If you like to be up on the latest technology, you might well own a Fitbit, a wearable activity tracker which can measure a number of things such as your heart rate, number of steps walked in a day, and of course, your quality of sleep. Their online blog contains a section specifically dedicated to sleep, which covers a range of sleep-related topics.
How do you feel in the afternoon? Do you hit a point in the day when your eyelids get heavy and thoughts wander? When time seems to crawl and you barely move?
If you’re anything like the average Fitbit user, this afternoon slump hits between 2 and 3 p.m. And no, it’s not a coincidence that millions of people experience this lull.
“It’s not at all unexpected and is actually quite predictable,” says Michael Smolensky, Ph.D., co-founder and former director of the Memorial-Hermann Chronobiology Center and co-author of The Body Clock Guide to Better Health: How to Use your Body’s Natural Clock to Fight Illness and Achieve Maximum Health. “There is a biological rhythm in the drive for sleep and there are certain times of the day where there’s greater propensity, given the opportunity, for sleep to occur. Afternoon is one of those. Researchers see a drop in attentiveness and a tendency to want to take a short power nap, if allowed, in the early afternoon.”
Why is hard to pin down, but Smolensky thinks it may ultimately come down to energy use and the body’s need for rest and repair beyond what it gets at night. “There may be a shorter time span during the afternoon required for overall biological efficiency,” says Smolensky.
The problem? Modern life doesn’t really accommodate that need, which is why it can feel like you have to fight to stay awake and alert in the afternoon. Exactly when and how the afternoon slump hits can vary by individual, but there are a few steps everyone can take to maximize energy and productivity.
“If people are tracking their activity level, they can determine on an individual basis what works and doesn’t work for them,” says Smolensky. “And then they can use that information to understand what their needs are and how they can schedule their activities accordingly.”
How to Beat the Afternoon Slump
Step 1: Get a Full Night’s Sleep The CDC recommends that adults get at least 7 hours of sleep each night, but the average Fitbit user usually falls short, according to recent Fitbit research. And while less sleep may be ok for some, it might be making your afternoon slump worse. “The more people tend to be sleep deprived and not get the sleep that they require, the greater their propensity to feel very tired after the lunch—even if they don’t eat lunch—and the greater the drive to want to take a nap or kind of just mellow out for a while,” says Smolensky.
Using your Fitbit app, start paying attention to your sleep duration and quality (if your tracker detects Sleep Stages) as well has how you feel each morning. Do you have more energy on the weekends when you allow yourself to sleep in? Then you may need to start going to bed earlier to get more sleep during the workweek. Use these Fitbit sleep tools to get on a healthier, more consistent sleep schedule.
Step 2: Look for Patterns If you get your sleep on track and your energy still tanks mid-afternoon, try to pinpoint the time frame. When you feel low, jot down the time. Or, tap the Hour Activity tile in your Fitbit app. From here you can look into each individual day to see exactly when you’re stationary the longest.
Step 3: Take a Power Nap Once you’ve identified the hours you tend to crash, you can put a plan in place. The best thing you can do, if you’re able, is find a cool, dark place to take a 20-minute power nap. “A brief nap in the early afternoon can reduce fatigue, improve brain function, and even improve physical performance,” says Michael Grandner, PhD, a Fitbit sleep advisor and director of the Sleep and Health Research Program in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, Tucson.
Step 4: Plan Your Day Because circadian rhythm is such a strong driver of your activity level and alertness, Smolensky recommends taking that into consideration when structuring your day. Do your most important tasks in the morning and save busy, mindless work—or running errands—for when you start to drag. “It’s about using your Fitbit data and saying, ‘hey, this is me and I need to give myself some downtime,’” says Smolensky. “If I’m in business or I have meetings, can I reschedule them so that I don’t look like a damn fool in the afternoon?”
Step 5: Seek Sunlight If there are meetings or other responsibilities you can’t shrug off during your afternoon slump, then go towards the light before the fatigue sets in. “If you go out for lunch, one thing you can try is to go for a stroll and get natural sunlight,” says Smolensky. “Bright light is stimulating, but I don’t know for sure that the boost will carry over long enough; it depends on the individual.” Set a silent alarm on your Fitbit tracker to remind yourself to get outside before your energy sags.
Step 6: Have a Cup of Coffee Another potential option? Caffeine. “Some individuals will have another round of coffee in the early afternoon,” says Smolensky. “Coffee is a light stimulant and can help right away, but sometimes there’s a rebound afterwards that can leave you feeling even more sluggish later.” If an afternoon cup of joe leaves you too wired to get to sleep later, tea may be a better option.
