Aquo's Speel

Sleep trackers – good or bad?…

The other morning I was watching Sunrise, one of the very few times I get to because in our house, Blippi is life… Long story, hopefully you NEVER have to find out! They were talking about the different sleep trackers out there and when I first started my fitness journey I thought the Fitbit Charge and Charge 2 were the bee’s knees… how wrong I was. This segment caught my attention because sleep has become very important to me! And I will do everything in my power to protect it!

High tech wrist watches and smartphone apps have been developed to help monitor our sleep patterns. These trackers promise a lot, with some saying they measure the time you spend in each stage of sleep. Although, it might be fun to pore over data you have collected about yourself, it is important to keep the pros and cons in mind when using these new sleep tracker technologies.

Most sleep tracker apps and watches use a device built into most smartphones that senses movement. This device measures how much movement you make during your sleep and this data is then used in an ‘algorithm’ to estimate sleep time and quality. How sensitive each device is to movement and the algorithm used varies between products. This can greatly affect their accuracy.

Popular trackers, such as the Fitbit Charge, include a sleep mode that aims to provide sleep time and restlessness.

Some wrist sleep trackers claim to also estimate sleep stages – the Jawbone UP breaks down sleep time into deep and light stages. The new Jawbone UP3 has added sensors for measuring skin and room temperature to help indicate deep and REM sleep. The Basis B1 estimates REM sleep in addition to deep and light sleep stages by measuring heart rate.

Sleep trackers that only use an accelerometer (such as smartphone apps) cannot accurately measure sleep stages. That’s because an accelerometer only monitors movement, and there is little difference in movement between the sleep stages. You move a similar amount in deep sleep and lighter stages of sleep.

While most trackers can estimate fairly well when a person is awake -v- asleep, they are not very accurate and most likely, something will go wrong. For example, you could be lying still but be awake. In the case of the phone apps Sleep Cycle or Sleep As AnDroid, your partner, child or even your dog could impact the amount of movement and noise detected by the device, changing the sleep data.
Research on some of these sleep trackers suggests that they provide a general estimate of sleep but that they can give misleading information.


A 2012 study data with adults who wore an older version of the Fitbit tracker found that it overestimated sleep time by an average of 67 minutes. Another study in 2014 found the opposite effect in children. The Fitbit One underestimated the children’s sleep by 105 minutes.

Users should not expect these devices to recognise change between sleep stages. This is because they rely on movements, whereas sleep stages are defined by brain wave activity and other body indicators (eye movements etc.) measured in a laboratory sleep test.

The Basis B1 is one of the few trackers on the market that says it can track REM sleep in addition to light and deep sleep. The device claims it can do this because it includes a heart rate monitor in addition to an accelerometer. However the research on what this claim is based has not been published yet and so cannot be properly assessed.

For most people, using a monitor to track sleep isn’t going to be a problem. In fact, it might help some people understand and review their sleep and wake patterns, and this may ultimately improve their sleep. For example, noticing a pattern of repeatedly going to bed late and sleeping less than required may help the user adjust their sleep habits to allow for longer sleep.

In general the sleep tracker apps and devices will give you a good overview of how long you sleep but they can only tell you so much. You have to use the data to figure out what’s working for you and what isn’t. If you think there is a problem, regardless of what the sleep tracker data is telling you, talk to your GP.

These devices raise awareness of sleep health and sleep issues. Over time they could show if you are getting less or more disturbed sleep that you might expect. This might lead you to seek treatment or change lifestyle habits. See Understanding and Helping Poor Sleep as a good starting point.

Ok, so summing up, always remember the following… These are consumer products, and most have not undergone scientific evaluation. Don’t put too much trust in these devices to accurately monitor sleep. A single night is not always a very accurate reflection of your general sleep; one night’s “data” shouldn’t be cause for alarm. If you tend to worry about your sleep then it might be best for you to avoid sleep trackers, or only look at the data occasionally. Have fun! Collecting data about yourself can be very interesting. But just remember sleep trackers tend to point to general trends in your sleep as a whole.

