Archive for category OCD Dream Gear

Sleep Tracking Poll

I am curious about how other people think about this sort of stuff. Do you find it interesting? Boring? Of value? Problematic? Indication of societal decline and the end of days?

Sleep seems like a problematic area for most of the people I know. I wonder if this extends as far into the general population as I think it does. From all the articles and websites dedicated to the topic, you’d think so. But then, you rarely hear from people when they’re happy; you most often hear from them when they have a complaint (if nothing else, working in video gaming has taught me that).

At any rate, I’m curious to see how many people find tracking of value.

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Comparison: Fitbit vs. Sleep Cycle

This comparison isn’t going to be precisely fair, since I’ve been using my fitbit for about 10 months, and I only used Sleep Cycle (an iPhone app) for one night. But I can definitely give some initial impressions.

I’ve already talked about how useful I find the information from my fitbit. Here’s the data from last night, and no, I’m not sure what I was doing up at 2:41; I was on Ambien and it seemed like a good idea at the time:

Here is that same night, from Sleep Cycle:

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Slightly Better Sleep

Tried a different CPAP mask last night and, according to my fitbit, slept slightly better.

Slight improvement with different mask.

Still not great. I should be around 95% sleep efficiency, ideally. And I ought to have more full sleep cycles in there; most people need a full 90 minutes to have a complete sleep cycle. It looks like I had two blocks that were long enough. I really would like to have three full cycles a night.

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Fitbit: Tracking My Sleep, and My Sleep Does Not Look Good

I am tired.

Very, very tired.

Not sound sleep.

This was last night. 18 times awakened. Bah. And this isn’t even bad in comparison to the last few weeks. For this same night, my CPAP tells me I was averaging 12 hypopneas an hour. This is not good. But it’s better than the 25 I got a few days ago, which, according to the fitbit, translated into 38 times awakened during that night:

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I’m Not the Only One (Five Links)

Currently feeling overwhelmed with some family medical news, which I’m not able to discuss publicly yet. In a week or two. Instead, some links I’ve found interesting.

The Data Driven Life: An article from Time Magazine that’s about me. Or people very like me. It’s about the obsession with tracking, the usefulness and the pitfalls. A friend mentioned the meet-ups sponsored by QS to me some time back, and I’d been meaning to check one out right around when my kidney infection hit in January.

A history of BMI : Great links. Lovely research. Makes me happy. This says pretty much everything I’d want to say. BMI is not an accurate indicator of health, or actual overweight. Body measurement, skin calipers, and hydrostatic weighing are far more accurate. I’ve been tracking body measurements for a while, and will no doubt post that spreadsheet in the future.

I found this via Jim Hines’ blog, where he posts about BMI and weight issues using himself, and his BMI. He also links to the Illustrated BMI from a few years back, which I loved then and still love now. I have a few friends in the accompanying Flickr photo set.

Utility Belt! A friend recently gave me this as a gift, after learning I’d been lusting after it for a year. I got mine in black. If I am very clever, I will eventually manage to get a picture of me wearing it.

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Writer-Girl Utility Belt (Crafting)

Batman's utility belt.

I’ve always envied Batman. Not because of the cool costume, or the mansion, or the Boy Wonder (definitely not because of the Boy Wonder) or even because of Alfred (though he’s pretty nifty). It’s the belt.

Because the belt seems to carry just as much as Mary Poppins’ carpet bag, but is way more stylish. Believe me, I have far too much stuff I carry with me and a utility belt would be a blessing.

A few years ago, simransmiles and I made ourselves writer-girl utility belts. Awesome writer-girl utility belts. They were her brainchild, and produced primarily by her sewing skills, though I did some of the grunt work. We made them out of thrift store finds, and designed them to sit just above the hips. I don’t have any pics of me wearing mine, but I do have a pic of Sim in hers:

Sim wearing her writer-girl utility belt.