Step 7: Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself
“Recognize that this is normal,” says Smolensky. “Say, ‘OK, I don’t have to force myself to be something I’m not. My biology is telling me I need this rest either because I’m not getting enough sleep at night or I have greater sleep needs or maybe I have a health problem.” Whatever it is, “Don’t expect too much,” says Smolensky. “Have reasonable expectations depending on what your biological needs are.”
Fitbit may have built its reputation on helping people hit 10,000 steps, but the company’s current suite of sleep, diet, and exercise features also makes its products invaluable to competitive athletes. It’s why team Lotto-Soudal asked Fitbit to provide Fitbit Charge 2s for them to use during this year’s Tour de France, and why the Australian national swim team partnered with Fitbit to outfit its more than 100 coaches, swimmers, and staff with Fitbit Surge and Fitbit Flex 2.
Below, the top 13 ways Fitbit helps these athletes—as well as its ambassadors—and how you can also take advantage of these athletic-performance-boosting features.
How Fitbit Devices Can Help You Get Race Ready
Accurately Track Your Workout Stats Not all athletes train the same way, which is why not all Fitbit products are alike. In terms of activity tracking, Fitbit Ionic is the most robust and will give you the best idea of what’s available. It offers on-board GPS—for accurate pace, distance, elevation climbed, split times, as well as a map of your walk, run, or ride route on-device without having to carry your phone—continuous heart rate and heart rate zone reporting (see “Workout At the Right Intensity,” below), water resistance up to 50 meters, an interval timer, and an exercise mode that can capture real-time stats of over 20 types of activities (for any cross training you do). Learn more about Ionic’s full set of features here or go to Fitbit.com/compare to find the device that best fits you.
Go Longer Long run or ride scheduled? Your Fitbit device can go the distance—and help you get there, too.
Fitbit Alta HR can last up to 7 days on a single charge; Fitbit Charge 2 stays powered for about five days, and Ionic for up to five days (or up to 10 hours when using GPS or playing music). Battery life varies with use and other factors, so for more information read Can I improve my Fitbit device’s battery life?
Worried about your batteries running low. If you train with Ionic, you can pay for food and drinks with a swipe of your wrist wherever contactless payments are accepted using Fitbit Pay*.
Connect With Likeminded Athletes The Fitbit app has a built-in virtual community with topic-specific groups like Cardio, Running, Swimming, Yoga, Hiking, Walking, Cycling, Strength Training, Injuries, and more, making it easy to find new friends, ask questions, and get advice.
To join one, tap the Community tab at the bottom of the Fitbit app. Then navigate over to Groups or scroll down and tap “Discover More Groups.” Once you join, you’ll be able see the posts of other group members and post something of your own. Their posts will also appear in your Feed.
Get Adequate Rest Besides being good for your health, a full night’s sleep is also vital to attention, concentration, physical functioning, muscle memory, healing, and recovery. But logging enough shuteye can be a challenge, especially for competitive athletes juggling work, training, and those pre-race nerves.
What do the pros do? Prioritize and track it. “Sleep is the biggest thing,” says Dallas Mavericks forward and Fitbit ambassador Harrison Barnes. “I track my sleep each night to make sure I’m rested and recovered so I’m at my best on the court the next day.”
Husband-and-wife distance-running duo Sara and Ryan Hall also place a lot of stock in their sleep duration and quality. “If these two matrices are both good then I go full throttle in the gym,” says former professional runner and Fitbit ambassador Ryan Hall. “However if I’ve missed a couple of hours of sleep, then I need to adjust my workout and not lift as heavy or aggressive as usual.” Sara adds, “I’ll look at it first thing in the morning and go back to sleep if I haven’t gotten enough.”
How much sleep do you need? The CDC recommends adults get at least 7 hours a night, but you may need more or less depending on your personal body chemistry and activity levels. To zero in on what’s best for you, pay attention to your sleep duration and Sleep Stages in the Fitbit app (available with any heart-rate enabled Fitbit device), and then ask yourself how you feel, suggests Fitbit sleep consultant Allison Siebern, PhD, consulting assistant professor at The Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine and director of Sleep Health Integrative Program at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Fayetteville, NC.
