. While I will not blame its use for my decline, I will confess that my fitness and weight have not improved at all during the two years I’ve been using a tracker. Having the charts of my steps and exercise minutes has not inspired me to move more. Instead, this data makes me feel like a hamster on a wheel who’s earned a more sedentary life, at least for this evening, and that day, and so on.

My Fitbit sleep charts represent another set of information that only makes me feel more fatigued in the knowing:


The sleep stage tracking is particularly pointless because it only estimates the depth of sleep based on user pulse rate and movement (btw, this feature is available for Fitbit Blaze, Charge 2, and Alta HR). It’s not like the numbers provided can approach the accuracy of a medical sleep study. I doubt my Charge 2 unfurls a micro EEG that seeks out the appropriate contact points on my scalp once I fall asleep.

Here’s a stage chart for one night of this past week:


The start and end times on this chart are pretty typical for a week night. I try to go to bed by 10:30, and I wake up at 5:30. Those who knew me well in my youth will recognize that my early awakening is a daily miracle that cannot be improved upon. For the first thirty years of my life, I struggled with a second shift circadian rhythm, and I never had a job with those hours! The thought of embarking on some program to improve my sleep “quality” brings to mind the scene from This is Spinal Tap when Bobbi Flekman complains about the band’s offensive album cover for Smell the Glove, and their manager assures her, “You should have seen the cover they wanted to do. It wasn’t a glove, believe me.”

Despite these complaints, I’m not ready to give up on my Fitbit. I still dread the thought of my data coming to an abrupt end. Someday soon I might forget it at home while it’s plugged in for charging, and I won’t care that I left it.

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