Reading time: 2 min

What is it

Sleep latency is the term given to describe how long it takes to fall asleep. Sleep latency can vary greatly due to behaviors before bedtime, such as alcohol, medications, exercise, diet, and blue light exposure, among others.

However, tracking sleep latency can provide additional insight to help reflect on health, behavior, and intervention changes.

How is it measured

Sleep latency is measured in minutes from the time an individual attempts to fall asleep to the time when the individual enters the first stage of sleep.

Tracking changes in physiological metrics through photoplethysmography (PPG) and accelerometry provides improved insight as individuals may have difficulty reporting the time of initial sleep onset. By tracking metrics such as heart rate, heart rate variability, respiration rate, and limb movements, a good understanding of bedtime and onset of sleep can be made.

The Biostrap Buzz

Sign up to our email newsletter to receive curated content on the latest news in digital health and health optimization. Plus, special access to Biostrap offers and community updates.

Correlations to health conditions

It is important to note that directionality and magnitude of latency may or may not have clinical relevance based on an individual’s situation. For example, long sleep latencies can be indicative of disorders, particularly related to stress or insomnia. However, shortening sleep latency may not reflect positive changes, as high amounts of sleep debt decrease sleep latency. Further, substances such as alcohol may reduce sleep latency but may lead to lesser quality of sleep.

Many of the correlations between latency and health are drawn in anxiety and depression. These psychological disorders are relatively common and affect sleep and sleep latency. However, sleep latency is associated with decreased total sleep, where less sleep causes more anxiety and depression.

Thus, it can be essential to monitor sleep latency changes to catch trends before they become problematic.

Normal or acceptable ranges

The National Sleep Foundation acknowledges up to 30 minutes of sleep latency, regardless of age, as appropriate. Sleep latency of 31-45 minutes is listed as ‘uncertain,’ which could be due to individual trends. It stands to reason that very short sleep latency (<5 minutes) could indicate problems with fatigue and sleep deprivation; however, more research is needed on normative values in this range.

Interpreting trends

Although the clinical recommendations remain unclear, tracking sleep latency could benefit most individuals. This metric, inversely associated with total sleep duration, could provide insight into behavioral changes and how they affect sleep architecture.

Should sleep latency trend negatively for an individual, behavioral interventions could be suggested to correct sleep latency and potentially increase total sleep duration.

Reading time: 2 min

What is it

Snoring is characterized by partial obstruction of airways that results in noise while breathing. While snoring is a fairly common occurrence, it has the potential to affect sleep quality and physiological parameters, while some snoring can be benign. In addition, snoring can be disruptive to other individuals’ sleep if present in the same room, and is a fairly common stressor for families and partnerships.

How it is measured

Snoring is most often measured by microphone recording during sleep. Biostrap uses the microphone in the individual’s phone, placed near their bed during sleep, which can detect snoring patterns throughout the night. This allows measurement of frequency and intensity of snoring that is otherwise difficult to quantify without a sleep study. 

Biostrap reports snoring level severity as: none, mild, moderate or severe

Correlation with health conditions

Snoring itself can wake up both the individual and others present during sleep, which can affect sleep quality and duration, leading to increased fatigue. However, more importantly, snoring can be associated with obstructive sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is when airways are obstructed enough to restrict airflow. In typical sleep apnea, airflow is restricted for 10+ seconds for an average of 5 times per hour. This can lead to impaired oxygen transportation and have downstream physiological effects.

Many times, sleep apnea requires intervention in order to improve health outcomes associated with the disorder. While snoring can occur in the absence of sleep apnea, snoring intensity (measured in decibels) is positively correlated with obstructive sleep apnea intensity, and therefore warrants monitoring of snoring frequency and intensity, along with other physiological metrics to screen for sleep apnea.

The Biostrap Buzz

Sign up to our email newsletter to receive curated content on the latest news in digital health and health optimization. Plus, special access to Biostrap offers and community updates.

Normal or acceptable range

It is estimated that ~49% of people experience occasional snoring, while 10-36% of people snore regularly. Currently, there are no recommended ranges or normative values for snoring, but generally less is better. Simple interventions, such as postural changes, breathing devices, and room conditions, can lead to decreased snoring, potentially increasing sleep quality. 

Interpreting Trends

Monitoring snoring over time may illustrate if/when snoring begins to affect physiology. Should snoring coincide with decreased SpO2, increased heart rate, awakenings, or self-reported fatigue, it is likely that snoring is affecting the quality of sleep, and may warrant intervention. Any changes in behaviors aimed at reducing snoring (postural changes, breathing devices, or room conditions) can be quantified using Biostrap’s sleep analysis, measuring snoring, sleep stages, awakenings, heart rate, SpO2, and more. 

Reading time: 2 min

What is it?

