Fitbit Review: Accessible Everday Fitness Tracker To Simplify Biohacking?

Finally, you've arrived at the last part of my 3-part series on the Fitbit & Biostrap. 

In the last 3 installments I've treated the following topics:

  1. Comparison of the basic features of the Biostrap and Fitbit
  2. Biostrap biometrics deep dive, with topics such as the sleep analysis, pulse recordings, meditation function, extras, and a lot more.
  3. Fitbit review with an emphasis of the biometrics contained in there. In this third and last installment I'll also compare the two devices and tell you which I think is best for which circumstances (you're reading this installment right now.

I'll start my review with many of the options of the Fitbit, such as the weekly stats, Fitbit finess, etcetera. If you want to learn the basics about the Fitbit then read the first installment of this series.

Let's start with the summary of what I found using the Fitbit:

 

Fitbit Review Summary:

Pros:

  • Easy to use, especially if you've got more difficulty interpreting lots of data such as with the Biostrap. The simple user interface is accessible and not overwhelming. 
  • Data collected is reasonable, although, quality is somewhat lower than the Oura ring or Biostrap
  • Uses positive reinforcement and encouraging reminders, reducing the risk that users get "stressed" trying to optimize their biometrics
  • Good fitness tracker biometrics
  • Allows you to track food choices, which is impossible in the Biostrap and Oura Ring. The same is true for tracking blood glucose.
  • Affordable, selling from $150

Cons:

  • If you're a seasoned Biohacker, you might want to use a Biostrap because it gives you so much more data.
  • Sleep data is not as precise as competing products such as Oura and Biostrap
  • You only access all data with a paid subscription

 

In the next sections, I'll compare the different options and biometrics of the Fitbit. If you want to read my basic introduction to the Fitbit - including how the product looks and wears - read my experience HERE.

 

Fitbit Weekly Stats

I vividly remember how delighted I was when my husband Mark gave me my Fitbit. I have often told him that it is one of the best gifts I've ever received.

All these years, Fitbit has emailed me once a week with an attractive report revealing if I am making progress in the right direction or backsliding on my health habits compared to the prior week.

I always enjoy the feeling that they are happy for me, like a friend, celebrating my best day of activity for the week.

The only thing that would make this email better is if they did the same for sleep celebrating my best night of the week.

You'll notice, sleep isn't even mentioned in the weekly report. Hopefully, it will be included someday.

As a former insomniac who still has some mostly sleepless nights infrequently, I never take my sleep for granted and feel grateful amazement every morning after a good night's sleep. 

 

Fitbit Daily Data

This tracker has been my companion on countless walks and has seen me through untold sleepless nights over the past four years. 

Every morning, I feel like Fitbit celebrates my sleep with me. Every night, it pats me on the back for the steps I took. I thrive on its positive reinforcement and encouraging reminders.

It has such a cheery feel that keeps me optimistic that today can be even better than yesterday.

That's been crucial for me as a first-born people pleaser. I just remembered that it used to give me "helpful feedback tips" along with my sleep data on how to sleep better tonight than I did last night.

I disabled that feature. No insomniac wants to get suggestions about avoiding coffee in the afternoon and avoiding alcohol before bed when they don't drink either one.

Overall, Fitbit is consistently friendly, helpful, reliable, and encouraging.

While it can't directly fix your sleep, it does help you spot trends affecting different areas of sleep and chart improvement from implementing new strategies.

For example, my REM sleep was typically around 12-15% while working at my last job, sometimes less, when the average for all adults is 21-25%. 

Fitbit helped me recognize that my REM sleep was worst after a day of high conflict at work.

By switching careers, I improved my REM sleep dramatically, and saw the positive impact of that pivotal decision to take a hefty pay cut for my well-being.

Considering that low REM is associated with Parkinson's, which runs in my family, and I started developing resting tremors that were beginning to interfere with my work, hobbies, and sleep, optimizing my REM is priceless. My resting tremors are 99.99% gone now.

 

Fitbit Fitness

First and foremost, fitness is the focus for Fitbit. I've always been impressed with its ability to accurately detect my steps.

Even if I'm holding my breakfast bowl in my left hand while out walking around the block, talking on the phone while keeping it near my face, or holding hands with Mark on a moonlight stroll, this tracker nails it every time, even when my arm is still.

Biostrap relies more on arm movement. It is very sensitive in detecting arm movement. Without Biostrap's additional shoe pod, sold separately, it only captures 90% of the steps that would be detected with Fitbit.

