Sleep Trackers and Biohacking Devices
Sleep is the foundation upon which we can build healthy habits, control stress and lead our best lives. I have lectured and written on the topic in the past and continue to prioritize sleep in my own life and encourage it in my patient’s. My most recent talk on this topic can be viewed here. During this talk I discussed multiple devices that can aid in and objectively quantify improvements in sleep. I would like to take this opportunity to discuss 3 devices that I use daily in addition to healthy habits mentioned in the video.
The Oura Ring: The Oura ring is a stylish device worn on a finger that tracks sleep and activity. This device has numerous strong features and a few areas for improvement. It collects data through sensors on the inside of the ring that contact your skin. During sleep it measures:
- Total Sleep Time
- Time in Bed
- Sleep Efficiency
- REM Sleep
- Deep Sleep
- Sleep Latency
- Sleep Timing
- Average Heart Rate
- Resting Heart Rate
- Body Temperature
- Respiratory Rate
- Heart Rate Variability
The associated app delivers this data in an easy to read and track graph. There are calculated Sleep Scores and Readiness Scores which can guide your activity and reinforce good habits or identify habits that need improvement.
My experience with the Oura Ring is that it delivers very precise data that is reliable and helpful. I like the way that the app delivers the information and the data is uploaded to their site for user specific long-term data tracking and review. For sleep data the Oura Ring is my preferred device. It is easy to wear; I forget I have it on. Its battery lasts about a week and it tells me when it needs a charge. The ring is purchased as a single expense upfront without any a subscription service required. This device has changed the way I view sleep and sleep hygiene. It has truly changed my life from that perspective. As an activity tracker though I don’t find it as useful. It doesn’t seem to capture the data as cleanly as I would like, and I don’t use it to direct my activity goals like I do the Whoop Strap.
Whoop Strap 3.0: The Whoop Strap 3.0 is another tracker that will track both sleep and activity. It sits on your wrist like a watch and is comfortable to wear. It is impact-resistant and waterproof. It measures similar data as the Oura Ring but presents it in a very different way. The sleep data has all of the same components minus the body temperature. The biggest difference is in activity tracking. The Whoop strap will broadcast your heart rate like a chest strap and therefore can be connected to indoor exercise products like a Peloton bike or another app or tracker. The Whoop app itself can serve as your activity recording device. The software uses calculated scores called strain and recovery based off of metrics to guide your activity and habits. Unlike the Oura ring, I do find these helpful for planning workouts and outdoor activities. The strap itself is a little bulky and I often find myself wishing it displayed the time. There is a unique wireless charging system that’s included in the purchase. The system is setup as a subscription to services with the device included in the overall cost.
In summary of these two devices I love them both! I thought I would eventually choose one over the other, but I think each one outperforms the other in sleep tracking and activity to such an extent that I will continue to wear them both for now. They have each contributed to improvements in my habits in different ways. They have pushed me to look for different ways that I can improve my sleep and recovery. This search exposed me to the next device to discuss.
The Ooler sleep system is the newer model of the ChiliPAD sleep system. These devices are designed to improve sleep by optimizing your core body temperature. The sleep lecture I referenced earlier discusses this role of body temperature in effecting sleep quality. There are a few strategies discussed in that talk to help lower your temp in an effort to improve deep sleep but none of them as powerful as this device. The idea is that a cooler body temperature will result in more deep sleep. This 2018 study demonstrates this effect with an improvement of deep sleep quantity of nearly 30%.
Biohacks like showering before bed and keeping your room cool are a good start but finding the sweet spot can be difficult, especially if you share your bed. The Ooler or ChiliPAD use a thin mat with water channels to adjust temperature to your liking. The Ooler is app driven and the experience can be customized with variations throughout the night. You can start warm, get cool and wakeup warm if that is your desire. My experience is that the device has improved my deep sleep by about 25-30% in quantity, consistent with the study cited above. That’s a huge difference considering the other steps I’ve taken to improve my sleep hygiene have only improved my sleep by marginal amounts.
In conclusion the first two devices can help you objectively keep track of your sleep and activity. Just like maintenance weight ins, knowing the data is critical in making a plan to improve or maintain your health status. Once you have made the commitment to make your 8-9 hour sleep window a non-negotiable part of your day the Ooler or Chilipad may just be the single most powerful biohack to improve your deep sleep. I hope you find this advice helpful.
Supporting your Performance, Health, Diet, PHD
Douglas E Lucas, DO
Chief Science Officer
PHD Weight Loss and Nutrition