Sleep duration is simply the amount of time an individual is asleep. This measure is essential to quantify, as it directly impacts physiological and psychological parameters in the short and long term, impacting health, performance, and longevity.

What does it measure?

Sleep duration is the total sum of time spent asleep, regardless of sleep stage. Using combinations of heart rate, heart rate variability, breathing, motion, and pulse waveform data, approximating sleep versus awake time is possible.

Biostrap uses inputs from all the listed measurements to estimate light sleep, deep sleep, and time spent awake; therefore, the reflected sleep duration is the sum of light and deep sleep.

Correlation with health conditions

Total sleep duration is a commonly reported metric and highly correlates with health outcomes. Sleep is vital to regulating biological processes, allowing adaptation, recovery, and preparation. Many repair processes occur during sleep, with surges in growth hormones and reduction in stress hormones.

Physiologically, increased sleep duration has been shown to reduce stress, improve cardiovascular markers (e.g. heart rate, heart rate variability, and arterial stiffness), reduce weight gain, improve immune function, and lower risk of all cause mortality and varying diseases. As such, sleep appears to improve physiological pathways robustly.

In addition to physiological effects, increased sleep has many cognitive benefits, including improved memory, problem-solving, and reaction speed.

Normal or acceptable range

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends at least 7 hours of sleep per night for adults aged 18-60 years. The National Sleep Foundation recommends supplementing this recommendation with 7-9 hours of sleep per night for adults aged 65 years and older.

Biostrap records users’ sleep each night, and from this data, we can gather average values of distinct populations.

The Biostrap Buzz

Sign up to our email newsletter to receive curated content on the latest news in digital health and health optimization. Plus, special access to Biostrap offers and community updates.

Interpreting Trends

Considering the broad health implications associated with sleep duration, tracking sleep duration over time is recommended, so individuals may notice trends in their behavior. Including sleep duration into longitudinal metrics can either explain or rule out other physiological trends and therefore is included in Biostrap biometrics, allowing users and remote monitors to have a broader view of individual health.

Reading time: 2 min

What is deep sleep

Sleep can be broken down into four different ‘stages’ of sleep. Most commonly, sleep is divided into rapid eye movement sleep (REM) and non-REM (NREM) sleep. NREM sleep accounts for most of the sleep (75-80% of total sleep duration), while REM sleep makes up the rest. Within NREM sleep, there are three stages; the first stage is light sleep and is mostly the transitory onset of sleep; the second stage is also considered light sleep but makes up a longer duration than stage 1.

The third and fourth stages are considered ‘deep sleep’ and are characterized by slow brain waves. Deep sleep makes up roughly 13-23% of nightly sleep. It is during these stages that sleep is restorative and leads to many adaptive physiological outcomes that help the body adapt and repair. As such, deep sleep is more important than total sleep time, affecting health outcomes.

How it is measured

Deep sleep is often identified by slow waveforms on an electroencephalogram (EEG), which measures brain wave activity. As an alternative, deep sleep has been shown to have decreased movement and altered vital signs, particularly: lower heart rate, higher heart rate variability, lower blood pressure, lower temperature, and decreased sympathetic activity.

By measuring these changes using wearable technologies (accelerometers and photoplethysmography [PPG]), a close approximation of sleep stage can be made. This technology allows for passive measurement with much less equipment than a traditional EEG or polysomnogram.

The Biostrap Buzz

Sign up to our email newsletter to receive curated content on the latest news in digital health and health optimization. Plus, special access to Biostrap offers and community updates.

Correlation with health conditions

Much like total sleep time, the therapeutic benefits of deep sleep have robust physiological effects across many organ systems. However, deep sleep appears to be a better indicator of the quality of sleep than the total duration of sleep.

Deep sleep has been shown to affect growth hormone production, glucose metabolism, synaptic processes (e.g. learning/memory formation), and immune function changes. Sleep restriction, influencing the duration of deep sleep, has been linked to many adverse health outcomes, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases, poor cognitive function, and many more conditions. As such, it is essential to get adequate amounts of good quality sleep, permitting deep sleep.

Normal or acceptable range

Currently, there are not widely accepted values specific to deep sleep. For each sleep session, most individuals have 13-23% of their duration in deep sleep. The recommended amount of deep sleep has not been thoroughly evaluated, but many experts believe it is better to have more than less. It should be noted that exceptionally high amounts of deep sleep may indicate short-term deficiencies.

Interpreting trends

Deep sleep is a complex biometric that is difficult to quantify. EEG devices provide a strong understanding of sleep stages and progressions but are less realistic for an individual on a regular basis. However, using accelerometers and PPG wearables, light and deep sleep can be approximated on a nightly basis and easily tracked over time.

As with total sleep duration, tracking deep sleep can provide insight into its contribution to changes in health-related outcomes. As a more challenging variable to quantify, monitoring deep sleep over time can also provide insight into lifestyle changes and how they affect deep sleep. For example, tracking how a medication affects deep sleep may provide insight into its efficacy or side effects.

