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The Importance Of Feedback For Improving Sleep, Health & Performance

I often get asked - why do I spend so much time, energy and money on tracking my body.

Why do I track my body temperature? My heart rate variability? My sleep? My body fat?

Why track all of these things? And why spend so much money on gadgets and apps to help track these things?

Here's my answer to all of these questions - I seek improvement.

I want to sleep better, feel healthier, get more out of life, know when I'm doing something wrong.

I want to learn.

I want to be empowered.

I want to understand my body and how diet, sleep (or lack of), exercise, supplements, stress all impact my body.

Tracking my bodies metrics allows me to achieve this. Let me explain...

Sleep & Health Tracking - The Importance of Feedback For Improving Your Sleep and Health 

I have been a big fan of tracking my bodies metrics for years now.

The way I see it is like this:

The more feedback you get on something, the faster you can learn/adapt/change.

Think about learning to drive under two different 'methods'. One method you have no feedback, and the other you have a lot of feedback mechanisms in place.

Imagine - Learning To Drive Without Feedback

In the 'low feedback' scenario - you drive a car with no instructor next to you. The car doesn't have a dashboard telling you your speed, rpm, fuel levels etc.

The road you drive on has no speed signs or upcoming corner/hazard signs.

Also, your car is sound proofed so you can't hear your engine or noises outside.

The only feedback you have is from your eyes and the feel of the car moving through space. 

You are effectively learning to drive in a restricted manner. There is no one telling you if you are doing things correctly or incorrectly. You don't have any recommendations around speed, or when to change gears. You don't even know how much gas you have left in the tank.

Plus, you are so inexperienced with driving, you don't know what is right or wrong. You don't know if it's normal to have to slam on the brakes at every corner, or jerking the car at gear changes is acceptable or whether you should be using the handbrake to slow down on a hill.

You simply have to try things and see how they play out. You, the inexperienced person controlling this advanced machine, have to figure out what is best for car (and you).

Eventually you will learn what it takes to stay alive on the road. You will learn a lot from your  mistakes (crashing, damaging the engine, going off the road). 

But you will develop bad habits (crunching gears, taking corners too fast, uneven wearing of tyres etc) and will never reach your optimum driving habits. But you won't know this, as you haven't experienced your potential. You don't know what you're missing out on.

What About Learning To Drive With Extra Feedback?

On the other hand, imagine learning to drive with extra feedback mechanisms in place.

You have a professional and experienced driving instructor next to you. They are giving you advice and feedback on what is upcoming and what you did right or wrong. This is feedback is being provided in near real time.

Plus you have signs on the road, telling you what is upcoming and what a safe speed is for that part of the road. Helping you take in more information and using it to your advantage (slowing down, changing gears etc)

Plus you have a speedo, and a rpm meter on your dash. You can look at the speed you are doing and compare it to the recommendation on the road. You know when you should be changing gears...

All this feedback allows you to adapt and to learn. You learn much faster, you learn in a safer way, you learn from your small mistakes and you can improve as a driver.

How This Applies To Sleep, Health and Our Bodies

Now think about this in regards to sleep.

On one hand, you don't have feedback - you don't use a sleep tracking device.

You simply go to bed and hope to sleep.

You don't know how good that sleep is, or if it's enough, or what impact it has on your body.

You aren't told what you should do differently. Or what you should keep doing the same.

You don't find out how certain things impact your sleep.

The only 'data' you have is:

  • How you feel in the morning (and this is valuable feedback, I will cover it later)
  • The time you were in bed (if you even take note of the time you went to bed, but you won't know how much time you were asleep)
  • Feedback from your partner in your bed, if any.

Lack of Data = Lack of Adaptation 

In the above 'low feedback' scenario - you can still learn and adapt from the small amount of feedback you get.

If for a week go to bed at 2am, and wake up at 6am for work feeling horrible - you soon learn that you function better on more than 4 hours sleep.