Aquo Xx

Aquo's Speel

Oh Anxiety- Thou art a heartless bitch!

Anxiety is becoming so much more prevalent in the world each year – is it because life in the 21st century is lived at a speed so fast, not even the cheetahs can keep up? – you know… because cheetahs are really fast!

Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia. On average, one in four people, being one in three women and one in five men, will experience anxiety at some stage in their life. In a 12 month period, over two million Australians experience anxiety.

Anxiety is a common factor in life these days, but the sooner people with anxiety get support and learn to deal with the disorder, the more likely they are to leave it in the past.

If you suffer from anxiety disorder, it’s important to remember you are not alone. There are services, health care professionals and online support tools available to help those that suffer from a anxiety disorder. The first step is to get a proper diagnosis. Discussing these issues with a doctor can help you in taking this first step.

The treatments for anxiety that work for you depend both on you and the type and severity of anxiety disorder you have. Mild anxiety may be helped by making lifestyle changes (diet, people/situations that occur in your life), whereas more severe cases may require medication – On that note, I will tell you that twice in my life I have required antidepressants to help me deal with my own life at that particular time. Once was from a break-up that ruined my life for years and the second time was when I was pregnant with my second child and had a lot of family issues happening.

Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) involves working towards changing any problematic thinking patterns that are causing anxiety. Behaviour therapy is a component of CBT and includes ‘desensitisation’, a method of slowly and safely exposing you to feared situations to reduce the anxiety that comes with them.

Breathing and relaxation techniques are especially important for physical symptoms, and deep breathing exercises can stop panic attacks effectively. Mindfulness and other types of meditation are also helpful for anxiety management.

Exercising – even a 10-minute short walk – can help to improve how you feel and may make you feel less tired. Exercise helps boost your levels of serotonin – these are ‘feel good’ hormones. Try a brisk walk every day if you do not feel ready to undertake a rigorous exercise regime. Try to get involved in activities and pastimes you previously enjoyed – even if you don’t feel like it.

There may be small tasks in the house or garden that you can do. Tackling small tasks that you have been avoiding for years may help you to feel better about yourself.

Caffeine can increase anxiety in some people. It can alter your sleep patterns so you are not fully rested. It also speeds up your heartbeat, which can make anxiety worse. Try to reduce the amount of caffeine in your diet. Cutting back on tea and coffee and replacing them with water or fruit juices can help. Avoiding caffeine products, like chocolate, cola or energy drinks after 4pm may help you feel more relaxed when you want to go to sleep.

Treatment for anxiety can take time, and a good support network makes the process easier. But letting go of and recovering from anxiety is achievable.

Online tools may be suitable if you have mild to moderate anxiety. There is a range of different programs, most of which are backed up by phone, email, text or web chat support from a mental health specialist. These online therapies can be particularly helpful if you are living in a rural and remote area where access to health professionals may be more difficult.

It’s a frustrating routine: Your mind starts racing as soon as your head hits the pillow. You’re thinking about your to-do list, that thing you should (or shouldn’t) have said to your boss, or how expensive your child’s braces are going to be. Then you catch a glimpse of the clock, and realize how late it already is.

At some point it’s hard to tell whether you’re having trouble sleeping because you’re anxious, or you’re anxious because you can’t sleep. The answer may be both. It’s a two-way street: Stress and anxiety can cause sleeping problems, or worsen existing ones. But lack of sleep can also cause an anxiety disorder.

Still not sleeping? If you think that you might have more serious sleep problems, clinical anxiety, or clinical depression, talk to your doctor. A specialist can help you find a treatment plan, so you can manage your symptoms and get the sleep you need.

Julia Christina is from Vancouver, Canada. You can follow Julia Christina on YouTube or her blog at https://juliakristina.com/blog/ or on any social media platform – @juliacounsellor

Julia Holds an MA in Counselling Psychology and is a Registered Clinical Counsellor.