Reading time: 5 min

A good night’s sleep is essential. Too much sleep, however, can be detrimental to your health.

While we often hear talk of the importance of sleep, rarely do we hear about oversleeping. Oversleeping, or hypersomnia, can be a symptom of a medical condition or mental health condition that causes someone to sleep for extended periods of time. Additionally, oversleeping can put you at higher risk for health problems down the road.

So what more is there to know about oversleeping? Read on to find out how much sleep you need, what causes oversleeping, and what you can do to get some healthy shut-eye.

How Much Sleep Is Too Much Sleep?

Getting the right amount of quality sleep is important. The National Sleep Foundation publishes recommendations to help you get the right amount of sleep, and in general, 7-9 hours of sleep each night is the gold standard for healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 64.

That being said, a variety of factors can influence how much sleep you really need. For instance, differing genetics allow some individuals to feel well-rested after only four hours of sleep, as their circadian rhythms rely on less sleep. Meanwhile, children often require more sleep than adults, and older adults require more sleep than young adults. Those who are coping with a medical condition may also require more sleep as their body combats an injury or illness.

Generally speaking, a healthy adult who consistently sleeps for more than ten hours each night is oversleeping. If you find yourself oversleeping for prolonged periods of time, consider talking with your doctor to improve the quality of your sleep.

What Causes Oversleeping?

There are several reasons that may explain why an individual is oversleeping. We’ll take a look at each below.


Depression is one of the most common reasons a person may sleep too much. Depression often causes an individual to sleep more and experience lower energy levels in spite of this extra sleep.


Narcolepsy is a neurological sleep disorder that renders the brain unable to control sleep and wake cycles. Those with narcolepsy experience extreme daytime drowsiness and may even fall asleep during normal daytime activities like driving.


Hypersomnia is the medical term used to diagnose an individual that sleeps too much or experiences excessive daytime drowsiness, and it is diagnosed when oversleeping has no known medical explanation.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes an individual to stop breathing for brief periods during the night. It can also cause oversleeping because it disturbs the natural sleep cycle.

Alcohol Use

Alcohol in any form can lead to sleep disorders and health issues such as sleep apnea or insomnia. Alcohol can also cause sleep disturbances that alter sleep patterns and lead to daytime drowsiness.

The Biostrap Buzz

Sign up to our email newsletter to receive curated content on the latest news in digital health and health optimization. Plus, special access to Biostrap offers and community updates.

The Impact of Oversleeping

While we often associate oversleeping with simply feeling drowsy, trends and research suggest oversleeping can be harmful in other ways as well. These are some of the health conditions that may be caused by oversleeping.

Weight Gain

Those who sleep too much tend to weigh more because of the general inactivity. The more an individual sleeps, the fewer calories they burn.


Just as depression can make you sleep for too long, it can also cause you to lose sleep which further promotes oversleeping later on. Those who are depressed tend to sleep more over time, and therefore grow more depressed due to oversleeping.


Physical pain such as headaches are more common among those who oversleep. This is because oversleeping triggers neurotransmitters in the brain that cause head pain.

Oversleeping can also lead to back pain because lying in one position for too long causes stiffness and aches. Those who suffer from physical pain often encounter poor sleep, and then compensate by oversleeping, which can create a self-perpetuating cycle.

Heart Disease

Sleeping too much can increase an individual’s risk of heart disease, which is the leading cause of death among both men and women according to the CDC. This risk is even higher for women because they often sleep longer than men.

Research published in the European Heart Journal showed that 14.8 individuals per 1,000 developed heart disease if they slept over ten hours per night, compared to just 7.8 per 1,000 that slept 6-8 hours per night. The reason for this increased risk of heart disease remains unclear, but researchers suspect that certain individuals may oversleep due to previously existing health conditions.


Sleeping too much can raise one’s blood sugar and increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. This disease may be more closely related to being overweight or sedentary rather than simply sleeping too much. We know there’s a correlation between oversleeping and type 2 diabetes, but we don’t know if the relationship is causal.

Mental Health

Too much sleep can have an adverse effect on mood and mental health. For instance, research suggests getting too much or too little sleep impairs cognition.

Additionally, degenerative mental diseases like Alzheimer’s may be fueled by too much sleep according to researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. And much like depression can cause oversleeping, it can also be induced by getting too much sleep.

Oversleeping and Illness: Which Comes First?

Determining whether oversleeping or illness came first has proven to be a serious dilemma for researchers. By this we mean, does oversleeping cause illness or does illness cause oversleeping? While some studies suggest too much sleep leads to an increased risk of certain medical problems, others point out that a desire for more rest may be caused by a disease or illness.

A review of controlled studies on extended sleep illustrates that adults experience symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, and lethargy due to longer sleep. This may trigger a desire to sleep even more and perpetuate the cycle.

