Sleep, a story in pictures…

Right before the new year I decided I would purchase a FitBit. I chose the Flex, which allows you to wear it like a bracelet or watch, but is less obtrusive and less inclined to try to eat your hand off than the Force.

The FitBit does several things I was interested in. Primarily I wanted to use it as a pedometer. It connects to your smart device, so you can see at any time how many steps you accumulate in a day. They recommend that you try to get to 10,000 a day. During the first week I averaged 5000, with one day hitting a max of 1600 or so. I realized I had gone to work, and then never left the second floor of our building for the next 8 hours. OBVIOUSLY I needed to boost my walking. Fortunately we have recently acquired a new treadmill, for which I am VERY grateful. I am happily marching my way to a minimum of 3000 steps in 30 minutes regularly now.

It also has a feature where you can track how much you eat in calories, so you can track your intake and weight loss goals. I was pretty good about inputting my info for the first few weeks. Now I haven’t for over a week. But having done that for a few weeks I realized that I was doing pretty well in terms of the number of calories I was consuming. In terms of my weight loss goals, the intake was not the problem as long as I continue to avoid things like FRENCH FRIES. Lord I do love french fries.

But the particularly interesting feature of the FitBit is that it will give you feedback about the quality of your sleep. You tap it to tell it you are going to bed, and then tap it again once you are out of bed in the morning, and you then can see a chart of how long you slept, and how often you were restless or awake.


This is a screen shot of 5 nights of sleep for me. The dark blue spaces are when I was asleep. The light blue lines are when I was restless and the pink lines are when I was awake.

I fall asleep within 7 minutes of lying down in general, says FitBit. I have stretches of being totally asleep. But look at all the light blue lines. LOOK AT THEM.

I am a very vivid dreamer. Always have been. There was a stretch of time when I lived with my parents as an adult child (the term boomeranger applied to me) just out of college. I would wake up and progress to tell my mother about the crazy dreams I had. She would look at me like how are you even awake right now.

According to research I have done, dreaming can happen during any sleep stage (there are four) but the most vivid dreaming usually occurs during the fourth stage, when REM or rapid eye movement occurs. This is accompanied by an increase in heart rate, brain activity and blood pressure. Surprisingly, it is also when your brain sends signals that temporarily immobilize or paralyze your muscles. I guess this might be self preservation in action. If you were to have some very vivid dream of driving a car and you were not immobilized, you might actually try to drive your car. My point is, if I am immobilized, I must not be overly restless WHILE dreaming if the dreaming is happening in the fourth stage.

Apparently you can cycle through the stages of sleep multiple times a night, and after the first time you move more quickly through the first 3 stages to REM sleep. What I am trying to understand from what my FitBit is telling me, is when and why am I so restless. I know part of my problem lately is that my shoulder, which I injured in the same fall where I twisted my ankle, is still bothering me. I have been in PT, and am progressing, but it often causes me pain during the night and I wake up enough to acknowledge it hurts and then adjust my position. But I don’t think that is all of it. Bob is not reporting to me that I am kicking or otherwise bothering him, so there’s that.

I find this all very fascinating even if it causes more questions than anything else. What I would love is if this little gadget could actually assess my brain waves while I sleep. All it is doing is monitoring physical activity. Maybe in the next iteration. Until then, I am up to 5440 steps already today and it isn’t even noon!

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