If you’re like me – a person who tries to balance a corporate job with an active lifestyle – sleep is often just a way of teleporting to a new day. Either you close your eyes and (what seems like) 5 minutes later the alarm goes off or you find yourself tossing and turning the whole night, feeling like you didn’t manage to fall asleep at all.
Sometimes, even if you do get the recommended 8 hours of shut-eye, you may still wake up feeling tired and not recovered at all. If you’re like me, you may be wondering why that is…
I’ve been using Polar Ignite for two months now and gained some true insight into my sleep and recovery. Of course, the Polar Ignite has become my new best training buddy, too. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.
How Polar Ignite’s Nightly Recharge feature works
The Polar Ignite’s Nightly Recharge overnight recovery measurement analyses your sleep and recovery from day-to-day demands. That means recovery from training, your daily activities and even inactivities.
To get the Nightly Recharge feedback, you’ll have to wear your Polar Ignite for a minimum of 4 hours per night (for three nights during a 28-day period). After that the watch will have enough data to provide feedback on your sleep patterns and a better understanding of how your workouts and recovery weave together.
When aiming for balanced leaves you feeling anything but
Trying to maintain a balanced lifestyle isn’t easy. You have to tick so many boxes that you start to question the whole ‘balanced’ concept. Being active, cooking, working in an office, having a social life, these are some of the activities that we often feel the need to accomplish daily.
I see workouts both as a way of relaxing after a long day at work and staying healthy.
I’m not the couch potato type so even after a long day at work or when feeling stressed or tired, I enjoy going for a workout class, especially in the summer when it’s too hot to go for a run or do a workout at home.
When the weather’s hot, my energy levels are lower than usual and 8 hours of sleep just isn’t enough. Even though I consider myself to be an active person, I suddenly become a sloth that no longer wants to leave its nest.
Even though working out makes me feel better and think clearer, there are times when my energy levels are down as a result of excessive exercise and inadequate sleep. That’s when it’s easy to forget (or ignore) that exercise is also a form of stress on your body that stimulates the release of cortisol, the stress hormone. That’s why exercise isn’t enough.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how hard you train or sweat if you’re not training and recovering smartly.
Everything you do plays a role in your overall fitness and well-being: training, nutrition, sleep and other daily activities. We all get stressed at times and our overall stress load affects recovery, training and fitness results. If you sleep poorly because you can’t shake the anxiety about the massive workload waiting for you at the office the next day, it’s safe to say your body’s overnight recovery process won’t be complete.
Better said, you’ll wake up feeling soggy, waiting for that cup of coffee and even craving sweets because your “hunger hormone” (known as ghrelin) and your leptin levels are not working properly.
Are you sleeping, but not resting?
After using the Polar Ignite for the past two months, I’ve learnt new things about my sleeping patterns and realized that even if I get the recommended 8 hours of sleep per night, it’s not always enough. Sometimes I’m sleeping, but not resting.
Have you ever thought of that? You can sleep for 8 hours per night as sleep doctors recommend, but if you’re constantly in a light sleep mode or in REM sleep, you will wake up feeling fatigued and have low energy levels.
The Polar Ignite gives you lots of feedback on your sleep. You can see not only the amount of sleep but also the quality of your sleep with percentages of REM, deep and light sleep as well as interruptions during the night.
REM (Rapid Eye Movement) is a kind of sleep that occurs at intervals during the night and is characterized by rapid eye movements, more dreaming and bodily movement, faster pulse and breathing. The Polar Ignite also tracks your heart rate during the night.
It’s a lot of information to process at first, but all the data is presented in a way that is easy to grasp and digest.
Quality sleep is key for recovery but there’s more…
If you’ve ever wondered how fast your heart is going while you’re asleep, you can now find that out.
In addition to sleep data, the Polar Ignite Nightly Recharge feature also gives you feedback on how well your autonomic nervous system recovered during the night (ANS charge), which is basically a resume of your heart rate, breathing rate and heart rate variability during the night.