Other research conducted on young adults showed that spending an extra two hours in bed each night for three weeks left the study participants feeling more depressed, sore, and uncomfortable due to inflammation.

Getting Healthier Sleep

Sleep scientists are still researching the cause and effect relationship between sleep duration and health, but there are a few tactics you can employ to ensure you’re receiving high-quality sleep.

For starters, be sure you get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. Any more sleep is considered oversleeping and any less sleep is often not enough.

Next, be sure to avoid oversleeping on the weekends. It may be tempting to sleep in when you have the time, but doing so can throw off your body’s circadian rhythm and make falling asleep more difficult when the weekday returns.

Use an alarm clock and avoid the snooze button to ensure you’re sleeping for a reasonable amount of time. It may be tempting to snooze the alarm and drift back to sleep, but doing so promotes excessive sleepiness when your body should be awake.

And finally, avoid napping past 5 p.m. as this makes it more difficult to fall asleep, and you run the risk of oversleeping when you finally hit the hay. Also avoid stimulants, such as caffeine, and bright light exposure from screens before bed. Taking naps in the evening and playing with devices can ruin your sleep quality and promote excessive sleepiness, which then make you sleep more.

Avoid Oversleeping

It can be difficult to avoid oversleeping when you’ve encountered sleep deprivation or you simply aren’t getting enough sleep. Oftentimes we compensate by sleeping for extended periods of time to make up for the lack of sleep we’re receiving.

Conversely, many health conditions such as depression, pain, and sleep disorders may cause us to oversleep, which then perpetuates the oversleeping cycle. If oversleeping is something you’ve experienced for an extended period of time, speak with your doctor to find out more about how you can get back to better sleep.

At the end of the day, simply remember that sleep is best in moderation. Too little sleep is bad for your health, as is too much sleep. Take some time to determine how much sleep your body needs, and employ sleep strategies to ensure you’re getting quality sleep when you need it most.

Reading time: 5 min

The circadian rhythm is an essential element of the human sleep schedule. It determines when we feel sleepy, when we feel alert, and how often we wake throughout the night. While the circadian rhythm is naturally occurring, it’s easily disrupted. Whether it’s blue light or a hormonal imbalance, both internal and external factors can influence the way our body regulates sleep.

So what is circadian rhythm, and why does it matter for sleep health? Read on to find out more about the importance of this natural physiological cycle.

What Is Circadian Rhythm?

Humans follow a 24-hour sleep-wake cycle, which tells us to sleep when it’s dark and stay awake during the day. This cycle is called the circadian rhythm, and it’s one of the essential biological processes for ensuring we get enough rest each night.

The circadian rhythm is driven by certain areas of the brain, explains the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School. For example, the brainstem and hypothalamus promote wakefulness by sending neurotransmitters, or chemical arousal signals, to the cerebral cortex. This keeps the cortex — the brain’s largest region — activated to keep you awake.

In contrast, neurons in a different part of the hypothalamus help a person feel tired by inhibiting these wakefulness messages. The neurons regulating your circadian rhythm work together harmoniously to promote a restful sleep schedule.

“The neurons that promote wakefulness inhibit those that promote sleep and vice versa. This interaction normally leads to either a relatively stable period of wakefulness or a relatively stable period of sleep,” adds Harvard’s Sleep Medicine Division.

Feeling sleepy at bedtime is also dependent on the timely release of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep. Melatonin is driven by external cues like sunlight and darkness. Without our circadian rhythm, we’d have an inconsistent sleep-wake cycle, and we might not get the rest we need to keep us energized throughout the day.

Factors That Influence Circadian Rhythm

Even though the circadian rhythm is regulated by the sun, it’s also sensitive to lifestyle and environmental factors. In turn, throwing off your biological clock can lead to serious sleep deprivation, irritability, depression, fatigue, headaches, and a host of other ailments. If you feel like you can’t fall or stay asleep when you should — or waking up is a constant chore — these are a few things that might be getting between you and a good night’s sleep.

Mental Illness

Circadian rhythm can be influenced by mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder. Sleep disturbances are a common feature of those with the disorder. Studies show that circadian rhythm disruptions are much more common in people with bipolar disorder than those with other major depressive disorders. This suggests that disruptions to the sleep-wake cycle are a hallmark sign of bipolar disorder and a way to differentiate it from other mental illnesses.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is another depressive condition that can lead to circadian rhythm irregularities. Affecting about 5% of the population, people with seasonal affective disorder experience depression only during the late fall and winter months, when the days are shorter and periods of darkness are longer. Reduced exposure to sunlight may trigger a chemical imbalance in the brain, which can subsequently influence both mood and sleep cycle.