We made them in a V shape, which was more flattering for our girly curves than a straight across belt would be. I tended to wear the V in the front, while  Sim tended to wear it on her hip. Both ways looked fine.

The main body of the utility-belt is made out of a corduroy skirt. Then notice the buttons? Since buttons are notoriously hard to do on your own, we took that part from a pair of button-fly jeans. That portion is actually upside down and forms the center of the V.

We cut the flap that normally covers the buttons and folded it back, lining it with a decorative fabric and sewing it down to make a pocket for pens. As you can see, it fit two pens.

The two pockets on either side of the buttons came pretty naturally from sewing the jean to the corduroy. Both pockets were the perfect size for holding a smaller moleskine notebook. They also fit phones/mp3 players easily. Although stuff could get a bit jumbled up. I found that the edge where the pocket met the corduroy was the place that most frequently needed repair.

The belt laid out flat.

Sim found a pouch she liked and sewed that onto her belt. It easily fit a paperback novel or a normal size moleskine journal (have you guessed that we’re both fond of moleskines?). I ended up deciding not to do that.

That blueish fabric you can see forming the extra trim on Sim’s belt came from a cloth napkin. As you can see, you can hook carabiners on it. In this picture Sim also has her utility knife hooked on it.

My version of the belt was all in black (of course) and we used a black cloth napkin to create the trim on mine.

We both wore those belts until they fell apart. I still have mine, tossed into the trunk of my car in case I someday got around to mending it again, although, honestly, it’s probably too far gone for that.

So, for now, I dream about utility belts. And obsessively research them online.

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Putting the FitBit to Bed: Sleep Tracking

Some people apparently use it like this. And then wonder why it slips out.

To use the fitbit for sleep tracking, you slip it into the wristband that comes with it. In this picture, which I snagged from the engadget review, you can see the band and the fitbit. Do not wear it this way. It may look pretty and snazzy like this, but the fitbit will slip right outta there. (Enough reviews complain about this problem that it’s worth noting). Do the smart thing, slip the fitbit all the way inside the band. You won’t be able to see it anymore, but it won’t slip out.

You wear the band on your non-dominant hand. I don’t know why they specify the non-dominant hand, but I’m willing to accept that there’s a reason for it.

When you’re ready to sleep, press down on the button for several seconds until the word Start pops up. Do the same thing in the morning until the word Stop pops up. If you forget, it’s okay. You can add in sleep times manually on the website, too.

So far as I’m concerned, the sleep tracking is the most useful function of the fitbit.

On its own, the fitbit cannot give you conclusive information about your sleep. It can’t tell you if you have DSPS, or Sleep Apnea, or Restless Leg Syndrome. But it can tell you if your sleep is disturbed, which could indicate any of those conditions. Or could indicate that your cat likes jumping on your stomach at 2 am with claws extended.

This is what a good night looks like for me.

Each pink spike in the graph above indicates a time when I moved around while trying to sleep. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I fully woke up each time, just that my sleep was light enough, or disturbed enough, at that point that I moved. At a sleep lab they’d call that an arousal (which is nowhere near as fun as what I usually mean when I use that word). When you’re in a deeper sleep phase, you don’t move around much.

This particular graph is from last Wednesday and indicates a very good night for me. I had 17 brief arousals, and managed to get over eight hours of sleep. I also was asleep at a decent time, which is an issue for me (remember my prior post about charting sleep?).

And here’s a bad night.

A bad night.

You can see that I was a lot more restless that night (Sunday). I still woke up 17 times. But I stayed awake, or aroused, a lot longer. And as I said earlier, not aroused in the good way. I totalled six and half hours of sleep, although I was in bed for 13 hours. This is incredibly useful information; I wish to heck I’d had this info when I was a teenager getting nagged for sleeping in so late on weekends and being zoned out in morning classes (8am Italian was excruciating).

If I’d known how bad my sleep was, I might have been able to do something about it. Or my father (the pediatrician) might have.