Whatever I'm needing to hold while walking, I make sure to use my Fitbit hand and let my Biostrap hand move freely. That way both trackers take note of my steps

I realize that there are plenty of biohackers who don't think much of tracking daily steps if they are more focused on strength training.

For me, walking has been a perfect fit all the past decades of insomnia, arrhythmias, and for the past 3 years a frozen left shoulder that's 90% better now.

As Dr. Andrew Huberman's research demonstrates, the side-to-side movement of our eyes as we move forward in space has powerful psychological benefits. I seek to maximize that boost on my walks by looking at the changing perspectives of the hardwoods and pines towering over me, instead of looking down at my phone. 

We love going on nature hikes in the state parks. Surprisingly, I have witnessed some of the most magical moments simply enjoying the butterflies and flowers in my neighbors' yards.

I would have missed all those beautiful memories had it not been for Fitbit encouraging me to get as many steps as possible each day.

For example, walking on my lunch break at my former office job, I was walking through a nearby neighborhood on November 1st and saw a dozen monarch butterflies drinking nectar from blossoms on a bush in someone's yard. They were so enthralled with the flowers that they didn't mind me taking close-ups with my phone.

Here's the screen that tracks the history of steps, and the history of floors climbed essentially looks just like this screenshot.

 

 

The exercise screen is interesting to me, mostly because I'm just going on walks for 15–30 minutes at a time at a speed of 2–3 miles/3–5 kilometres an hour. Usually, when I see the red peak zones, it's because I started having irregular heartbeats on the walk.

I noticed that in my efforts to go for a morning walk first thing to get a healthy dose of sunshine to reset my circadian rhythm, sometimes my heart was working disproportionately hard, so I wouldn't sleep as well when that happened.

Essentially, Fitbit helped me recognize that morning walks only helped my sleep if they didn't stress my heart. Especially in the heat of Texas summers, I learned to adjust my pace to keep my heart from racing.

Sometimes that meant slowing to 1mph. Other times, it meant standing still on the street for a moment. One time, it involved laying down on the grass for a few minutes.

I could see my heart rate on the screen of my tracker to help me adjust as needed, in addition to just feeling it when my heart is struggling.
 

This graph below, shows the number of active hours a day tracks how many hours you get at least 250 steps. The app lets you set hourly reminders and customize which hours you want to be reminded to be active. 

Between my work shift fluctuating by 2 hours each week and my resulting irregular bedtimes turning into unpredictable wake-up times, I don't use the nudges to move except on weekends. It's nice that you can customize the days and timeframe for the reminders.

Fitbit's Monthly Analysis Reports

The Fitbit Premium subscription includes monthly email summaries. I find the weekly and monthly summaries so helpful to get a big-picture perspective on the trends impacting my health habits.

These reports confirm my sneaking suspicion that I'm a feast or famine type of person.

I used that undeniable evidence from March to change my habits for April by committing to my accountability partners to walk at least 3,300 steps a day.

It sounds like setting the bar too low, I know. Yet, in light of my lowest day for March being only 284 steps and my lowest day of the past year being a measly 168 steps, it was a step in the right direction.

The free version of Fitbit already stores all this daily information in the screens I shared above. A helicopter overview, like this report below, sure is handy. It helps me course correct monthly. 

 

Fitbit Resting Heart Rate

Fitbit consistently tracks my resting heart rate as higher than Biostrap by about 10 beats per minute. I reckon it's including some stray beats, whereas Biostrap may not be factoring those rogue ones into the equation if they are detected as artifacts. At least, that's my little hypothesis.

The important thing is that both trackers are reliable within their respective systems. On good days, my RHR drops in both, and in the face of added stressors, it shoots up in both systems.

These trackers don't exert any influence over your physiology to improve your biometrics, but they empower you to see what moves the needle on these metrics and motivate you to act on those insights.

Fitbit showed me the unmistakable pattern that my resting heart rate has a tight correlation with my bedtime. If my that was consistent, my RHR went down. Get this: it works even if I am just laying in bed awake. Timing is everything.

Life-changing insights into your unique circumstances are possible when we can recognize patterns in the valuable data collected by Fitbit and Biostrap

Resting heart rate is one of the metrics that predicts your wellness vs. morbidity and mortality, so I appreciate both trackers monitoring it.

Fitbit also shows you these helpful yellow-line graphs below of your heart rate average every few minutes throughout the day. The line turns orange to correspond to your cardio zone and red for peak.

 

Fitbit Breath Rate and Heart Rate Variability

The paid-subscription premium version includes nightly health metrics showing your rate of respiration and HRV.

I have found it corresponds closely to my Biostrap data, confirming the accuracy of both trackers.

