My Experience with the Oura Ring
This will come to no surprise to people who know me, but I am a fan of self-quantification to learn more about yourself so that you can make changes and increase performance. My newest tool is the Oura Ring. The ring has sensors which tracks a series of metrics and then produces output from the time that you were asleep and gives your scores based on their algorithm. It gives you a sleep score, recovery score and activity score.
My wife bought me the latest version, and while I had to wait quite sometime for it to arrive (they had so much success in the pre-sale they fell way behind in production). It tracks many variables and I will discuss many of them below in a second. I was most interested in getting data on my sleep and Heart Rate Variability (HRV) to see what factors affect me and what changes I could make to better optimize my health.
Deep sleep is supposed to be restorative for your body, Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep is supposed to be restorative for your brain.
A higher HRV generally indicates a stronger parasympathetic nervous system. This is the branch of your nervous system that is generally responsible for rebuilding, recovering, digesting, etc. When you are at rest (i.e. not working out or intentionally doing something challenging or stressful), you typically want an indication that your rest and digest system is adequately functioning.
Temperature can be a leading indicator to your wellness as well. If you are running a bit cold or a bit warm, it is an indication that your body is fighting something and could lead you to feeling unwell in a couple days.
First off, I will disclose a big caveat. In a perfect world I would have only controlled for one main variable at a time for a number of days and then moved to the next variable. However, I do not live in a lab. I have a couple businesses, a family with young kids and other responsibilities. So, I just lived my life. I did however try to limit the dietary variables to just a couple per day.
The methodology I employed was to wear my ring at all times and than recoded the data I was interested in from the app the following morning along with the other variables I tracked myself, like my exercise levels, what I consumed, how I was feeling, time I did things etc. I used the recovery score I mentioned as my sole indicator to determine what type and intensity of exercise to do that day. I tracked for 113 days.
First, some of my Average metrics and thoughts:
Sleep Duration: 7 hrs – 16 days I did not get enough sleep
% of Deep Sleep -17% (Research has stated that 20% is optimal) – I had 34 days where this was a warning, and my lowest score was 2%. I was a little surprised at how much deep sleep I actually get or lack thereof.
% of REM Sleep -26% (Research has stated that 20-22% is optimal) – I had 20 days where this was a warning, and my lowest score was 11%
Resting Heart Rate -47.4 bpm – I had a range of 41 to 57
Wakeups during the night -1.8 times – I had as high as 6 times. This surprised me the most. The vast majority of the time I did not recognize that I was awoken.
HRV -65.9 ms – I had a range of 16 to 101
Respiratory Rate -14.7/ min – I had a range of 15.8 to 14. This is in the normal range for people.
Temperature off normal – negative 0.02 – I had a range of -0.7 to 0.6.
The following are some of my observations on how different variables effected my scores, especially for sleep. A lot of these will probably not be a surprise to many of you. And again these are just my results during this time period and you may have nowhere the same experience.
- Sleep duration and quality were the biggest factors to adequate recovery.
- Having a disrupted sleep was bad for both Deep and REM. I have young kids that sometimes get up in the middle of the night.
- Regardless of the amount of total sleep achieved, going to bed later than my normal was bad for both REM and especially for Deep sleep.
- Having caffeine late in the day was negative for both REM and Deep. Even having a third caffeinated beverage early in the day (before 9am) was negative to both. Genetic testing has shown that I am a slow caffeine metabolizer.
- A big surprise to me was that I found no correlation between what type of exercise I did or the intensity of that exercise. Perhaps this was due to the fact that I almost always exercise in the morning and that I am pretty well conditioned.
- One drink of alcohol seemed to have no effect at all. However, two or more drinks were very negative to Deep sleep and slightly positive to REM sleep.
- I know from both experience and genetic testing that I do not do well with dairy. I found no effect to REM sleep, but it was negative effect to Deep sleep.
- Low dose 100% CBD oil had a slight positive effect to REM and was negative for Deep sleep. I would have thought it would have been positive for Deep, but maybe the dose was too low.
- Low dose 50/50 CDB/THC oil had a slight negative effect to REM which was a surprise and no effect on Deep sleep. Again, maybe the doses were too low.
- Having unpasteurized, non-GMO, organic honey from my neighbour in the evening seemed to be slightly positive for both REM and Deep sleep.
- Having 85% Organic Dark Chocolate in the evening seemed to be slightly negative to Deep sleep and had no effect to REM. Darn!
- Having a late dinner too close to bed time, less than 2.5 hours had a negative effect to both REM and Deep sleep.
- I follow a Low Inflammatory diet which means I tend to eat higher fats and lower carbohydrates and my carbohydrates tend to come primarily from vegetables. That being said, if my carbs for the day were backloaded to dinner, it was negative for my Deep sleep and slightly negative for my REM sleep.
- A large meal for dinner, regardless of the macronutrient composition negatively effected my deep sleep.
So what am I going to change or do with this information?
First of all, life happens and we all just need to deal with it. Sometimes we make decisions that we know will not serve our health, but we do it for other reasons such as socialization or just getting stuff done.
I already hardly ever drink so no changes there. I will really try not have coffee or caffeinated tea after noon. I will try to eat a smaller dinner and have my first meal of the day be my big meal. I will try to ensure I do not eat too late. I have already become more conscious of regulating the time I go to bed and ensuring that I just get more sleep overall.
Sleep is a key component of health and something that I stress with my coaching clients.
Now that this experiment is done, I plan to continue to check the app every morning as my indicator for how hard I will try and kick ass that day.