At any time, if you feel that you may harm yourself or have thoughts of suicide, talk to family or friends and inform your doctor as a matter of urgency. You can ring a phone service such as Lifeline 13 11 14, available 24 hours a day. If you are the loved one or carer, dial triple zero (000).

Aquo Xx

Aquo's Speel

The science of sleep…

I have been studying sleep for a while as after my accident, I would get very little, interrupted, chaotic sleep. I had the hardest time ever falling asleep! I would get very little blocks of sleep throughout the night and would sleep most of the day. Unless somebody was home, I didn’t eat because of how much effort it took to make something and how far away my bedroom was from the kitchen. Ice-cream became my best friend – Sara Lee Rocky Road to be exact!

I learnt that while you are asleep, your brain and some body parts are in overdrive. When you watch people sleep, they look peaceful – unless you have a two year old and a six week old and you pretty much awake 24/7. But underneath that calm exterior, the brain and some other body parts are hard at work.

Once our neurons tell our bodies that it’s time to go to sleep, we pass through four stages until we are in a deep sleep.

Our brains are on overdrive during sleep, as it clears itself of toxic byproducts that naturally accumulate throughout the day. Many neurological diseases are associated with a lack of sleep, because when you don’t get your sleep, your brain doesn’t have this chance to clean itself – it’s like a robo vacuum in a way!

We tend to think of sleep as a time when the mind and body shut down. But it is the complete opposite; sleep is an active period where a lot of important processing, restoration, and strengthening happens – That’s why sleep was such an important part of my recovery, when I slept, my brain was healing itself.

Overnight, bits and pieces of information are transferred from more tentative, short-term memory to stronger, long-term memory—a process called “consolidation.” Researchers have also shown that after people sleep, they tend to retain information and perform better on memory tasks. Our bodies all require long periods of sleep in order to restore and rejuvenate, to grow muscle, repair tissue, and synthesise hormones.

Healthy sleep is critical for everyone, since we all need to retain information and learn skills to thrive in life. But this is likely part of the reason children—who acquire language, social, and motor skills at a breathtaking pace throughout their development—need more sleep than adults. While adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night, one-year-olds need roughly 11 to 14 hours, I’m lucky with my 2 year-old, he sleeps from 12-14 hours at night! The baby however – not so much! During these critical periods of growth and learning, younger people need more sleep for optimal development and alertness. So when the hell will the baby sleep more?!

Unfortunately, we can’t just accumulate sleep deprivation and then log many hours of sleep to make up for it (although paying back “sleep debt” is always a good idea if you’re sleep deprived). The best sleep habits are consistent, healthy routines that allow all of us, regardless of our age, to meet our sleep needs every night, and keep on top of life’s challenges every day.

Poor sleep is linked to weight gain – the reason my ass is growing at a rapid pace at the moment! Gosh I can’t wait for the baby to start sleeping better – I need to get back to training again! A lack of sleep is actually one of the main causes of obesity. In one extensive review study, children and adults with short sleep duration were 89% and 55% more likely to become obese.

Studies show that sleep-deprived individuals have a bigger appetite and tend to eat more calories. Sleep deprivation disrupts the daily fluctuations in appetite hormones and is believed to cause poor appetite regulation. This includes higher levels of ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates appetite, and reduced levels of leptin, the hormone that suppresses appetite.

Sleep is important for various aspects of brain function. This includes cognition, concentration, productivity and performance. All of these are negatively affected by sleep deprivation – That’s why us new mums walk around like freaking zombies! A study found that short sleep can negatively impact some aspects of brain function to a similar degree as when we are drunk.

Good sleep has been shown to improve problem-solving skills and enhance memory performance of both children and adults. So when the baby starts sleeping through I’m praying to the big man upstairs that my brain will strengthen again and it will start to function like a boss!

Sleep has been shown to enhance athletic performance. In a study on basketball players, longer sleep was shown to significantly improve speed, accuracy, reaction times and mental well-being.