The world of difference between the two is that Fitbit only gives you one data point for each, the average of the entire night. That is better than nothing, for sure.

There's just no comparison to Biostrap showing the full story in all its glory with data points for many different metrics every few minutes throughout the night.

My sleeping Biostrap HRV graph has ranged from 36 to 200 spanning a single night.

In an oversimplification, averaging those two numbers to get 118 is somewhat helpful, granted. I do appreciate that about Fitbit to see if it's trending up or down compared to previous nights.

Biostrap has me so spoiled rotten, though. It would be hard to give up the understanding from seeing the interplay of variables across various biometric graphs.

Each reveals a different facet of the same subconscious moment and offers clues into what the drivers are in making HRV tank suddenly or steadily climb to new heights.

 

 

 

Fitbit's Stress Management Score

This paid update is late-breaking news! Fitbit now tracks key biomarkers related to how well you are coping with stress.

The higher the better is what you're aiming for. It gives you an overall management score with three sub-scores:
  1. Resilience: heart rate variability, resting heart rate, (and if your device has it galvanic skin response.)
  2. Exertion: daily steps, activity level...
  3. Sleep: total hours of sleep that week, restlessness the previous night and percentage of REM and deep sleep
Overall, it seems like this feature is similar to Biostrap's recovery score which uses four biomarkers:
  1. HRV
  2. resting heart rate
  3. total sleep
  4. percentage of deep sleep
Fitbit offers the option to track your perception of stress through five emojis ranging from very calm to very stressed. You can add emojis any time throughout the day to track the trends.
 
My tendency is to range between calm and very calm regardless of my circumstances.
 
I'm realizing that in order for these icons to be meaningful indicators for tracking different variables like sleep and exercise, I need to expand my range of mood emojis instead of only toggling between these binary moods.
 
My Fitbit Stress Management Score does not match up with my Biostrap Recovery Score. Here's my last four Biostrap scores where higher is better: 67, 82, 24, and 79. In comparison, here's my last four Fitbit scores: 63, 61, 71, and 65.
 
Each device gives a different perspective. I value receiving insights from both.


Fitbit Body Composition

I'm sure the smart scale mentioned in this image below would be convenient. I've lost a lot of ground on my body composition since I stopped going to the gym when it closed temporarily at the start of the pandemic.

Fourteen months ago, I followed a carnivore-based keto diet, eating twice a day for breakfast and dinner while going to the gym for a dry, water-jet, recliner chair massages on my lunch break to lower my cortisol levels from that morning's stressors. 

After work, I'd enjoy Zumba, yoga, or strength training followed by sauna, red-light therapy, or another hydromassage. 

In the screenshot below, from February of 2020, I was happy with the appearance of my body composition and was primarily focusing on strength training to increase muscle mass as an investment in my health.

There were a whole host of exercises like barbell squats that I couldn't do with my frozen shoulder, but I was doing what I could, like hip thrusts, that didn't hinge on my shoulder's involvement. 

Back in March of 2020, everything was hastily shut down at the start of the pandemic. They even closed the office an hour early that final day. I thought our office would only be closed for two weeks. I've never been back. 

Working from home since July of 2020 has dramatically lowered my stress and improved my REM sleep. The flip side of the coin is that my waistline is worse off after this long stretch away from working out after work daily.

I keep planning on going back to the gym as a weekend warrior this summer because that's when I will have the car available to drive there. Most of the year, I work at least one one but usually two weekend days.

On my weekdays off, my husband Mark had the car at work. Whenever we had an overlapping weekend day off, we were hiking at various state parks.

The irony is not lost on me that I value health habits so highly that I eat things like seafood mussels and steamed kale for breakfast, test cutting-edge inventions, experiment with innovative health products, and I'm always refining my supplement stacks... then I go and drop the ball on something as foundational as exercise.

I'm a work in progress... The pieces are coming together. I marvel that those three decades of insomnia and those past three years of having a frozen shoulder, are all behind me now. I'm eager to get back in the swing of things.

I'm looking forward to what it will be like to exercise in future as my heart seems to be continually improving as well.

 

 

Fitbit Energy Equation Tracking

Honestly, I have hardly ever used the page below other than those three days from December 2016 and January 2017 when I first got my Fitbit four years ago.

In April of 2021, when I took this screenshot, I tried tracking my calories to use the feature for this article, but my motivation ran dry after entering the baby greens.

My focus has always been on nutrient density and trying to keep my insulin levels low—end of story. 

Fat has a lot of calories, but it's role in the health equation isn't as influential as hormones like insulin, leptin, ghrelin, adrenaline, and cortisol.