This learning is a result of feedback - you are processing data (how you feel + the time you were in bed) to turn it into knowledge. You soon know that if you need to feel good, you should aim to get more than 4 hours sleep at night.

But as the feedback you get from your sleep is so limited, you are restricted to what you can learn. And just like with the learning to drive example - you may make some serious mistakes while teaching yourself these valuable lessons.

You're left to figure things out yourself. Trial and error. Rinse and repeat.

Eventually, you will figure the basics out.

You will know you need more than 4 hours sleep a night to feel good....

You will know that downing 2 bottles of wine before bed impacts your sleep quality....

You will know that drinking 4 cups of coffee after dinner leads to insomnia....

But you may not know the impact of 6 hours of sleep vs 7 hours of sleep has on your body.

You may not know how going to bed at 10pm instead of 11pm causes a higher portion of deep sleep...

You may not know how you get still sleep solidly having two glasses of wine, but 3 messes the body up.

You won't know these things unless you have extra feedback - feedback from a sleep tracking device.

Without this feedback you will never truely optimise and perfect your sleep.

Just because you are doing something over and over again, doesn't make you good at it.

The belief is you need 10,000 hours at a particular task to become an expert at it. But does this mean that someone could do 10,000 hours on a racing car circuit and become the next Formula 1 champion? No.

But if that same person did 10,000 hours on a track AND had feedback - video analysis, data downloads from the car, professional coaches giving advice, feedback from the mechanics on how to get more out of the car, power output based on various fuel blends etc etc then maybe the driver would go on to be a champ.

The same can be said with sleep (or diet, or exercise).

Just because you 'know the basics' and 'feel ok' doesn't mean you can't get better. 

It doesn't mean you haven't developed bad habits.

It doesn't mean you shouldn't strive to learn more about your sleep/health and experiment and learn.

The Japanese have a term called Kaizen. It means continuous improvement. Think about this and how you can apply it to your sleep, body and health.

Think about how important feedback is when it comes to improving...

Can you see why I like tracking things now?!

The Power Of Feedback - Optimising Sleep

If you still don't see the power of feedback when it comes to sleep and health optimisation, let me share a few practical examples.

For over two years now I have been using my Oura Ring. I wear it 23.75 hours a day (I take it off to sync and charge). This ring provides me with a lot of data about my body. In particular around my recovery levels and stress quality. (You can read my comprehensive review HERE)

The 'lessons I have learnt' from the ring are immense, here are a few things I have learnt:

  • Cooler rooms boost deep sleep scores (which in turn boost my recovery score and allow me to push harder during the day).

High Oura Ring deep sleep scores when in a chilled room

When winter time would come, or I would sleep in a room with A/C, I would always get better sleep scores according to my Oura Ring. The extra data provided from the ring (that I wouldn't have been able to collect without tracking my sleep) meant I invested in a Chillipad to use over summer months, and purchased a Samina mattress that has low heat retention.

Now I get better quality sleep all year round.

  • Even 2 glasses of alcohol at night messes with my sleep

It's obvious that a lot of alcohol ruins sleep quality and how I feel the next day. But what surprised me was the impact a small amount of booze had on my body. I would wake up feeling 'normal', but when I looked at my Oura sleep data, I would see elevated heart rate levels, higher respiration rates, much lower deep sleep, more wake times and movement in my sleep, and a lower 'readiness score'.

Without this feedback, I would have blindly assumed that 2 glasses of wine at night had no impact on my sleep and health...

  • Wearing BlueBlockers in the evening decreases time to fall asleep

On evenings I wear my orange lens Blueblockers my sleep latency score is decreased.

  • Eating big meals close to big ruins my sleep

I got caught up in the ketogenic fad a few years ago. I combined low carb eating with long periods of fasting. This meant eating a lot of food in the evenings.

I would go to bed with a full stomach and didn't think much of it.

The next day I would repeat the process.