If your sleep stages are falling outside the averages but you feel refreshed and engaged, then you’re likely getting the quantity and quality of sleep you need. Use that as your baseline and then set a Bedtime Reminder and silent alarm to help you stick to a consistent sleep schedule.
Stay on Top of Your Hydration You’ve no doubt heard the 8-glasses-of-water-a-day advice, but do you know much water your body needs? Unfortunately it’s not a static number. “Because the amount of sweat and sodium athletes lose is highly variable, it’s important to understand individual needs and develop a personalized [hydration] plan, including both fluid and salt,” says Lauren Antonucci, a registered dietitian and triathlete.
Perform a sweat test to calculate your sweat rate and if you are a heavy sweater, aim to replenish 75 percent of lost fluids. You can set a water-consumption goal in the Fitbit app and easily log your intake by the glass or bottle. The app will tell you when you’ve hit your goal.
Fuel Your Body With The Right Nutrients What you eat can make or break not only how your body functions but how you feel while competing. So eating healthfully is important—and something Barnes is still fine-tuning.
“When you’re traveling as much as I do, diet is kind of the one thing you can do a better job of controlling,” says Barnes. “This season is going to be different. Not necessarily paleo—because I feel like when you cut out the carbs, your energy gets a little low—but something kind of along that track. Just cleaner eating will be a big thing.”
Read up on how to fuel for your sport, and then commit to food logging for at least a week so you can see exactly what you’re eating and where you have room for improvement. Research shows that competitive athletes can benefit from tailoring their calories and macronutrients to their training level and intensity.
Work Out At The Right Intensity Exercising according to heart rate is old hat for endurance athletes like Ryan Hall: “Tracking my heart rate during exercise is a great way for me to know I’m staying in whatever zone I am intending to be in,” says Ryan. “So if I’m running easy I know my heart rate should be in the 120-130 beats-per-minute (bpm) range, and if I’m running hard I know I need to get my heart rate up to 150-170 bpm.” But it can also be valuable to sport-specific athletes like Barnes.
Barnes recently told Fitbit that he began using target heart rate training last summer as a way to get fitter and improve his recovery. “Hitting a heart rate of 130 and maintaining that for 45 minutes is key for my off-day training,” says Barnes. “It’s helped take my conditioning to another level.”
Once your zones are set, all you have to do is stay within the one that corresponds to your goal. Glancing at your tracker or watch during exercise is an easy way to check—for instance, if you have a Fitbit Charge 2, the location of the heart on your display (and the accompanying text) will tell you which heart rate zone you’re currently in. But you can also check your post-workout summary in the app to see exactly how many minutes you spent in each zone.
Monitor Your Fitness Level Setting a new race personal best or getting an expensive stress test isn’t the only way you can tell if you’re getting fitter. If you have an Alta HR, Charge 2, Blaze or Ionic, Fitbit’s Cardio Fitness Score feature estimates your VO2max, the gold-standard measurement of how well your body uses oxygen during exercise. For the most precise score, use multisport mode on your device to track a 10-minute (or longer) run on a flat course with GPS (if it’s available on your device and you haven’t already done so recently). Once the workout syncs with your Fitbit app, your Cardio Fitness Score will automatically update. To find this information, tap the heart-rate tile on your Fitbit app dashboard, then swipe left on the top graph.
Control Your Total Training Load How much rest you need isn’t just dependent on how much you train, but on your non-exercise activity as well. “We always take into account how hard we train but rarely do we take into account how much we are moving,” says Ryan Hall. “Tracking steps gives me a good overall picture of how active my day was and if I need to adjust my training based on how much time I’ve already spent on my feet.”
This is especially true immediately before a competition. Sara Hall tries to keep her total mileage low heading into a race. “For example,” she says, “two days before my goal race I got lost on a layover run and ran around a lot inside and outside an airport, and looked at the Fitbit app afterwards to see how much mileage I’d been on my feet. I adjusted my run accordingly the next day.”
I always tell the kids that I coach that I want them moving as little as possible prior to cross-country races and sitting as much as possible to save their legs for the race,” says Ryan. “So even everyday activities like walking up stairs I try and have my athletes avoid prior to races.”
Outsmart Overtraining Syndrome An elevated resting heart rate—the heart rate measured when you’re awake, calm, comfortable, and have not recently exerted yourself—can be an early indicator of overtraining syndrome. But until relatively recently, getting an accurate reading was difficult (unless you were one of those athletes who were into wearing a chest strap to bed).