If you're interested in hearing why I believe hormones like insulin are a bigger driving factor influencing our health and height-to-waistline ratio, here's a research article I wrote in light of my past experiences serving patients with diabetic retinopathy.

Generally speaking, I cook in bulk and eat that 3-meals-a-day until it's gone. Last week it was a whole store-bought rotisserie chicken and eating the cartilage and some of the bone marrow on the ends of the leg bones as a rich source of the amino acid glycine.

As a side dish, I had steamed kale with butter, and black-truffle-infused sea salt which was one of the items in the specialty gift box from iHerb that Alex gave me for Christmas because he's just so awesome like that. He even took my food allergies into consideration.

For dessert, at the end of the meal, I have a square of 90–92% cacao with peanut butter on top. Or else, I have a chia bowl with mixed berries, sprouted sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and the contents of one of the tea bags torn open and poured in from the Pukka tea sampler box Alex gave me for Christmas from iHerb. I add a pinch of pink salt and a smidge of non-dairy sweet cream.

 

My most common meal, 3-meals-a-day, every-other-week, is something I grew up on living on New Ireland Island in the South Pacific. Back then, I had to do a lot more to make it:

  • get a fallen brown coconut from the backyard (while cringing that one would fall on my head from the palms above)
  • slamming it on a sharp wooden stake in the ground
  • throwing all my weight on it to pry the husk off in wedges (Those wedges were used by everyone to carry home fire from a neighbor's cooking fire as needed.)
  • crack open the inner dry nut with a machete
  • pour the water out on the sand (since only unripe green coconuts are used for drinking the water)
  • scrape out the coconut into a bowl using a bench with a serrated metal grater bolted to one end
  • soak the flakes in water
  • squeeze them repeatedly and wring out the flavorless flakes (the sweetness of the cream stayed in the water)
  • toss the white flakes on the sand for my rooster Pea-Brain who would run away
  • use the decadent coconut cream for cooking this classic island dish the villagers ate every evening (except on feast days)

I'm the only one in our family to eat it. It's simply: one huge bag of chopped organic kale lightly steamed so that it's still a vibrant green color, two cans of undrained wild-caught salmon flaked apart, one can of Thai brand original coconut cream, and jasmine rice all stirred together with powdered onion, ginger, and the black truffle sea salt from Alex. 

 

Fitbit Blood Sugar Management

Here's another free upgrade update from Fitbit that we all automatically received this spring... blood glucose tracking! I've always used the MySugr app, which has sufficed nicely until now. 

As soon as I saw this upgrade, I knew this feature would replace my other system that only monitored my glucose biometric and nothing else. It's so handy to have a single app that does it all.

Every morning, I'm already in the habit of looking at my sleep stats on Fitbit first thing. I try to remember to check my fasting blood sugar level before breakfast, but I'd only remember 10% of the time.

By having the glucose tracking tile on Fitbit's home screen like it is, I see it before eating every morning and have a much higher success rate of remembering to test before having breakfast. 

 

 

I think Fitbit's clickable picture icons are more streamlined and pertinent than those of my last app. Logging today's reading is a cinch with the most user-friendly interface imaginable. It couldn't be more easy and convenient. Maybe someday, these trackers will have continuous glucose monitoring capabilities. Until then, check out this article on two of the best wearable blood sugar sensors available today.

Compared to my previous app, this Fitbit feature is already open so it's effortless to do it right away.

In the past, I would heat up my breakfast, be about to take that first bite, remember to check, run to the other end of the house to poke my finger, forget my phone in the kitchen, hurry back to eat a lukewarm breakfast, then remember hours later or the next day that I forgot to add that reading to the MySugr app. It might even take a couple attempts to log my reading if I forgot to change the date to yesterday.

Fitbit is right there on my phone open from viewing my sleep, reminding me it takes less than a minute to test and log it. It's a powerful biomarker to monitor well before developing diabetes to make it far easier to course correct.

Fitbit does a far better job than MySugr at tracking data with graphs and percentages. Neither app lets a person have more than one target range, which is at the top of my wish-list of future upgrades.

I predominantly track my fasting levels, so I customize the range for that.

For holidays, when I'm indulging in gluten-free birthday cake and dairy-free chocolate ice cream, I also want to test to see how high it spiked.

On the screenshot above, when my blood sugar spiked to 149, that was around 90 minutes after eating those two treats along with honey-glazed ham and other holiday foods.

It helps to know how high it goes and how often I'm eating party foods to weigh the cost to my body's health against the psychological benefits of living it up with loved ones.