That was until I started tracking my sleep and HRV. I soon realised that those evening feasts were destroying my sleep quality. The feedback from my Oura Ring made this clear to me - all my metrics were off big time. Yet on the day where I didn't fast (and ate normal amounts at normal times) my sleep data was so much cleaner and positive.

Seeing this data I immediately changed my diet around. Imagine if I didn't have this data? Imagine how long I would have pressed on eating this way. Eventually the poor sleep quality would have taken it's tool - I would have suffered low energy, low libido, weight gain etc... not knowing what the cause was.

The data - the feedback - helped me identify the root problem, make a change and learn from my experiences. This is the power of feedback.

 

Not Just Sleep...

The things I have learnt about my body (and how to improve them) through tracking my bodies metrics are not just limited to sleep.

Here are a few 'general health' lessons I have learnt:

  • How certain diets impact my metabolism - by measuring my body temperature

Every morning I take my temperature, I also take it after meals and exercise (read more about this in my article - Why You Need To Measure Your Body Temperature).

Your temperature tells you a lot about your health, stress and metabolism levels. If I am going to start a new diet, I can see the impact this diet has on my body. I can see how extended fasting decreases my metabolism. I can see how carbs increase it etc.

I have learnt a lot about diet and health by tracking my temperature. In fact, it's now a big part of the protocols I use in my Hormone Reset Program.

  • How certain supplements impact my testosterone - by measuring my hormone levels

I often get asked about the effectiveness of testosterone supplements. And I never had a clear answer, in fact, I didn't even know I should spend money on them myself. So I did an experiment - I measured my hormones using a DUTCH test, took a test-booster for 12 weeks, and re-measured my hormones (you can see the full write up and my findings in this article - Aggressive Strength Testosterone Booster Review)

The feedback I got from the testing showed me what I wouldn't know otherwise. It showed me how the supplement increased my testosterone.

Without this data, I wouldn't know whether I was wasting my money.

  • Lower volume training was just as effective as higher volume training (and it was better on the body)

A quick story before I share my lesson - I spent a few years as a full time personal trainer. I was in a gym for 8-10 hours a day, 6 days a week. I saw many things while working in that gym, but one thing I could never understand was gym-goers who never tracked their workouts.

They would walk in, see what machine was free, put on some weights, do a few reps, move to something else.

I started to take note of one or two people who didn't track their workouts, and over the years I found something surprising. They never improved. In fact, the weights they were lifting often went down over time.

Each to their own I guess, but I never understood the point of spinning your wheels. These people were serious about their training - they had all the supplements, the workout gear, and were in the gym 4 or 5x a week. But they were getting know where. What was the point?

Back to my lesson - I have been involved in serious training and sports for half my life. I have always tracked my workouts and programs. This data provided me with feedback on what was working and what wasn't.

Anyway, I decided to trial a new way of training that had a fraction of the volume and only required one session in the gym a week. After 9 months training this way I went back and did some strength tests. I found that my strength levels were what I would expect them to be if I had been doing the high volume training. (You can read more about this experiment HERE Body By Science High Intensity Training Review: My 9 Month Experiment)

Me 9 months after drastically decreasing my training volume

Even better though, the data from my Oura Ring was showing my recovery / stress scores (such as HRV) was higher than ever. And my body fat levels were still low.

BY tracking my workouts and my body, I learnt that less was better, and I didn't have to be a slave to the gym 5x a week.

I could go on an on, as I've got many examples to share with you. But I hope by now you see the value in measuring things when it comes to your sleep, health and body.

I hope you can also see why I put so much value on wearables such as the Oura Ring that accurately track things like sleep and recovery.

On why I take my temperature every morning.

On why I have done a lot of lab tests.

The value I get from this data is profound. I learn so much.

I see the impact of our diet and lifestyle choices.

I see patterns and trends.

I learn.

I adapt.

I improve.

This is why I track my sleep.