Enter Fitbit’s wrist-based heart-rate-tracking devices, which uses heart rate data from when you’re awake and asleep to estimate your resting heart rate. Because these devices measure heart rate continuously and can be comfortably worn 24 hours a day, no extra work is required on your end to calculate resting heart rate. Just look at your device or open the Fitbit app and tap on the heart rate tile on the dashboard. The graph at the top of the screen can be expanded to see your average resting heart rate over longer periods of time.
“I’ve used resting heart rate for years to make sure I was recovering well,” says Ryan Hall. “In the past, it was hard to get an accurate read as I was manually trying to count my heart rate while trying to lay as still as possible upon waking. This lead to a lot of questionable data and it was a pain so I wasn’t very..
You’re finally done typing up that work report after downing a late-night mocha, so you reward yourself with a peek at Facebook. That leads you down a rabbit hole that somehow results in a deep Wikipedia dive, so you turn off the laptop and head for bed. Only to find yourself, scrolling through Instagram until you pass out.
Sound familiar? If you’re actively engaging in any (or all—no judgment!) of these behaviors, you might be finding your sleep is less than stellar. And unfortunately, even if you’re eating right and exercising regularly, subpar shut-eye can jeopardize your well-being.
But let’s face it: you’ve got stuff to do. So how much time do you really need to recharge? “Most adults need seven to nine hours, but our needs csan change depending on where we are on the continuum of health,” says Matluck. “For example, when we’re ill or recovering from a medical procedure, our sleep demands may be higher than when we’re feeling our best.”
So what can you do if counting sheep isn’t cutting it? Plenty.
Just Say No to the Glow
“The blue light emitted from screens on our electronics suppresses natural melatonin production,” explains Matluck. “Melatonin is a hormone that controls our sleep-wake cycles and when it’s high, it makes us sleepy. I recommend avoiding screen time at night to avoid suppressing it.”
If you need a bit more context to drive the point home, put yourself in the shoes of our pre-digital ancestors. “Think about it evolutionarily,” says Victoria Albina, a New York-based integrative medicine nurse practitioner and life coach. “When the lights are on in the sky, not only are we supposed to be awake, but we know the lions are awake, too. When our eyes receive blue light, our bodies turn on cortisol and turn off melatonin, telling us, ‘wake up immediately or you’ll be eaten!’ So when you sleep with your TV on or check your phone when you wake up in the middle of the night, it signals to your body that danger is nigh and you need to wake up.”
But in a world where just about everything lives on a device, how can you painlessly unplug?
“Around sunset, start dimming the lights in your home,” says Albina. “A super geeky thing I like to tell everyone, but no one does, is to wear orange glasses 30 to 60 minutes before bed. This blocks blue spectrum light. And use blackout curtains to keep your bedroom nice and dark, especially if you live in a city.”
Get Outside and Get Moving
While you should avoid light at night, make sure to get enough during the day. “So many people work in cube farms and don’t see the light of day,” says Albina. “Make it a point to go outside during lunch. If you live in a place where there’s no blue sky for months and months, use a sun lamp first thing in the morning.”
And while you’re taking in the fresh air, consider getting some steps in, too. “Exercise is a great way to improve sleep quality!” says Matluck. “Studies have shown that 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week improves sleep quality by 65 percent.”
Eat (And Drink) Right
“If your blood sugar crashes in the middle of the night, your sleep will be restless,” says Albina. “If you have insomnia, you have to eat breakfast with a protein, healthy fat, and carbohydrate.” If you’re just too rushed for a sit-down meal, Albina has an easy option. “Half a yam with almond butter is delicious,” she says. “Batch cook five yams on a Sunday.”
And no one wants to hear it, but yes, too much coffee can certainly disrupt your Zs. But relax: you don’t have to ditch your morning cup. “Caffeine has a half life of 5 to 7 hours, so if you drink coffee at 3:00 p.m., it’s like you’re having half a coffee at 9:00 p.m.,” says Albina. “So overall, reduce caffeine consumption and always stop by noon.” And if you’re of a certain age, you may want to cut back on caffeine even earlier in the day.
Q: Ask Fitbit: I’m Not Getting Bedtime Reminders or Sleep Stages? Is My Tracker Broken?
ANSWER: Not necessarily. In fact, it’s likely that failing to get Bedtime Reminders and/or Sleep Stages is actually a “smart” response. Here’s why, feature by feature.