I keep a close eye on my blood sugar to keep it from gumming up the works of my hemoglobin, eyes, kidneys, capillaries, and nerve endings, especially those in my brain. In 2020, I didn't even have any dessert on my own birthday.

In 2021, after the long pandemic, when I saw my family for Easter and we celebrated my birthday at that time, a few months late, that birthday cake (that I said I didn't need, but they baked it for me anyway) really hit the spot, flooding me with enough enjoyment to last the rest of the year.

Most of the time, I keep my sugar cravings in check because I want to have as many happy birthdays as possible.

 

Fitbit Female Hormone Trends Tracking

Here's another free upgrade update from Fitbit that a user can elect to track or not.

When I first saw this feature, my knee-jerk reaction was a swift, hard "NO!"

After a few hours of weighing the pros and cons, I came around and opted in.

The biggest con in my mind was that somehow someone might see this personal data if there was ever a security breach.

Little did I know then that I would find this such a valuable feature that I would feel compelled to share how beneficial it's been.

Since age 12, I had been tracking my first day of the month by drawing a teeny tiny x on my wall calendar. 

Three decades later, I still hadn't mastered the use of this x system because, inevitably, I would forget to mark that day with an x.

Three weeks later, I'd be taking a shot in the dark trying to draw an x on a day like a blindfolded darts game.

How functional was that old system? It was useless.

Case in point: I was rushed to the ER in the second-worst pain of my life with a random eyeball injury.

After an eternity in the waiting room, I was taken into a tiny office and was rocking back and forth in severe pain with tears streaming down my cheeks and the male triage nurse asks me, "When was your last period?"

I tried recruiting one neuron to do the math while the other billions continued alerting me to the sight-threatening damage to my eye.

Had I had Fitbit back then, my husband Mark could have looked it up my history and quickly given him a date so that we could all get down to brass tacks and finally deal with my eye injury.

How else does this come in handy? Well, a couple months ago, Fitbit gave me a head's up that morning when I checked my sleep data that it would be day one.

I remembered Fitbit's prediction as we were on the edge of town on our way to a state park for a day of hiking in the woods. Mark stopped the car at Albertson's. Five minutes and five dollars later, I was fully prepared for enjoying an all-day, carefree, adventure out in nature. 

You know I'm all about data analysis for forecasting trends on the horizon and optimizing my hormone levels.

Fitbit has brought it to my attention that my cycles had shortened to only 26 days, which may have been related to decreased progesterone the second half of the month which I suspect may be stress-related if my body was prioritizing making cortisol instead.

My wall calendar system never would have alerted me that the x was on day 26 instead of 28. I'm going to keep driving down my stress levels to raise and maintain a sufficient progesterone balance through to the end of my cycle.

I've been getting a lot of great sleep this past month which lengthened the last one to 28 days again, thankfully.

Furthermore, I've had heart problems and sleepless nights for decades now on the last day or two of my cycle. Fitbit helps me avoid scheduling anything intense during those days of predictable struggles.

I will keep using both trackers to monitor stress by tracking HRV and RHR to keep taking steps to reduce stress. Hopefully, then my progesterone will be optimized so that those couple sleepless nights and strained-heartbeats days will one day soon be a thing of the past.

When you consider the life-changing impact of female hormone levels affecting all women in various ways from pregnancies to miscarriages, from fibroids to hysterectomies, from PMS to ovarian cysts, from puberty to menopause, and the emotional toll it all takes, it is so valuable to track the patterns and do everything possible to optimize these vital hormones.

That's what I've been doing for myself since my early 30s when my high-sugar, 80/10/10, fruitarian diet resulted in ultrasound-confirmed uterine fibroids that I reversed all by myself within three months without any medical intervention simply by drastically lowering my carbs and consequently my insulin levels. I've never had any excessive bleeding or PMS since.

Fitbit Sleep Monthly Report

With the paid premium subscription, I receive these insightful monthly analysis reports from Fitbit showing the past month's averages, daily data overview, and the yearly helicopter view.

It's encouraging to see that my current strategies are taking me in the right direction. For instance, my yearly average was 5h 55m of sleep a night. During that most recent month, I averaged 6h 20m.

 

It's also handy to see an overview of how broken or intact my sleep window has been. It helps to see how the good nights correspond to my average bedtime for the month.

Those late nights and sleeping during the day stick out like a sore thumb, to show how often it's happening and help me go back in my data to get to the root cause of what went wrong those nights to have a better go of it this month.

Fitbit Sleep Daily Data Analysis

Every morning, I wake up to check this screen and celebrate if I slept a solid six hours or more.