Sleep and Work Schedule

If you’re a self-proclaimed night owl or you work the graveyard shift, your body clock is likely to suffer. Holding a job at non-traditional hours may make you more susceptible to shift work sleep disorder, which is characterized by excessive sleepiness and an inability to concentrate or stay energized during the daylight hours.

In addition to making a person more tired, people who experience shift work disorder may become more prone to accidents. From a mental health perspective, they can have poor coping and interpersonal skills or struggle with mood swings.

How to Reset Your Circadian Rhythm

Whether you pulled an all-nighter or traveled through time zones, we all experience sleep disruptions from time to time. Here are the best science-backed tips for resetting your circadian rhythm and getting back on track.

Follow Good Sleep Hygiene

Good sleep hygiene is essential to maintain a proper sleep-wake rhythm. As explained by the American Sleep Association, practicing good sleep hygiene means making healthy changes to your daily schedule to promote restful sleep.

One example of good sleep hygiene is setting boundaries with technology in the bedroom. Since the blue light from electronics can disrupt your circadian rhythm, you might decide to stop using smartphones and tablets a few hours before bedtime. Additionally, you might decide to remove televisions, computers, and even smartphones from the room during sleep to help you create a more restful sanctuary.

This is also important because it helps you associate your bedroom particularly with sleep. When you’re constantly working on a laptop or scrolling through social media while lying in bed, your body will begin to associate that space with wakefulness, rather than sleep.

Timed Eating and Exercising

Eating or exercising too late into the night can keep you awake and disrupt your circadian rhythm. Specifically, too much cardio too late into the evening can trigger endorphins that keep you awake and alert for a few hours. That’s why it’s a good idea to end any intense physical activity at least two hours before bedtime.

Instead, try guided relaxation or gentle stretching to calm your mind and send signals of calm. Likewise, eating late means you’ll be digesting late, and since digestion requires the body to create energy, this too can keep you awake. Try to have your last meal at least three hours before bedtime.

Use Bright Light Therapy

If you’re struggling with seasonal affective disorder, bright light therapy can help get your circadian clock back on track. Since sunlight exposure is what regulates your circadian rhythm, exposure to artificial light at the right time can help a person get back to a normal sleep schedule. This is especially useful in places far north of the equator where long periods of darkness persist during the winter months.

“Light therapy is used to expose your eyes to intense but safe amounts of light for a specific and regular length of time. In many places, sunlight is not available at the proper time to be used as treatment,” says the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

The Biostrap Buzz

Sign up to our email newsletter to receive curated content on the latest news in digital health and health optimization. Plus, special access to Biostrap offers and community updates.

Maintain Sleep Cycles While Traveling

If you’ve ever taken a plane to a different time zone, you know how disorienting it can be. Desynchronosis — more commonly known as jet lag — is a circadian rhythm disorder that can cause fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, irritability, and several other physical symptoms. To prevent the onset of jet lag and ensure it doesn’t throw off your sleep schedule, Clayton Sleep Institute suggests adjusting your sleep schedule gradually before you leave.

If you’re flying east, go to sleep and wake up one hour earlier each day for three days before departure. For west-bound trips, go to sleep and wake up an hour later each evening and morning “for as many time zones you will cross, or as many as you can manage given the distance you are traveling,” states the institute.

Regardless of how much you’ve prepared for the time-zone change, do your best to get on the local time as quickly as possible to reduce potential sleep challenges. This will help you get better sleep and boost your overall well-being both during and after the trip.

Regulating Your Circadian Rhythm

Your circadian rhythm is the internal body clock that regulates sleep patterns and many other physiological processes. When your internal clock is disrupted by environmental or psychological factors, you’re likely to suffer from fatigue, irritability, and depression.

Fortunately, understanding how this 24-hour cycle works — and what mental health problems and sleep habits affect it — can get you back on the road toward deep sleep (and maybe even toward becoming a morning person).

Reading time: 7 min

Running a 26.2 mile marathon is on many bucket lists. Rooted in Greek history, the distance attained legendary status when Phidippides ran from Marathon to Athens to announce a victory. The word itself is a ubiquitous metaphor for any sustained effort. But for some people, 26.2 miles is not enough. In fact, it’s just the beginning.

Ultrarunning begins where the marathon ends. It’s defined as any distance greater than 26.2 miles.

But did you know that Phidippides was also the first known ultrarunner? He died suddenly after running more than 175 miles in two days (culminating in the marathon). That’s right, ultrarunning is so badass that the guy who invented it died doing it.

Phidippides’ death in 490 B.C. hasn’t discouraged the runners who’ve followed. The training is mind numbing. The trails rocky, remote, and arduous. There is little prize money or glory. “Some people think I’m crazy to run 100 mile races,” says ultra coach Keira Henninger, “I think I’m the luckiest person on the planet to experience a physical and emotional journey in the most beautiful landscapes in the world.”

So how hard is it to run 100 miles? And what happens to your body when you do?