The logic behind using a bedtime reminder is simple: It’s an easy way to remember when you should start winding down for bed, which can help you maintain a consistent sleep schedule. (If you’re not already using this feature, here’s how to set a Bedtime Reminder.)
When a Bedtime Reminder is set, you’ll receive a push notification on your smartphone at the time indicated (experts recommend setting it for at least 30 minutes before you want to fall asleep). Fitbit Alta HR and Fitbit Charge 2 users will also receive a notification and gentle buzz on their trackers.
However, if you’ve been sedentary for around 30 minutes or more leading up to the scheduled reminder (maybe you’re lying down and reading a book or watching TV), and your tracker thinks there’s a good chance you’re already be asleep, it will disable the reminder to avoid waking you up.
If you’ve confirmed that you have a Bedtime Reminder set and continue to have problems getting notifications despite being active before bed, please contact customer service.
Fitbit trackers with PurePulse continuous heart rate monitoring have the ability to tell you how much time you spent awake and in light, deep, and REM sleep each night. However there are four scenarios in which your app will show you classic sleep stats instead, usually accompanied by an error message like the one below.
You slept in a position that impaired your tracker’s ability to get a consistent heart-rate reading or you wore your tracker too loosely. Ideally, your tracker should sit higher on your wrist, about two to three finger widths above your wrist bone. And the band should fit securely, but not so tight that it restricts blood flow.
You used the Begin Sleep Now option in the Fitbit app instead of simply wearing your tracker to bed.
You took a nap or slept for less than three hours.
Health and wellness decisions are often linked together. Specifically, you might have already noticed how sleep, stress, and eating decisions seem to be interwoven. Have you ever been under loads of stress on the job, and then felt the undying temptation to grab a big cookie after work as a form of self-soothing? It happens.
But according to a new study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, a good night’s sleep can combat negative feelings on the job, allowing you to make healthier food choices next day.
Sleep Can Curb Stress Eating
In the study of 235 workers, researchers looked at both IT employees who typically felt like they didn’t have enough hours in a day to complete their to-do list, as well as call-center employees who often had to deal with angry customers. In both types of workers’ cases, on-the-job stress was high; the employees also consumed a greater number of unhealthy foods and fewer healthy options after work.
When sleep entered the picture at night, the researchers found that men and women who got a good night’s sleep were able to make healthier eating decisions compared with those who didn’t get quality sleep.
Why is sleep so essential to buffering against the effects of stress and poor eating choices? It all starts with “your brain on stress,” according to Fitbit sleep expert Allison Siebern, PhD. The frontal lobe (a.k.a. the prefrontal cortex) regulates thinking, behavior and emotion. However, “when you’re high on stress and low on quality sleep, there’s a decrease in activity in this portion of the brain,” says Siebern.
That drop in activity skews executive functioning, so you’re less likely to plan ahead to make the best choices for your health, Siebern says. “The frontal lobe aids in decision-making and, if left with decreased activity, poor decisions may increase such as with food choices,” she explains. “The stress hormone cortisol may also spike during a period of increased stress, leading to a conservation of fuel.” Basically, your body will hang onto fat cells.
Sleep Hormones Also Regulate Hunger
Sleep can be a great mediator between stress and poor eating, as this recent study shows—even if researchers aren’t 100 percent certain of the mechanisms yet. “We do know that the hormones that regulate sleep also regulate hunger,” says Siebern. “These hormones are ghrelin, which signals when we should be hungry, and leptin, which signals when we are satiated. When a person has been sleep deprived, the body increases production of ghrelin and decreases leptin.” The hormonal shifts might be the reason that urge to eat a cookie feels nearly impossible to resist.
According to Siebern, studies have been looking at the effects of poor sleep and a person’s eating habits for some time. “After a night of decreased sleep, there can be an increase in caloric intake and eating foods with higher fat content,” she explains. “It may also lead to eating later at night and increased caloric intake at that time.” Yikes.
The fix might seem easy: Get to bed early, and clock your seven to nine hours. However, you can’t always fall asleep at the drop of a hat—especially if you’ve had a stressful day. “Something to be aware of is focusing on stress-reducing activities overall, in addition to a ‘wind down time’ roughly 30 to 60 minutes prior to bedtime,” says Siebern. “During this time, you should do activities that you enjoy, but that are also relaxing.”
That means quietly reading a book, but probably not looking at political news on Facebook. Or chatting with your spouse, but maybe not watching a thriller film or an intense sporting event. Siebern says that if you do this, you can potentially “start to help downregulate the system to get ready for sleep.”