Less sleep duration has also been associated with poor exercise performance and functional limitation in elderly women. A study in over 2,800 women found that poor sleep was linked to slower walking, lower grip strength and greater difficulty performing independent activities – This is why my ass is growing at a rapid pace! I worked so hard after my first baby to become fit, healthy and athletic. After having second bub, I was smaller than what I was when I fell pregnant with him – but now, lack of sleep has got me getting all large again!

I’m not happy in myself.

Weeks before second bub came along I was supposed to get out all my plans & info Jaydon (my trainer) had put together for me – yeah that didn’t happen! I just need to sit down, start our meal plans, go back to not having certain things in the house, set some pretty strict guide lines when it comes to food & drink, write out in my diary when I will be exercising – this way, no matter how tired I am, I will do it. I lost over 30kg last time! I can do it again! Another 10kg and become fit again.

My true inspiration are these awesome people! Queenslanders Sharny & Julius! Fitmum & Fitdad. I work out our own diet etc. but follow these guys for inspiration and they really kept me on track last time, I’m hoping they will this time too!

It’s known that sleep quality and duration can have a major effect on many health risk factors. These are the factors believed to drive chronic diseases, including heart disease. A review of 15 studies found that people who don’t get enough sleep are at far greater risk of heart disease or stroke than those who sleep 7–8 hours per night.

Experimental sleep restriction affects blood sugar and reduces insulin sensitivity. In a study in healthy young men, restricting sleep to four hours per night for six nights in a row caused symptoms of prediabetes. I am mega concerned about my husband. He sleeps very little as he’s always stressing or worrying about something. I would love for him to join me on my fitness journey this time – but, I can’t see it happening.

Poor sleep habits are also strongly linked to adverse effects on blood sugar in the general population. Those sleeping less than six hours per night have repeatedly been shown to be at an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

Mental health issues, such as depression, are strongly linked to poor sleep quality and sleeping disorders. It has been estimated that 90% of people with depression complain about sleep quality. Poor sleep is even associated with an increased risk of death by suicide. Those with sleeping disorders like insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea also report significantly higher rates of depression than those without.

Even a small loss of sleep has been shown to impair immune function. One large two-week study monitored the development of the common cold after giving people nasal drops with a cold. They found that those who slept less than seven hours were almost three times more likely to develop a cold than those who slept eight hours or more. If you often get colds, ensuring that you get at least eight hours of sleep per night could be very helpful.

Studies show that sleep-deprived individuals have a bigger appetite and tend to eat more calories. Sleep deprivation disrupts the daily fluctuations in appetite hormones and is believed to cause poor appetite regulation. This includes higher levels of ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates appetite, and reduced levels ofleptin, the hormone that suppresses appetite.

Sleep can have a major effect on inflammation in your body. In fact, sleep loss is known to activate undesirable markers of inflammation and cell damage. Poor sleep has been strongly linked to long-term inflammation of the digestive tract, in disorders known as inflammatory bowel diseases. One study observed that sleep-deprived people with Crohn’s disease were twice as likely to relapse as patients who slept well. Researchers are even recommending sleep evaluation to help predict outcomes in individuals with long-term inflammatory issues.

Sleep loss reduces your ability to interact socially. Several studies confirmed this using emotional facial recognition tests.

One study found that people who had not slept had a reduced ability to recognise expressions of anger and happiness. Researchers believe that poor sleep affects your ability to recognise important social cues and process emotional information.

Along with nutrition and exercise, good sleep is one of the pillars of health.

You simply cannot achieve optimal health without taking care of your sleep.

I really need to get my head back in the game! but not to just start exercising again, to go in 150% guns blazing, full hog healthier lifestyle! Force myself and get up everyday and do it for myself, to regain my confidence and boost my energy levels.

Truth is – at the moment I’m tired. Every night when I sit down for dinner I look at my plate and feel physically sick. I’m tired to the point of exhaustion but my days not over yet. I still have to clean up after dinner, possibly put the washing on and go for a bath – god it’s hard to force myself into the shower!

Aquo Xx