Lifelogging: is it worth the effort?

Barry Collins spends a month logging everything about his life using a variety of apps and gadgets. Did he learn anything worthwhile? Here’s how he tracked his sleeping habits

Tracking your sleep

After a hard day’s cycling, you’re going to need a good kip. As I mentioned above, Fitbit not only measures how active you are during the day, it also measures how inactive you are at night. Tap repeatedly on the wristband for a second or two, and the device is put into Sleep mode, designed to measure if you’re getting your eight hours.

Fitbit considers you’re asleep if it doesn’t detect any motion from the band strapped to your wrist – a methodology that isn’t without its flaws, in my experience. I know for a fact that I’ve been awake for periods when Fitbit claims I was clocking up shuteye, presumably because I wasn’t thrashing around like a demented salmon.

However, Fitbit is excellent at detecting periods of restlessness during the night, and after a week or so of usage, patterns started to become clear: I’d often start to wriggle around at 2am, and then again at around 5am.

Flex by Fitbit

Other trends emerged. Perhaps not surprisingly, I slept better when my partner and young children weren’t in the house. Contrary to received medical wisdom, I also slept better – if not for longer – after drinking alcohol, showing far fewer periods of restlessness. This is where collecting all this data begins to pay off, as you can match up information from different sets of data to identify trends.

Some app developers claim you don’t need a £70 wristband to measure sleep patterns, but I’d beg to disagree. The free – and critically acclaimed – SleepBot app for iOS and Android can also track your bedtime contortions, using the accelerometer inside the phone. However, to achieve this feat, the iPhone needs to be placed in the bed alongside you, with the screen on, and therefore plugged into the wall to stop the battery running out.

Not only would my iPhone charging cable not reach the bed from the nearest socket, but the thought of rolling over in the night and strangling myself on an iPhone cable would stop me from sleeping in the first place.

SleepBot does have a less demanding noise-detection mode, which doesn’t require the phone to be plugged in: it records any loud noises during the night, and then switches on the motion detection for the final 30 minutes before your alarm is due to sound, to find the “optimal time” to wake you.

All this left me with was an audio recording of lots of snoring, and an alarm call that sounded 20 minutes before I’d normally wake up, without any explanation as to why. The one “useful” thing it revealed was that the overnight noise peaks had no correlation to the times Fitbit claimed I was restless, completely undermining my long-term argument that my partner’s snoring keeps me awake.

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