Just remember: Sweet dreams can help you sidestep the sweets tray tomorrow at work.
Over the last 20 years many individuals have lost their way when it comes to sleep, and there are serious, but as yet largely unrecognised, consequences. This needs to be addressed. Sleep plays an essential role in your physical and mental health, and when it comes to optimal performance it is the most basic of requirements. Here’s what you need to know about sleep, so you can start benefiting from it.
Sleep Your Way to a Healthier Life
Although experts recommend adults get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night, only about 50% of adults are managing to achieve this amount. If you’re trying to maintain a healthy mind and body, then you must make sleep a priority!
Insufficient sleep affects your ability to perform everyday tasks. However, it can also lead to difficulties maintaining relationships and can makes you more vulnerable to serious long-term health issues, such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, depression and type-2 diabetes.
Not all sleep is the same and there are different stages that you go through every night, which help to repair and refresh your brain and body in different ways. These stages are light sleep, deep sleep, and Rapid Eye Movement (REM; also known as dream) sleep.
Get to Know Your Sleep Stages
Successful sleepers are able to achieve a complete sleep cycle, which takes roughly 90 to 110 minutes and involves going through each sleep stage—light, deep, and REM. On average, adults are meant to have 5 complete sleep cycles each night.
Light Sleep Your body is just beginning to relax, preparing itself for sleep. People often drift in and out of this stage and many people may experience a sudden feeling of falling, all of which is completely normal. In the later part of this stage, your brain begins to slow down as your body prepares for deeper sleep.
Deep Sleep During deep sleep the body and brain are at their most relaxed. If you’ve ever attempted to wake someone and it was incredibly difficult, they were likely in deep sleep. This stage of sleep is essential for a healthy body, as it is during this time that the body builds and repairs muscle, and prepares to meet the physical challenges of the wakeful hours.
REM This sleep stage is most commonly associated with dreaming, and at this time nearly all muscles are paralysed (except for the breathing and eye muscles) – this is a good thing otherwise you might actually act out your dreams! During this stage of sleep the brain is very active and without sufficient REM sleep you will have trouble learning and remembering. If you experience a lack of REM sleep you may also find it difficult to control your emotions.
Short Naps Can Be Helpful
Napping can’t take the place of a good night’s rest. But a 20-minute nap will help you feel refreshed (as you will still only be in light sleep when you wake). A more extended nap, however, could lead to you waking up in the middle of deep sleep, leading to feelings of grogginess.
How Can You Track Your Sleep Stages?
In the past, the only way to get any insight into your sleep cycles and stages was to have an overnight sleep study, often prescribed by a doctor. However, the introduction of Fitbit Sleep Stages and Insights gives you the ability to access to similar information every night. By using an algorithm that takes heart rate variability and body movement into account, you’re able to find good insight in the Fitbit app on how much and what type of sleep you get each night. It allows you to delve more deeply than ever before from the comfort of your own home.
If you’re like most adults, enjoying two cups of coffee or tea in the morning won’t have any impact on your bedtime. But there is a direct relationship between age and caffeine. So if you’re celebrating another milestone birthday or especially sensitive to caffeine, you might need to change up your A.M. ritual, and certainly avoid it later in the day.
Caffeine Has a Bigger Impact on Older Adults
Turns out young people are able to metabolize caffeine more quickly than older adults. One study that looked at the metabolic clearance of several substances, including caffeine, in a group of 65- to 70-year-olds found it takes seniors 33% longer to metabolize caffeine compared to younger adults.
For most people, 200 to 300 mg of caffeine consumed early in the day won’t have a negative impact on sleep. “The half life of caffeine is close to six hours,” says Michael T. Smith, PhD., a Fitbit sleep advisor and director of the Center for Behavior and Health at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “So if you put 200 mg of caffeine in your system at 4pm, you will still be processing about 100 mg at 10pm.” As you age, your body needs even more time (33% more!) to fully process the stimulant. Which means the espresso you drank late-morning could very well still be keeping you up at night, he explains.