Some days, like this one, when my score is in the 90s out of 100, Fitbit celebrates with me with animated fireworks on this screen, a smiling moon, and a green star beside the total hours slept for exceeding my 7h goal.

I have often heard sound sleepers espouse the theory that those with insomnia have set up a self-fulfilling prophecy by being too concerned with tracking their sleep.

I'm sure they mean well, but in my case tracking my sleep has been the golden ticket to finding solutions by testing different strategies and getting objective feedback on the impact.

I had insomnia for 3 decades before I started tracking it. I'm not a time-oriented person by nature, so it's not like I was ever laying awake watching the clock. 

Trying to find the perfect balance of following the advice not to look at the time during the night while also following the advice to get up after 30–45m if not asleep by then, I have used my Fitbit stopwatch feature when my head hits the pillow.

That way, if I wake up and see that it's been over 6 hours since I fell asleep, I can jump out of bed and fist pump the air exclaiming, "I slept great!" 

For those with decades of chronic insomnia, poor nights are the norm. I didn't get too stressed over any one day as a drop in the bucket because I was stoically soldiering on as usual. 

After not having control over my sleep all those decades, I feel so empowered now. Every good night is reason to rejoice because it's such a gift that I'll never take for granted.

I derive immense childlike pleasure from showing these celebration screens to Mark and my AlexFergus.com friends. My teammates have been so generous in sharing valuable sleep suggestions with me. Alex has blessed me with the opportunity to experiment with world-class sleep support supplements like Qualia Night and devices like Xen and Sensate. I'm eager to share this current Sensate experiment with you soon.

 

 

Fitbit Sleep Biometrics

Ideally, the heart rate will be below the resting rate all night long, resulting in one long hammock shape. Mine looks like 14 little hammocks with each time my heart rises above resting and then tries to fall back into deeper sleep again. 

Getting the deepest sleep of the night early on triggers a chain of events that helps us sleep deeper and longer. According to my heart rate graph below, my sleep may have been deepest when I first fell asleep.

During those 9h 9m asleep, I was being still for 8h 33m and only tossing and turning for 36m. My heart rate was below resting for 8h 53m and only above that for 16m.

These nitty-gritty details of the Restoration screen are only visible with the paid premium version with my Charge 2 tracker.

It's much more informative than only seeing a simple 60bpm average for the night. When I'm fed raw data, I just eat it up. 

Sleep is this exponentially convoluted mystery that fascinates me to no end. I've been sleeping since before birth yet barely understand the tip of the iceberg of all there is to discover about how it works and why.

Seeing my average heart rate was 60bpm while sleeping is like seeing that first star on a clear night. 

Receiving a heart-rate graph from throughout the entire night is like enjoying a moonlit walk during a meteor shower.

As new updates and upgrades are released, I hope Fitbit keeps giving us more graphs of detailed data.

The only thing that would make it even better is if they would stack the graphs to line up with each other to help us spot the patterns easier the way Biostrap does.

It would reveal if the 14 times of my heart rate going above its resting rate throughout that night was correlated with REM sleep, or while coming out of deep sleep, or perhaps happening in the middle of light sleep. Spotting the patterns empowers us to influence the primary drivers and get things trending in the right direction.

Until then, I'm thankful for all the info I'm already being given each day and the tremendous help it is to find ways to move the needle towards optimal sleep every night.

Fitbit Sleep Stages

Hands down, this here is one of my all-time favorite features. Fitbit has been with me on the 4-year home stretch of this long, uphill journey out of those 3 decades of insomnia. 

It's shown me nights with adequate hours of total sleep that had a meager 5m of deep or 0m of REM on the lowest end of the continuum back in bygone days. 

More and more, I'm seeing percentages now that are normal or better. It's such a relief. Fitbit has been a compass that has helped me finally find the road the rest of the world is traveling after being lost alone in the wilderness of sleeplessness.

Researching REM, I'm inclined to agree with one of the writers who said that it is so different from all the other stages of sleep that it could almost be considered a third state of consciousness interspersed with sleeping.

 

Hopefully, Biostrap will one day give us the breakdown between not just light sleep vs. deep and REM combined, but they'll specify if it's light, deep, or REM sleep.

Knowing that my REM sleep has finally normalized by removing myself from unwanted office drama and switching to a work-from-home job makes me less concerned about tracking this metric daily during my two weeks of going without using Fitbit.

Last night, I wore a brand new Charge 4 Fitbit tracker for the first time. Of all its new additional features, seeing my REM sleep stats again this morning for the first time in a fortnight made me the happiest.

