I’ve been trying to fix my sleeping habits for a while now. I’m a natural night-owl. I have a day job, which means that at least five times a week I need to wake up early if I want to get home in time to get my writing work in. 

I work two desk jobs which means that sleep is more important but harder to get. I’ve worked physical jobs – gardener, warehouse worker, a deckhand on a container ship – and I don’t remember ever having much trouble sleeping during those periods of my life. Then again, I was a lot younger then, so maybe it was more a matter of being able to shrug off that kind problem because you’re still immortal, or at least feel that way. Where I sit, quickly approaching 40, I feel a badly slept night for a whole week afterward.

Oura is a Finnish company with an activity tracker that boasts being able to improve your sleep. I’d been interested in it because I will absolutely use anything I can to hack my sleep so that I can get better and more sleep in less time. So when my Fitbit gave up the ghost, it wasn’t a hard decision to replace it with an Oura ring, not least because it’s a ring and I tend to dislike having things on my wrist. You get used to it, of course, but it’s still often bothersome.

The good

I got my Oura in April or May, and it really does what it says on the tin. It has, on the whole, helped me improve my sleep by a lot. Oura tracks your temperature throughout the day, and as such can suggest the best timing for going to sleep. For me at least, this has been a window of an hour or so in length. It also features reminders to start preparing for bed two hours before your ideal bedtime starts. I’m still working on taking this advice every night, but at least it’s easy to see why I feel tired in the morning when I wake up on some days and feel much more refreshed on other days when I’ve technically slept a lot less.

One thing that I really enjoy about the activity tracker that Oura has is that it matches your sleep with your activity goals. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll actually follow those goals because there’s such a thing as schedule, but it does help with not blaming yourself about a bad workout. Or it does for me, at least. 

For me, it really has helped to know when my ideal bedtime is. I’ve spent a long time trying to hack my sleep one way and another, without ever really seeing what the problem was. I’ve been trying my hardest to go to sleep around the same time for a few months now and it has helped. Getting better data about my sleep patterns has also helped me make better choices about the way I sleep. Not always, of course, because sometimes you just need to get all the shit done in a day and there just aren’t enough hours. But I’m getting better about it. 

The bad

Oura is not great as an activity tracker. Or, at least that’s what I choose to believe. On days that my Fitbit would have given me 10 000 steps, the result from Oura as translated into my Apple Health app comes out at 7 000 to 8 000 steps. I can think of a few things that could cause this and I’ll get to them soon. Oura tracks activity in extra calories burned instead of steps. This is probably a very good thing if you want to count calories, but since my goals lie elsewhere, I’m not super excited about this feature. But I digress. 

This fact of calculating calories burned instead of steps might be the cause of the discrepancy between Oura and Fitbit. It might be a factor of the algorithm converting the calories into steps being too stingy. It might be the link between the Oura app and the Apple Health app converting those calories differently. And it might be a factor of Fitbit being too generous with the steps that it counts. I haven’t been able to compare data between the two trackers at the same time. I doubt I’ll get another Fitbit just so I could do that comparison. And given that Oura also tracks your temperature, I fear the last option may be the likeliest

While I track the data of how many steps I take each day, that’s not actually a goal for me. My goals are things like being able to do a set on a pulldown machine with a 45 kg weight (ultimately, doing that same set as pull-ups). I want to run 10K within the allotted time (1 hour 40 minutes). No activity tracker will tell me if I’m on track to be able to reach that on any given day.

All of this to say, that ultimately, the bad things aren’t that bad for me. Your mileage may vary.

As a Finn, I’m required to root for anything Finnish, but I think I would prefer Oura in any case. Your needs, dear reader, may vary.

https://ouraring.com/