For Better Sleep, Cut Back on Caffeine
Coffee, tea, cola, energy drinks, chocolate, some over-the-counter medications—you should think twice before consuming any of these items, if you’re getting older or sensitive to caffeine. Here’s how they add up:
One 6-ounce cup of coffee, about 100 mg of caffeine
One 6-ounce cup of tea, about 70 mg of caffeine
One 12-ounce serving of cola, about 50 mg of caffeine
One ounce of chocolate, about 6 mg of caffeine
One tablet of OTC, extra-strength headache reliever, about 65 mg of caffeine
If you’re having trouble falling asleep at night, consider cutting back or completely eliminating caffeine from your diet, and talk to your doctor about ways to help you get more rest.
What’s the number one reason to wake up at the same time every day? Better health! Experts agree sleep is an important factor in your overall health and wellbeing, and research shows waking up has a big impact on the quality of your sleep.
A Regular Bedtime is Key…
Sure, going to bed on time is important—you’re more likely to log enough sleep when you stick to a nightly schedule. But it turns out the time you rise in the morning might have even more impact. “Aiming to go to sleep on time is smart—the body loves regularity,” says Fitbit sleep advisor Michael Grandner, PhD, MTR, director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. “But it’s a consistent wake-up time that sets your circadian rhythm, which regulates your sleep cycles and ensures you hit all the sleep stages your body needs,” explains Grandner.
…But a Regular Wake Up Time is Even More Important
Switching up your wake up time—say, by sleeping a couple hours later on a Saturday morning—has the same effect on your body as flying across the country and changing time zones. Which explains why weekend sleep-ins don’t always leave you feeling refreshed. “Jet lag throws off your circadian rhythm,” says Grandner, “and it can take your body awhile to get back in sync.”
Need help getting your circadian rhythm back on track? Stop hitting the snooze button and wake up at the same time each morning. “Getting bright light early in the morning, and avoiding it in the evening, also helps to reset your sleep-wake cycles,” says Grandner.
To ensure you’re going to bed and waking up at a consistent time every day, consider setting a Sleep Goal in the Fitbit app. Once you identify the number of hours that feels right for you, you’ll be able to create a bedtime reminder as well as set a personalized wake-up time, complete with a silent alarm to help ease you out of slumber. And pretty soon, your regular morning habit will be contributing to a healthier, happier you.
“The ability to easily track your sleep not only helps individuals better understand their own sleep, it also unlocks significant potential for us to better understand population health and gain new insights into the mysteries of sleep and its connection to a variety of health conditions,” says Conor Heneghan, Ph.D., lead sleep research scientist at Fitbit.
With that in mind, researchers tapped Fitbit’s longitudinal sleep database—the most extensive in the world—to analyze millions of nights of Sleep Stages data* to determine how age, gender, and duration affect sleep quality.
The sleep study results are below. Open up your sleep log in the Fitbit app to see how your personal stats compare.
The Sleep Sweet Spot
The average Fitbit user is in bed for 7 hours and 33 minutes but only gets 6 hours and 38 minutes of sleep. The remaining 55 minutes is spent restless or awake. That may seem like a lot, but it’s actually pretty common.
That said, 6 hours and 38 minutes is still shy of the 7+ hours the the CDC recommends adults get. If you tend to fall short as well, try to bank those extra minutes: Fitbit data confirms that sleeping 7 to 8 hours gives you the highest combined percentage of deep and REM sleep. In fact, 7.5 hours of sleep is the point at which you typically start getting less percentage of REM and more light.
People who sleep 5 hours or less a night deprive their body of the opportunity to get enough deep sleep, which occurs near the beginning of the night. Deep sleep is important for many physical processes such as cell regeneration, human growth hormone secretion, and feeling refreshed.
Fitbit data shows waking up earlier than usual is what impacts REM sleep, which occurs more at the end of the night. Not getting enough REM sleep can negatively impact your short-term memory, cell regeneration, and mood.
Light sleep seems to act as a filler: You get more when you log less than 7 hours or more than 9 hours of sleep a night. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing—a lot of body maintenance happens during light sleep.
“These findings further support the general recommendation that most adults need to consistently sleep 7 to 9 hours per night, and illustrate why a good night’s rest is so important for your overall well-being,” says Fitbit Advisory Panel sleep expert Michael T. Smith, Jr., Ph.D., professor of psychiatry, neurology, and nursing at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.
For the second year in a row Fitbit data scientists found women get about 25 minutes more sleep on average each night compared to men. The percentage of time spent in each sleep stage was also similar—until you factor in age.
Fitbit data shows that men get a slightly higher percentage of deep sleep than women until around age 55 when women take the lead.
Women win when it comes to REM, logging an average of 10 more minutes per night than men. Although women tend to average more REM than men over the course of their lifetime, the gap appears to widen around age 50.