All these parameters are easily described and illustrated in the Polar Flow app and you can also check your Nightly Recharge status on your watch first thing in the morning.
If you’re trying to be active or lose weight, you should pay more attention to what happens after you fall asleep because sleep is key for your health.
In fact, there’s evidence of a direct link between sleep patterns and the human gut microbiome’s role in how we gain weight.
Sleeping is not just the compulsory time between bedtime snack and breakfast, it’s the best (and necessary) time to recover and recharge.
During sleep your body heals any minor tears which occurred in the muscles during the day. Without adequate sleep, you lag behind with your healing and that’s how injuries start to build up.
Studies show that certain types of training – specifically reaching high heart rates – can influence sleep quality.
This is another area where your fitness buddy Polar Ignite and its FitSpark daily training guide feature come in handy. Based on your fitness level, training history, recovery status and daily activity, the FitSpark feature recommends the optimal workouts for you. It can be a 20-minute walk, a short cardio session or even a sweaty strength workout. But what’s cool about it is that you get useful tips on how to plan your workouts.
These messages can be motivating and look like: “You’re good to go!”, “Today is as good a day for exercise as any. Listen to your body in deciding what to do”. They can be really down-to-earth like as well: ‘be kind to yourself and consider taking a day off training’. As mentioned before, it’s about training smart, not heavy. A tired body can lead to accidents and it’s better to prevent than to cure.
The Nightly Recharge feature is one of my favourites from all Polar devices. It can really help understand your body and what it needs. People say that you have to listen to your body and that’s what Polar Ignite helps you to do. It’s your tiny workout buddy always with you on your wrist, guiding you along the way and whispering the things you may know, but don’t always listen to.
key lessons learned On Sleep And Recovery
The Polar Ignite helped me understand that even though I felt good after 6 hours of sleep, it wasn’t enough for my body to recharge. I can now easily understand why I had so many sore muscles, why I was feeling stiff the next day after an intensive workout and why I was falling asleep the second I laid my head on the pillow.
I know that sore muscles are for most of us a sign of ‘a good workout’, but that’s not always the case. Recovery is as important as the workout itself and we often skip that part. Stretching and taking a day off training is a way of training smart. The watch advises you that maybe you should rather loosen up, maybe try a mobility workout instead of running those 5k you scheduled.
What’s more, it’s easy to do what the watch suggest because you don’t have to think about what kind of mobility work or stretching you should do – just follow the instructions on your fitness watch and do! Also, throughout the day you can always tap the Serene breathing exercise and take a 5-minute breathing break to calm down your mind and body and further boost your overall recovery.
The Polar Ignite has helped me understand that being an active person is not only about the training hours you put in, it’s about getting the whole package together. That includes nutrition and quality sleep. I pay more attention to recovery sessions now, even those 15-20-minute mobility workouts recommended by my Polar Ignite, and I’ve taken steps to improve my sleeping patterns. Going to bed at almost the same time every night has really made a big change for me.
Using the Nightly Recharge feature has helped me understand that skipping stretching isn’t an option. You can sleep for 8 hours or more, but if your heart rate is high and there’s a lot of REM sleep involved, you won’t be the best version of yourself.
At the end of the day, you’re not a machine, you’re not built only to conquer. Your body needs care and attention. Better said, you need quality in your life. That means workouts, sleep and nutrition that can help you achieve your goals.
It’s not only pro athletes who need to understand what their body needs. Everyday activities challenge us all both mentally and physically so in my opinion, we can all use a little help to find the optimal ways to help us through the day.
That’s why I recommend the Nightly Recharge feature on Polar Ignite to anyone who aims for a balanced lifestyle. Whether you have specific fitness goals or not, training for 2-3 days a week, spending time with your family and friends while trying to crush it at your job is a lot to manage.
So, learn to give yourself a break and let Polar Ignite’s features simplify your days and nights.
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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.