Your body on Ultras

Running an ultra is not for the faint of heart. Raceday risks include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Blurred vision
  • Insect bites or stings
  • Cuts and bruises
  • Heart problems
  • Respiratory ailments
  • Dehydration
  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Hyponatremia
  • Hypothermia
  • Gastrointestinal problems.
  • Muscle cramps
  • Stress fractures
  • Blisters

Each organ of the body is impacted by the effort.

The Heart

Running an ultra stresses a runner’s heart during and after the race. Most finishers exhibit elevated Troponin I, which can indicate heart damage. There is continuing debate whether it causes lasting damage. Sustained exertion impacts each side of the heart differently. The left can become stronger through running. The right side, however, can dilate and weaken. For some vulnerable runners, this dilation and related scar tissue can cause cardiac arrest. There is a slightly elevated post-race risk of atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat and temporary cardiac dysfunction.

In some regard, ultra are less risky than marathons. Marathoners spend the majority of their race at 75 to 85 percent of their maximum heart rate. Ultrarunners stay in the 50 to 65 percent range. This lower intensity lessens the risk of race day cardiac events.

Outside magazine calls the heart a Runner’s Ticking Time Bomb, reporting that one in 200,000 runners will experience cardiac arrest, and one in 50,000 will experience a heart attack from coronary artery disease during a marathon. For this reason, doctors recommend more pre-race screening.especially for ultra which tend to be held in remote areas away from trauma centers or critical care centers.

Heart attacks can mimic normal race exertion. Sweating, difficulty breathing, chest pain-all can be both normal parts of extreme running. Or signs of a heart attack. Gordon Tomaselli, a cardiologist at the Johns Hopkins Outpatient Center, explained an athlete’s ability to run right through all the warning signs. “”you can be totally asymptomatic, and your first symptom is sudden death.” It’s important for runners to be cardio-cleared before undertaking ultras.

Phidippides cardiomyopathy

The sustained cardiac effort of an ultra can tax the heart with volume overload. This syndrome is named for the speculative cause of death of the first marathoner, Phidippides.

Limbs and Joints

Ultrarunners average 5000 strikes of the foot to the ground per hour.. This has a colossal cumulative effect on the joints, especially the feet and knees. Stress fractures are common. Toenails often turn black and fall off. Joint pain may arise during the race and continue after it’s finish.


Runners use glucose for energy. Lactate is a byproduct of the breakdown process, but can also be converted back into energy. At some point your body can no longer convert the lactate. Acidity in the muscles builds up. This is called the lactate threshold.

Arm fatigue can leave you unable to hold your water bottle.

Foot-eye coordination can help avoid stumbles and falls as muscles tire.

Central fatigue can strike, along with exercise-associated collapse syndrome, where a runner’s muscles simply stop working. Training before the race, and pacing and rest during the rest, is key to performance, recovery, and injury prevention.

Although the intense driven runners who seek out ultras are not naturally inclined to hold back or pause for a spell, resting smart can mean the difference between finishing the race or dropping out. Otherwise runners will ‘bonk’ or hot a wall, a full depletion of energy described as a “unique and instant kind of despair”. If your heart rate is too fast the heart is straining to maintain blood volume and deliver oxygen to your muscles. A slowing heart rate can signal fatigue as the pace slows and the body demands less oxygen. Appropriate pacing, hydration, and fueling promote a steady heart rate.

Mind over Matter

Training and race day efforts are overwhelmingly physical. But focus and mental toughness also play a significant role.

Tracy Gariepy ran 300 miles from North Carolina to Georgia to raise money for Girls on the Run. “The human body is capable of FAR more than you give it credit for,” says Tracy, “your mind will attempt to pull you out of the race long before your body really needs to. But you walk (or crawl) away from an ultra a different person than you were when you toed the starting line.”

Science has even quantified how much mental toughness counts. Measuring traits such as confidence, the sense of being in control, concentration, determination, and acceptance of responsibility, researchers found that mental fortitude accounted for 14% of racing success. The ability to set goals and refocus efforts significantly improved race results.

Salt Levels

Our bodies naturally balance sodium and water. But the exertion of ultras can challenge this survival mechanism and our electrolyte balance.

Runners who finish 100 miles have temporarily abnormal (elevated) kidney values as they flush the remnants of broken muscles from their blood . Cola colored urine is a dangerous sign of possible rhabdomyolysis which can lead to organ failure. Weight gain during a race is another signal that runners are not sufficiently excreting water and salt.

Runners in hot climates are 10 times as likely to have a brain centered heat stroke than a cardiac event. Hydration, cooling, and salt intake can prevent a life threatening event.

Caloric Intake and Digestion

Unlike shorter distances where runners can get by on the odd post-race banana, ultra runners need as much as 80g of carbs an hour to maintain their energy. Runners are burning 400 -600 calories an hour. They need supplemental calories to replace the glycogen depletion. Ultra aid stations can resemble picnics with sandwiches, pasta, burgers, candy, even beer. to eat during the race.