 

Fitbit Sleep Time

Looking at this screenshot of night after night of sweet slumber at the end of March and beginning of April 2021 makes my eyes well up with tears of joy, relief, and amazement! It's been a daunting quest getting to this point here and now.

I expect I'm going to be able to fall asleep and sleep through the night now. Sometimes I'm a little overconfident and ignore Biostrap's bedtime recommendation thinking I can just get off work and go straight to bed without unwinding first, but that doesn't work so well.

It's a whole new world. I'm trying to trust the process that my circadian rhythm will keep improving over time and just go to bed when Biostrap recommends, keeping it as consistent as possible.

I grabbed this screenshot to show you how it looks when I only get basic sleep data from Fitbit like I used to get 4 years ago before the automatic upgrade to receiving the sleep stages breakdown. 

The solid blue line at the top shows I slept 8h 19m solid. With basic sleep data, restlessness is delineated with light blue bars and middle of the night waking time with red bars.

Most nights, I get the full gamut of stages, which are color-coded with light blue for REM, medium blue for light, dark blue for deep, and red for awake time in both the raised blobs above the sleep surface and the scattered scarlet slivers from stirring in my sleep.

 

If you or anyone you love is going through a season of insomnia, my heart goes out to you. I hope you find the solutions to solve it.

There are no easy answers. Keep searching and experimenting with different strategies to stockpile solutions that work sometimes. I'm living proof that it's possible to overcome insomnia even after all this time.

No matter what type of improvement you are seeking, my wish for you is ever-improving sleep. It is such a remarkable miracle that makes every aspect of our lives better. Sweet dreams to you and yours!

 

Fitbit Meditation and Emotional Wellness

Life is bittersweet...

  • thrilling moments and tedious times
  • hopeful hearts and heavy ones
  • feeling loved by these people and rejected by those
  • tenacity to take on new challenges and the discomfort of failing at other goals
  • seasons of feeling right as rain and epochs of chronic pain
  • music to our ears of laughing with loved ones and heart-rendering silence in their absence
  • celebrating new reasons to rejoice with friends and crying alone into our pillow over sorrows no one knows
  • marveling over what wonderous discoveries are in store over the horizon and playing the what-if game with the past wishing we could turn back the hands of time...

Maybe you can relate, or perhaps you have other ups and downs unique to your life. What I like about Fitbit's library of meditations is that you can select what fulfills your objectives for managing your emotions at the moment.

In past years, I used to listen to these types of meditations before work, during my lunch hour, and right after work to help reduce my cortisol by letting go of work dread and stress.

Now, with a job I enjoy and mostly drama-free days (except for a random difficult customer on occasion), I don't depend on these meditations to get me through the day, like I did before.

If you're in a job with a long emotional commute to brace yourself to face the workday and a longer emotional commute every evening trying to leave work at the office only to find emotional baggage carpooled home with you, my heart goes out to you. I wish you luck and a swift exit strategy.

 

As you can see, from the meditation scan of my heart rate, I need more practice. These relaxing, grounding meditations are sure to help my journey into deeper peace that cannot be disturbed by the occasional difficult customer. I can't control anyone but myself.

That's what Fitbit helps us do, control ourselves by opening our eyes to our blind spots like a friend who gives us tough-love reality checks as often as we are willing to receive them. Mastering control of our minds, emotions, and physiology is a long uphill journey, but a single revelation from connecting the dots in our data might spur us on to take the next step in the right direction to take control of our wellbeing. 

Fitbit Community Groups

There are also thriving communities on Fitbit, each with a different focus: running, heart health, cardio, daily activity, cycling, swimming, at work, healthy eating, hiking, mind & body, sleep well, snacking tips, vegetarian, walking, yoga, pregnancy, parents, new moms, periods, birth control, trying to conceive, injuries, fit seniors, strength training, diabetes type 1, diabetes type 2, live mindfully, hypertension, stress less, stay active at home, menopause, preventing diabetes, better night's rest, eat well at home, weight loss 50+ lbs, weight loss 15-50 lbs, trim down get toned, maintain not gain, Seattle, Los Angeles, Austin, Boston, San Diego, Denver, San Francisco, Washington DC, New York, Minneapolis, Miami, Chicago, Deutsch, Español, François, Italiano, and what looks to me like Asian-writing characters for Japanese, Korean, Mandrin and Cantonese, but I can't say for sure.

Group members can post photos and screenshots and share advice, concerns and encouragement. There are many tens of thousands of members in each of those groups.

It's easy to dismiss the significance of that support network of strangers, but I can say that their words of support and encouragement has been uplifting to me in times when I needed it. I've given untold numbers of members in those groups heaps of cheers, congrats, and when requested, suggestions based on what's helped me.