You see, I have sleep apnea. Want to know what the difference between those two nights is? The good night, I used my CPAP. The bad night, because of congestion, I didn’t use my CPAP.

See what I mean about that sleep tracking being useful? On its own, the fitbit doesn’t tell me I have sleep apnea. But it does tell me when I’m having trouble sleeping. And these results are consistent enough for me to say that my CPAP definitely makes a difference.

Hours of sleep in March.

Here you can see how much sleep I actually got this month. Not how much time I spent in bed trying to sleep, but how much sleep. This is a key distinction.

You can also see how frequently I wake up during the night. There’s a huge variation there. Some of that correlates with how long I spent in bed (if you’re only in bed for four hours, you’re going to wake up fewer times than you would in eight). But there are other potential factors as well.

Times awakened.

This data can help me figure out if the nights I take a decongestant are, overall, better. Or worse. Or no different from other nights. Likewise with taking Ambien. Or with exercising before bed. Or having a glass of wine before bed. Or changing my diet. Or any other variable I care to examine.

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OCD Dream Gear: The Fitbit

Three FitBits, all in a row.

Adorable, isn’t it? I have to admit, the form factor was a big part of the attraction.

In some ways, the fitbit is a really fancy pedometer. It has an accelerometer in it, much like what you’d find in a wii controller. It is particularly suited for walking, running, hiking, jogging, and sitting still. (Yes, knowing how much time you spend sitting on your butt is actually useful). It can also track your sleep to some extent; I’ll talk about that in another post.

The form factor and the online interface were the real selling points for me. The fitbit is sleek and subtle. It’s built like a belt clip, but because of how small it is, I can wear it on my bra. Which is mostly where I wear it.

I already knew that I was pretty sedentary, but the fitbit visually presented that information in a way that motivated me to get off my butt and move around more, which means it’s doing its job as a fitness aid.

Here we have an overview of my typical workday after using the fitbit for several months. Each colored line indicates calorie burn, which indicates activity. You can see a few spikes during the night, which indicate times I moved around a lot or got out of bed. Then, you can see some pretty consistent blue activity (blue meaning low level) as I started my day. The big orange and red spikes indicate my lunch time walk, when I was more active and therefore burning more calories. It’s a very simple, and therefore very useful, visual.

Above the graph, you can also see how many calories I burned (logged by the fitbit itself ) and how many I ate (logged manually by me). Again, very useful. I don’t actually manually log every single thing I eat on the fitbit site. The interface is a little cumbersome for me, and it requires me to remember and enter whatever I ate the next time I’m near my computer. I use LoseIt on my iPhone throughout the day and then just enter the summary of my calories  into fitbit’s interface in the evening.

Activity Log, complete with pie chart!

There’s also an activity log that records the number of steps and miles and shows you the same info as above in pie chart form. Useful, but I like the graph from above better. (Click to enlarge if you’d like to see it more clearly).

If you participate in an activity the fitbit isn’t good at logging, like weight lifting, you can add that manually and the software will provide a “standard” calorie burn for that.

Intake vs Burn. My other favorite graph.

I’m not sure this graph even requires any explanation. It’s just lovely. You can see where I didn’t track food intake. You can see where I ate more than I burned. You can see where I burned more than I ate. You can see my average intake and my average burn. This is awesome information. Particularly when matched up against weight fluctuations.

BMI fluctuations over the past month.

That huge intake spike around March 12th was when we took J’s dad out to dinner at our favorite steakhouse; primerib and a baked potato seriously add up.

There are a bunch of other graphs, all of them with useful info. These are the ones I find most helpful. I love that I can see patterns over the last month, or over the last year (once I’ve been tracking that long). I love that I can see the correlation between my exercise, my consumption, and my weight.

I love my fitbit. The information is useful, the step count is pretty accurate, and the physical object itself is unobtrusive and convenient to wear.

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