This food poses a special problem for the ultra runner. But running triggers the parasympathetic response. Adrenaline courses through the body. Blood moves away from the internal organs to fuel and oxygenate the muscles. This dulls appetite and slows digestion. 60 percent of runners will get nauseous, perhaps from lactate build up as they reach the lactate threshold.

You must keep eating,” says ultrarunning expert Kieran Alger, “It’s a horrific notion and a cruel trick but the thing you desire least is the thing that’s going to cure you.” As cortisol levels rise the body targets fat stores to prevent muscle fatigue.


Sleep deprivation. It’s possible the hallucinations experienced by some ultrarunner are the body’s attempt to make up for lost sleep. Dean Karnazes author of “The Road to Sparta” has run for three days and three nights straight. He said eventually he ends up sleep running: “falling asleep while in motion, and I just will myself to keep going.”

Environmental Risks

Remote settings complicate emergency medical treatment. Race doctors need to be ready for everything from trauma, acute coronary syndrome, heat stroke, hypothermia, hypoglycemia, exercise-associated hyponatremic encephalopathy, severe dehydration, altitude illness, envenomation, anaphylaxis, and bronchospasm.

Besides the physical and mental risks, ultra runners face environmental dangers on the trail: from lightning, falls and animal attacks. This is not hypothetical. In June 2016 a trail runner was killed by a bear in Alaska.

In 2014 Adam Campbell finished third in the Hardrock 100 ultra distance trail run, after being struck by lightning at mile 60.

An Old Man’s Game?

UltraRunning Magazine reports two thirds of the runners are men, and more than half are over 40. Unlike shorter distances where youth and speed are an advantage, ultras rewards patience and conservation of resources When it comes to pacing and planning, experience counts.

Born to Run?

Author Chris McDougall says humans are born to run. But he acknowledges, “Usain Bolt can get his ass kicked by a squirrel. That would be an Olympic event: turn a squirrel loose, whoever catches it gets a gold medal.” What’s remarkable is that women become more competitive as distances get longer, and older man can complete ultras at speeds comparable to their youth.


Racing an ultra requires obsessive focus. MMA Fighter Jayquan Jackson stresses preparation: “80% of your muscles are made in the kitchen,“ he says. “Even if you are in great shape, don’t expect to just wake up one day and be a marathon runner. There will be many days where you don’t feel like running, many days where you don’t want to get up, and many days where the idea of going outside makes you want to shove cake in your face until you pass out. Consistent boosts of motivation is key.”

When it comes to training, a focus on time not miles can ensure a runner is ready but not overtrained.

“Burning around 14,000 calories in a day is a challenge,” says Carson Robertson an ultra runner and chiropractor, “and doing it without serious injury takes training.” Robertson, who teaches Anatomy and Physiology adds, “To me 100 miles is like motorcycles. You either get it or you don’t.”

Shawn M Talbott, PhD has completed more than a dozen ultra marathons. “I like ultras more for the mental challenge than for the physical challenge, “ says Talbott, a nutritional biochemist, “they are almost certainly not “good for you” in terms of health effects – but they are very good for the “soul” and for finding your mental limits.”

Other Races

An ultra race is any distance over a marathon’s 26.2 miles. There are many varieties.

The Longest Race

The Self-Transcendence 3100 mile race is the world’s longest certified footrace.Entrants run from 6am to midnight for 52 days. They must average 60 miles a day.

The Secret Race

Barkley Marathons, the world’s toughest and most secretive trail race was featured in a documentary. “The only prize,” says the The New York Times, “is that after 100 miles, they get to stop.” Also known as The Race that Eats its Young, the entry procedure is an off-putting complex mystery, many runners get lost, and less than 2% finish.

Triumph of the Human Spirit

That an ordinary person can physically train to run 100 miles for three days and nights is amazing. The fact that folk continue to seek these races out, and finish them, is a testimony to human will and aspiration.

Blisters? Heatstroke? Bear Attacks? Endurance running is not for everyone. It offers an exquisite intersection of mental challenge and physical prowess. Those who can do it, often choose to do it again.

“You could experience 10 hours of rain, 12 hours of sun, a headwind for 50 miles,” says running coach Kyle Kranz. “It’s cliche, but upon completion of your first ultra marathon, you sort of get a sense that you’re pretty fricken awesome and capable of more than you thought.

And that’s exactly why, hard as these ultra races are, folk will continue to run them.

Reading time: 7 min

Whether you’re getting only five hours of shut-eye or snoozing through your morning alarm, we all need a healthy amount of high-quality sleep to remain productive, attentive, and ready to conquer the day.

