HOW I HACKED MY SLEEP WITH THE OURA RING IN 90 DAYS
Updated: Apr 28, 2020
In the past two years, my travel schedule, combined with less than healthy eating and drinking habits, had me experiencing sleep that wasn't ideal. All the travel led to a disrupted sleep schedule, and I felt constantly tired, and with poor dream recall which wasn't the norm.
Being a total health-tech junkie, I turned to wearables to help me hack my sleep. Made by a Finnish company, the OURA ring is one of the best sleep trackers on the market. I first heard about it through a friend, who had pre-purchased one in the crowd-funding stage, and then again on one of Dave Asprey's Bulletproof podcasts. It's recently been highlighted as Prince Harry's sleep hack, and several biohackers in the Singapore and Hong Kong communities are raving about it too.
First, they send you a ring-sizing kit, so you can make sure you order the size that fits you the best. I'll be honest - it's not exactly the most beautiful piece of jewellery, and the one I really wanted, in rose gold seems to be sold out at the moment. I ended up with the standard silver coloured one, which fits well on my middle finger, or if my hands are a bit puffy, on my ring finger.
So. What exactly does the ring do? The Oura ring tracks a few things, including your overall Readiness (your heart rate variability, body temp and breathing patterns), your Sleep, which includes the different stages of the sleep cycle, Activity, and moments of rest such as meditation and naps - this is a new feature that came on board since I bought the ring last year. Oura is also working with UCSF to try and detect early symptoms of Covid 19 too, and users can participate in the study (or not).
WHY THE RING IS AWESOME
I always turn my phone onto airplane mode at night to avoid EMFs; but the app links via bluetooth, so it can still collect data. When you wake up, the app will provide all your data, including your overall sleep, and the split between light sleep, deep sleep, and REM, which is when you are dreaming. The Oura then gives you an overall score, which looks at the quality of your sleep, how long it took you to go to sleep, and your average heart rate for the night. It also tracks heart rate variability, which is something the wellness industry is considering to be the most important factor in tracking your overall health. I noticed a link between drinking alcohol and disturbed sleep - also my HRV was lower.
HOW I IMPROVED MY SLEEP
I soon saw a pattern - it took me barely a minute to fall asleep, but staying asleep was the issue. In addition to booze being a no-no, the evenings I ate late, raised my overall body temperature, and heart rate, giving me a poor sleep score, and overall lower Readiness score. The amazing thing is the Oura ring learns after awhile, and can tell you what your ideal bedtime is - it figures out how well you sleep depending on when you go to sleep. I decided to take the advice, and made my bedtime earlier, I was averaging falling asleep between 11-12 pm, but moved it an hour earlier, getting to bed at 10pm and falling asleep sometime before midnight. The app actually suggests I go to sleep between 9-10:15pm, but it is just a bit too early for me. My work is very social, but I decided to reduce my alcohol consumption - not drinking at least five nights a week to see how this affected my overall sleep score, and also eating a bit lighter in the evenings so my body is not struggling with digesting food during my sleep.
I also looked into reducing blue lights, by putting down my electronics before bed, or wearing blue blocker glasses - blue light tricks your brain into thinking it is daytime, and can decrease melatonin production.
RECAP - MY 90 DAY SLEEP PROTOCOL
1. Minimum 7 hours sleep, and finding my own sleep schedule
We all have circadian rhythms and finding the right schedule for sleep is really important. The Oura told me to go to bed earlier, and when I managed to do this more regularly it made a huge difference. I also found that a good 7 hours was my magic number, if I only had six hours, both my REM and deep sleep was affected. I protected the seven hours fiercely, and learned to say 'No' a bit more to tempting late night events.
2. Reducing Blue Light
I realised I was starting to have an unhealthy relationship with my iPhone, often falling asleep with it near me. I turned my phone to nighttime mode, which lessens the blue light, purchased some blue blocker glasses from Amazon, and started reading books again before sleep, rather than going on social media.
3. Reducing Alcohol and Late-night Eating
I don't drink a lot, but I noticed during business trips I was getting into the habit of having a glass of wine with dinner several nights a week. Although I do intermittent fasting in the morning, eating my main meal at noon, I realised I often ate late at night, and this was affecting my sleep. So I moved to having no alcohol at least five nights a week, and trying to have at least 2 hours between dinner and bedtime, ideally 3 to 4. This gave my body more of a break, and I could see the improvement in Heart Rate Variability as well as body temperature on the nights I followed this.
When I started wearing the Oura Ring, my deep sleep was averaging less than 2 hours a night - 2 hours is still good, and was around 20% of my sleep time. Deep sleep is important - this is when the body restores itself, and also when the brain cleanses itself through the glymphatic system, (the brain's dedicated waste clearage system) as explained by Dr. Gundry of the Longevity Paradox. After 90 days, my deep sleep averages 2.5 hours per night, and has sometimes gone over 3 hours - I can't tell you how refreshed I feel when I have had close to three hours of deep sleep a night! My REM sleep, or dream sleep, only happens after my main deep sleep finishes, at around 3 or 4 am. If I get enough deep sleep, my REM sleep also increases, and it has gone from one hour a night to 1.5 hours a night. I remember my dreams more clearly, and more REM sleep is linked to greater creativity during the daytime.
Take the Readiness score seriously - it will tell you the quality of your sleep, your heart rate during the night, and whether it is a good idea to push yourself with physical exercise on that day. When I've had a bad night sleep, say flying overnight for a business trip, sometimes my sleep score has been OK, but my readiness is poor - it will tell you to take a break that day or not push yourself, and I think these reminders for self-care is something we all need in our lives.
I was in an elevator in Hong Kong the other day, when I noticed a woman with an Oura Ring. She looked very interesting, and was also checking out my ring, so we ended up having a short conversation. It tuns out she was a meditation teacher, and she mentioned I should wear my Oura ring on the ring finger because according to Chinese medicine, this is the most sensitive finger. She felt the ring was more sensitive when she meditates regularly and wears the ring on that finger. I don't know if this is true, but I will be experimenting going forward!
The Oura ring, at the price of US$299 for the silver model, is a steal. There could be improvements, such as how long the ring holds a charge, it currently ranges from 3-5 days - and at times I forget to charge it, but to be honest we all charge our phones every day and don't complain! There are options with diamonds at $999 USD for those that want a bit of bling, but the coveted rose gold model has been perpetually out of stock. Factor in around one week for shipping time to Singapore or Hong Kong.