When you feel proud of earning a Fitbit badge for all your tireless efforts in reaching a recognized milestone, and are excited to share it with your friends and family, it may go over like a lead balloon, you may hear crickets, it may even be like talking to a brick wall.

If you want encouragement and support to keep you motivated and inspired, why limit yourself to only looking to loved ones who may not even share that goal and then feel disappointed and discouraged if they don't share your enthusiasm?

Take your good news and struggles to the tribe of like-minded people you've never met who are at different places along the same path as you. They will either be inspired by your story if you are ahead of them on the journey or they will recall fondly the joy they felt when they reached the milestone you just hit. Support can be found in unexpected places if you are open to it.

 

Fitbit Smart Watches

My husband Mark's Fitbit Ionic has a seemingly limitless number of apps he can merge with his tracker's display and GPS. Since I haven't used his first-hand, I'll just share a few highlights.

His sleep tracker measures his oxygen levels which is the most significant improvement from my perspective of the tracker capabilities. In my mind, it's all about the tracker functions and everything else is icing on the cake.

I'll share a few of the niche apps he uses and enjoys most. 

He has a barcode feature app loaded onto his tracker's digital display. This way he can pull up the barcode on his wrist and scan it at the gym to sign in or request a hydromassage without having to carry his keys with the little barcode tag on the keyring in his pocket while working out.

He has a golf app that uses the GPS signal to tell him how far he hit the ball that he uses when they regularly play around on the weekend.

He also has tons of other apps like weather, communication notifications, games, calculators, and there's even the option to pay with his tracker, but our bank doesn't participate so we would need to open a new account to take advantage of that convenience.

I'm sure new apps are constantly being created, so I can't even begin to cover the countless possibilities.

Now that I've led you through all of the biometrics captured by the Fitbit, let's conclude in the next section. I'll also tell you which health & fitness tracker I find best, the Fitbit or the Biostrap:

 

Finishing Throughts: Fitbit Versus Biostrap - Which Fitness Tracker Is Best?

The take-home message is that I wear both Biostrap and Fitbit because they each have valuable features that enhance my efforts to invest in my wellness.

It's a cooperative effort since they both support my goals in different ways. It's not a competition. They each excel at their own unique value proposition.

Hypothetically speaking, if I had to choose to use just one, which would it be?

 

The lowest common denominators to me are the tracker's functions that meet a need that can't be fulfilled elsewhere.

Fitbit is my only source of information about my REM sleep and deep sleep. I appreciate and trust the many years of data they have given me along my journey of overcoming insomnia.

Biostrap is my sole resource for raw data and analysis about my heartbeats throughout the night and in 5-minute recordings throughout the day. I am in awe of how much understanding it has given me into how to help my heart function its best.

Both insomnia and arrhythmias have been decades-long burdens to bear up until this point of stepping into the light of day at the end of a terribly long tunnel.

If one of these two strikes more of a chord with you, follow your heart.

For me, if I had to choose today, I would select Biostrap primarily it's comprehensive pulse reports and a close second would be it's stack of sleep graphs to spot the relationships between different biomarkers.

(If you'd like to buy a Biostrap, discount code ALEX saves you 10%!)

Biostrap goes well out of their way to market this device strictly as a wellness tracker to the point of not even labeling the y-axis on the PPG graph or offering any interpretation information.

I respect that they have a solid grasp on how cautious they must be in making such a powerful resource available to consumers.

My intention in this article is strictly to share my appreciation for these devices and my personal experiences with both in light of my longstanding history of struggling with insomnia and irregular heartbeats which have both taken a heavy toll on my wellness most if not all of my life to date.

If you are considering investing in one of these devices, Alex gave me some wise advice that I would like to share with you. He said the first few weeks with any biometric tracker, he does not attempt to draw any conclusions, he just bides his time to get a solid baseline for future comparison.

Fitbit didn't spell out the details of atypically low REM or deep sleep for me. Biostrap didn't offer me any explanation for my pulse reports and took it one step further by not even giving me any reference-point for what is considered typical.

You may feel like you're completely on your own trying to understand your results. Be that as it may, in my experience, I have recognized that since the day I made the list of contributing factors for my cardiologist that was brushed aside without a second glance, I have always been on my own in managing my health. Any outside support I have ever received or will ever be given from a doctor or a tracker is all icing on the cake, for which I am eternally grateful for all the help I can get in managing my health.

Thank you Biostrap and Fitbit for all you have done to help me take personal responsibility for my health. I appreciate both companies wholeheartedly!!

 

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