This article is the third of a four-part blog post series, The Athlete Sleep Diaries, with each post featuring a real-life Polar Ignite user experience. This series reveals what four athletes learned about sleep tracking and using the data and insight to improve their sleep and recovery.
While many of us think we’re getting enough sleep (and enough quality sleep) on a nightly basis, it’s long been one of those obscure I-think-I’m-on-the-right-track metrics for athletes on both the amateur and professional levels.
Without true, accurate data, this leaves us making recovery-related decisions based on perceptions and feelings, which can oftentimes be misleading.
Emma Pallant was one such athlete who, despite clocking eight hours of sleep on a regular basis, had no knowledge on what its quality was.
You might know her from her days as an elite middle-distance runner where she was the U23 European Cross Country Champion, but for the past few years she’s been tearing up the triathlon and duathlon scene — with two duathlon world championship titles and an impressive second-place finish at the 2017 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship to her name.
As an athlete who loves to train and push her body to its limits, we couldn’t help but get excited thinking how an optimized rest routine could positively impact Pallant’s training and performance.
We weren’t disappointed. Here’s how Emma Pallant found her way to better sleep by tracking and analyzing her recovery with the Polar Ignite fitness watch.
MY SLEEP BEFORE TRACKING
I generally aimed to get a good eight hours of rest a night — I’d try to go to bed by 10 pm and get up by 6 am and stay in a good rhythm.
I didn’t really notice waking up during the night, I thought I slept pretty well throughout the night. In terms of whether or not I felt rested in the morning, I didn’t really think too much about how I felt or how I had slept. This outlook changed once I started using my Polar Ignite and the Nightly Recharge™ feature.
POLAR SLEEP INFO: Overnight recovery measurement
Nightly Recharge is an overnight recovery measurement that shows you how well you recover from the demands of your day, and helps you make optimal choices in your everyday life to maintain overall well-being and reach your training goals.
To get started, simply wear your Polar Ignite when you sleep. You need to wear your watch for three nights during a 28-day period before you start to see the Nightly Recharge status on your watch.
Once you’ve accumulated enough data, tap the Nightly Recharge watch face to see further information about your ANS charge and your sleep charge.
You can also compare and analyze your Nightly Recharge details from different nights in the Polar Flow app. Choose Nightly Recharge from the Flow app menu to see the details of your last night’s Nightly Recharge.
- Swipe the display right to see the Nightly Recharge details for previous days.
- Tap the ANS charge or sleep charge box to open detailed view.
Using DATA to Optimize Sleep
The Polar Ignite sleep data showed that I wasn’t falling straight asleep even though I was going to bed at 10 pm, and when I got up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night there was an interruption of 17 minutes in my rest, not just the one minute that it takes to ‘go’.
When I started to wear the Polar Ignite, I started to actually think about my rest and how it affected how I felt in the morning. Here’s what I learned and did to get better sleep:
- When I checked the data and saw I had a bad night of rest, I would then try to take a power nap in the day because I could see my recovery wasn’t what I had assumed it would be.
- I started to go to bed earlier to give myself time to fall asleep, and even if I woke up early, I would try to stay in bed and go back to sleep.
- I also stopped drinking tea before bed, or drinking too much in general, because of just how much going to the bathroom was disrupting my sleep.
POLAR SLEEP INFO: Rest QUALITY
The sleep score describes how you slept compared to the indicators of a good night’s rest based on the current recovery science. It summarizes the amount and quality of your sleep into a single number (1 – 100).
The six components of the sleep score are grouped under three themes: amount (rest time), solidity (long interruptions, continuity, and actual recovery), and regeneration (both REM and deep sleep).
- The optimal amount of rest for REM sleep is 25% and for deep sleep 17%. Your sleep score won’t improve even if these percentages are higher.
You can also rate your recovery yourself with a five-step scale: very poorly – poorly – okay – well – very well. Your own rating is not taken into account in the sleep charge calculation, but you can record your own perception and compare it to the sleep charge assessment you get.
The Effects OF sleeping Better
I’ve noticed several changes in how I feel and my performances after using the Polar Ignite and starting to get better sleep:
- If I take a power nap on days after a night of interrupted rest, the following night’s sleep is better. I feel better and more energetic in my training as well.
- Also, when my sleep is better, my moods are better and more stable, as I would often feel more irritated in the mornings where I hadn’t had a good night’s recovery.
We have used the Nightly Recharge status to alter my training plan on several occasions.
After a very poor night’s rest and a subsequent bad score, we actually switch to an easier, less-demanding training day.
When we don’t think a day of training and pushing hard would be productive, we make new plans and swap it with the rest day. Oftentimes, when the key day comes, and I have a better score, it will go really well.
POLAR SLEEP INFO: How to Adjust training
Based on what the Polar Ignite measures, you get personalized daily tips in the Polar Flow app on exercise, and tips on rest and regulating your energy levels on those particularly rough days. Tips for the day are displayed on the opening view of Nightly Recharge in the Flow app.
You get an exercise tip every day, which tells you if you should take it easy or go for it. The tips are based on the Nightly Recharge status, ANS charge, sleep charge and cardio load status.
If you didn’t rest as well as usual, you get a sleep tip. It tells you how to improve the aspects of recovery that weren’t as good as usual. Besides things we measure from your rest, we take into account your sleep rhythm over a longer period of time, cardio load status and exercise on the previous day. When it comes to regulating energy levels, if your ANS charge status or sleep charge is particularly low, you get a tip that helps you get through the days with a lower recharge. They are practical tips on how to calm down when you’re in overdrive and energize when you need a boost.
CREATING LASTING Sleep HABITS
After tracking and analyzing my Nightly Recharge data on a regular basis, I ended up making a few long-term changes in how I approach proper rest and recovery.
- Firstly, I plan on continuing to schedule naps in the days following nights with really poor rest — and wear my watch to see how that alters how I’m feeling.
- In a similar vein, the Polar Ignite will also come in handy by keeping me on track when travelling to different time zones.
- Lastly, I have permanently stopped drinking tea before I go to bed, and if I am getting up at 6 a.m., I will make sure that I am in bed by 9:30 p.m. to give myself 30 minutes to fall asleep.
When it comes to what’s most useful about the Nightly Recharge feature, I think it’s really good just to see a black and white value I can use to judge things overall. That is far less complicated and more reliable than doubting and questioning how I feel or trawling through data, trying to come up with my own biased view.
read more Athlete Sleep diaries:
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Please note that the information provided in the Polar Blog articles cannot replace individual advice from health professionals. Please consult your physician before starting a new fitness program.