One of my best friends and I have a thriving text thread where we talk constantly about the likes and dislikes of someone we both have in our lives. "Someone" isn’t really the right word. But “something” isn’t either. It’s Oura, the smart ring and its accompanying app, that delivers us daily and quarterly insights about our health and behavior—and has an almost personality-driven pull over our lives.
We say Oura “loves it” when either of us takes a nap. But Oura “gets mad” when we have more than one drink in an evening. These are all reflected in the different scores we get for "Readiness" (or how well rested we are and some other factors related to heart rate) and sleep.
And this little device has actually impacted the way both of us live our lives. I started getting in bed earlier once I noticed that doing so improved my sleep score (something Well+Good's commerce editor experienced, too). My friend has cut way back on alcohol because she sees how detrimental it is to her readiness.
She’s not alone.
“The number one insight that we hear is the impact of alcohol,” Oura's product manager and women's heath lead Caroline Kryder tells Well+Good's director of podcasts Taylor Camille in this week's episode of the Well+Good podcast. “For a lot of people, what [the app insights] give them is sort of this new discovery of maybe the glass of wine that they were having, yes, it was helping them fall asleep, but the quality of their sleep was completely different. And that's one of the major, major sleep experiments that we hear people undergo that changes their behavior.”
There are multiple Reddit threads in the r/Oura subreddit where users discuss seeing the impact alcohol has on their scores, and modulating their behavior in response. What’s going on here, physiologically? An Oura analysis of member data showed that when people tagged alcohol (tagging is how you keep track of specific behavior that could be impacting your life, like drinking or meditating), they experienced less deep sleep, which is the most restful portion of your nighttime zzzs. The analysis also highlighted increases in average heart rate for that night of sleep, which indicates the body is going through stress.
Even if someone hasn't tagged drinking, Kryder says Oura sometimes helps people connect the dots.
“A lot of people get the ring, they're feeling good, and then they have one night out on a social occasion, and the next day they just get whacked,” Kryder says. “Their readiness score is down, their sleep score is down. They're looking at their phone for, what did I do last night? Then they get the prompt from us saying there are certain things that might elevate your heart rate and cause your sleep to be different, like a late meal or alcohol.” And it clicks.
For some people, that is. While the Oura has swayed my weeknight bedtime habits, I don't really think about my scores when it comes to deciding whether to imbibe or not. What really guides me is how I want to feel later that night, the next day, and how full, tired, or how much fun I'm having in the moment.
Behavior change around alcohol is just one of the topics Kryder and Oura lead clinical research scientist Neta Gotlieb, PhD, discuss on the episode. From reproductive health to rest and recovery, how can wearables—particularly a discreet one like the Oura ring—change our understanding of our wellbeing? Take a listen below to learn more.
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