Bridging the Generational Divide
Generation Z goes to sleep the latest, but they sleep longer, putting their nightly average of total hours asleep on top. Baby Boomers sleep the least, averaging 6 hours and 33 minutes per night.
REM and light sleep stay pretty stable throughout a person’s lifetime but deep sleep takes a hit, decreasing from an average of 17 percent at age 20 to 12 percent at age 70.
According to Grandner, there are two main things that can lead to less deep sleep. The first is age: “People naturally get less as they get older,” says Grandner. “And there’s not really much you can do about it.”
The second can be more controllable. “Anything that interferes with sleep like pain, illness, and medical problems, can keep your body out of deep sleep artificially,” says Grandner.
So what can you take away from this Fitbit sleep study? Three things:
Keep a consistent sleep schedule—ideally one that lets you get between 7 and 8 hours of sleep a night. That tends to produce the optimal combined percentage of deep and REM sleep.
Consider moving your bedtime up. People who go to bed earlier tend to get more sleep and get higher quality sleep, with 9 to 10 pm being the time slot that yields the highest average percentage of REM sleep.
Remember: Everyone is different. As Grandner told Fitbit, ideal sleep stages are “whatever your body does given enough of an opportunity.” If you feel great on your current sleep schedule, you may not need to change a thing.
*This research is based on aggregated and anonymous data from millions of users April 8-17, 2017. Sleep duration is based on time asleep and does not include restless or awake time. Generations are defined as: Generation Z (age 13-22), Millennials (age 23-40), Generation X (age 41-51), and Baby Boomers (age 52 and above).
Cardio fitness has been getting a lot of attention from major health organizations like the American Heart Association. And for good reason. As Fitbit previously reported, people with low cardiorespiratory fitness have a 56 percent higher risk of death from heart disease than those who are the most fit. “Cardiorespiratory fitness is one of the most powerful predictive risk factors for premature cardiovascular disease there is,” says study co-author Timothy S. Church, MD, PhD, MPH, professor of preventative medicine at Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. “It’s right up there with smoking, diabetes, and family history.”
But as you’ll see below, preventing heart disease isn’t the only reason you should care about your Cardio Fitness Score. In fact, it’s something everyone should be monitoring, says Church.
“I think the continued evolution of physical activity tracking and measuring devices is creating a huge potential opportunity for the widespread use of fitness as an important health marker.”
Need more convincing? Read on for five more compelling ways improving your Cardio Fitness Score can positively affect your health.
5 Reasons to Improve Your Cardio Fitness Score
Reduce belly fat. Having a healthy body mass index (BMI)—a measure of body fat based on height and weight—doesn’t mean you can avoid exercise. Researchers have found that healthy middle-aged men with high cardiorespiratory fitness scores tend to have lower amounts of visceral fat—a type of fat found deep within the abdomen that’s associated with health conditions like heart disease and type-2 diabetes—regardless of their BMI. Even at the same BMI, men with high cardiorespiratory fitness have, on average, 23 percent less visceral fat than those who are the least fit.
Sleep better. A recent review of sleep research concludes that regular exercise can help adults fall asleep faster, sleep longer, and wake up less. One of the studies looked specifically at the relationship between sleep quality and cardiorespiratory fitness, and found that the better middle-aged adults did on a treadmill test, the less likely they were to have sleep complaints. Otherstudies found decreased physical activity leads to an increased risk for insomnia.
Prevent diabetes. When researchers evaluated the health of a group of people who had risk factors for type-2 diabetes (family history, hypertension, etc.) but hadn’t developed the disease yet, one metric stood out: VO2 max—the gold standard for measuring cardiorespiratory fitness. Individuals at risk for type-2 diabetes had a VO2 max 15 percent lower than a control group. The study authors wrote, “This raises the possibility that decreased VO2 max is among the earliest indicators of insulin resistance and type-2 diabetes.”
Combat anxiety.Numerous studies show the positive effect regular exercise has on anxiety. In a 2016 study, researchers found that women with panic disorder who performed aerobic exercise three times a week for 12 weeks experienced a significant reduction in anxiety symptoms as well as a significant improvement in their cardiorespiratory fitness.
Dodge the blues. A 2016 meta-analysis in Preventive Medicine found that people with low cardiorespiratory fitness have a 75 percent increased risk of depression; people with medium cardio fitness levels have an increased risk of about 23 percent.