It's also why I have all my clients track their bodies metrics.

How can you improve something if you don't measure it?

 

Tracking Isn't A Life Long Requirment

The reason why I wrote this article was because of the questions I get around 'why I track so much about my body'.

A follow up question I often get is 'If I'm so passionate about health and living a uber healthy life, why do I need to measure so much?'

This is a valid question and I have two answers:

The first - kaizen - continuous improvement. Which I covered above.

The second - too empower me and help me become more about my body. In turn, removing the need for tracking and feedback.

Let me explain.

Unless you are finely tuned to your body and health (which most westerners aren't) then it's hard to pick up on nuances such as how food, stress, caffeine, alcohol and exercise impact our health, metabolism sleep and body. 

Tracking your body using tools and wearables gives you feedback. The feedback in turn teaches you more about your body. It allows you to learn about your body and how things affect it (for better or worse).

When you take a new supplement and it increases your REM sleep score - boosting your alertness during the day - you soon realise that REM sleep improves cognitive function. And the new supplement helps boost REM.

By using the feedback from a sleep tracker like the Oura Ring, it helps you learn more about your body.

Overtime, you may even find you no longer need to use that sleep tracker, as you are already tuned into your sleep and body. 

Just like after a few months of learning to drive, you no longer need an instructor next to you.

In fact, after driving for a few years, you could probably drive safely without speedometers, without road signs, without hearing the engine noises etc. We learn to get a feel for driving. Just like we can learn to get a feel for our sleep and body. 

And sure, we could get to this outcome without having the feedback mechanisms in place. BUT, having them in place allows us to learn and adapt much faster.

Empowering The User

This is the path I have been on. I used to be a horrible sleeper (I share my tips and how I fixed this issue HERE) and over the years, using sleep wearables I have improved my sleep quality to a point where I am very happy with it.

At the same time, after years of tracking my sleep, and experimenting with routines, diets, supplements, environments etc, I am rather 'tuned in' with how my body responds.

I can 'feel' the impact a supplement has on my sleep (and body).

Just like I can feel the impact a particular training regime has on my strength.

Years of experience with feedback has got me to this stage.

Therefore, I could very easily, stop tracking these metrics and just listen to my body instead.

And in fact I do this. My training program are very 'unscripted' (you can see watch some videos on me training  HERE). 

My diet is unplanned (I should point out one thing I never track is calories, I explain why in my article - Are You A Calorie Counting Fool?)

Even my lab testing has taken a backward seat these days. I have simply learnt what works for my body and what doesn't.

I know what training responds well to me, and what diets keep my metabolism and testosterone up.

I know what I need to do for my optimal sleep and what I need to avoid.

I know these things because I have tracked them for years.

Would I know these things if I hadn't tracked and measured my sleep, my hormones, my metabolism, my training?

Hell no.

I would still be driving blind, picking up bad habits a long the way and getting by with 'ok' instead of 'optimal'.

Do I continue tracking my body, health and sleep? As I mentioned above, yes, but not as much. This is because I seek out continuous improvement. Plus I love data and learning about my body!

 

Does This All Make Sense? Have I Inspired You To Start Tracking More In Your Life?

Remember - if you can't measure it, you cannot improve it.

And all this tracking and feedback doesn't only apply to your body. It applies to all facets of life. Cooking, business, investing.

Track the ingredients you used in tonights dinner. Jot down what was good about, and what wasn't. Next time you make that meal make some adjustments.

Measure the change in conversion rates on your new website, if they don't improve, go back and figure out why.

Remember - feedback is information. 

And applying this information whilst continuing to learn from it leads to knowledge and wisdom (and much better sleep and health!)

 

I hope you enjoyed this article of mine and I have inspired you to start tracking more in your quest for optimal health and wellness.

Below I have linked to some of the top resources to help you get on your way to learning more about your body. If you have your own resources please leave them in the comments box below.

 

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