Yet, many fail to realize that a clear distinction exists between quality sleep and sleep that does little for your overall health. While getting eight hours of sleep per night may sound healthy upon first glance, it’s the quality of your sleep, not just the quantity, that truly matters. For this reason, sleep analysis has become an important benchmark that we can use to monitor our sleep and understand our overall health.

“The importance of tracking your sleep and sleep analysis rests on what an individual is trying to figure out,” says Dr. Christopher Winter, owner of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine and CNSM Consulting. “It’s important for us all to track our sleep, but it’s more important to think of why we’re tracking our sleep in the first place.”

So what exactly is sleep analysis? In short, sleep analysis is the process of monitoring your sleep patterns over time, with help from sleep trackers and fitness wearables, in an effort to ensure you’re receiving quality sleep. And if you’re not experiencing sufficient sleep, then the sleep data you collect can help you make informed decisions that will give you a chance to get better sleep.

Read on to learn more about the basics of sleep, what factors influence the quality of your sleep, and what you can do to track and analyze your sleepover time.

The Various Stages of Sleep

There are four primary stages of sleep to be aware of. We refer to these stages of sleep collectively as the sleep cycle.

The first stage of sleep is the lightest stage. It’s known for producing non-rapid eye movement sleep, or Non-REM sleep. During this light sleep stage, your eyes move slowly beneath your eyelids and you can be easily disturbed by your environment — noises or movement can wake you rather easily. Your muscles will slowly relax, your body temperature will drop, and your brain will transition into a period of rest as internal systems prepare for a more peaceful, deeper sleep in stage two.

The second stage of sleep occurs when your body begins to produce rapid eye movements (REM). This stage of sleep is also known for producing sleep spindles, which are short bursts of brain activity meant to protect your brain from waking during deep sleep. Unlike stage one of the sleep cycle, you can’t be woken as easily during this REM stage of sleep.

The Biostrap Buzz

Sign up to our email newsletter to receive curated content on the latest news in digital health and health optimization. Plus, special access to Biostrap offers and community updates.

The third stage of sleep is known as deep NREM sleep. During this stage, your brain will produce slow-waves as your body and mind work to heal themselves after a full day of activity. Abruptly waking up during this stage of sleep is uncommon, and sleeping events such as sleepwalking and sleep talking occur during this stage.

The fourth and final stage of sleep is known as REM sleep. This is where vivid dreams take place because your brain waves are more active than they are in stages two and three. Your eyes will again move back and forth, but only until your body starts the cycle over again. You run an increased risk of feeling groggy or suffering from sleep inertia the following day if you’re woken during REM sleep.

One sleep cycle will last anywhere from 100-120 minutes, and you’ll transition through four or five cycles per night.

Ensuring you reach each of the different stages of the sleep cycle is important, but there’s more to this story than meets the eye. “How we feel about our sleep can impact our daily performance more than how we actually slept,” notes Winter. “Belief about sleep really influences the way we report it to other people and the way we perform that day.” For this reason, it’s crucial that we not only transition through the four stages of sleep but that we believe in our ability to get beneficial sleep too.

What Factors Influence Your Sleep?

Sleep analysis: A woman sleeps with a Biostrap sleep tracker on his wrist

We collectively refer to the many sleep habits that determine whether or not you receive a good night’s sleep as sleep hygiene. Below you’ll find a comprehensive list of the internal and external factors that will influence your sleep.


Stress is a common feeling that has the ability to influence our sleep. When our bodies are responding to stressful or dangerous situations, often we’re left lying awake in bed wondering how we can get some rest. “Stress typically tends to lighten sleep,” says Winter. “We become much more aware of arousals or it makes it more difficult for people to get to sleep or even fall back asleep if they wake back up.”

The same sleepless outcomes are often reported by those who have anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions that have a tendency to influence our sleep duration and sleep quality.

Aches & Pains

It comes as no surprise that aches and pains in any form will influence our sleep. Be it muscle or joint pain or even a simple headache, these conditions bring on the discomfort that makes it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. “The quality of the sleep also influences how we heal,” notes Winter. “If you’re not sleeping well because of the pain, it makes it harder for you to get past the pain.”


Though a cup of coffee may seem enticing in the late afternoon as you try to make it through the day, the boost of caffeine can wreak havoc on your sleep.

“This can easily be a double-edged sword,” says Winter. “I may need stimulants like coffee to get through my day and not fall asleep behind the wheel, but if I take them too late or the timing is off, it really does influence how I sleep or how I feel.” Other stimulants such as alcohol can also interfere with a good night’s sleep. As a result, it’s best to avoid all stimulants before bed, even if they make you drowsy.

Shift Work

Shift work has the ability to alter your body’s circadian rhythm, which naturally determines when you feel sleepy, when you feel awake, and how often you wake during the night. Because shift work manipulates when you go to bed, your body’s internal clock will grow confused as it tries to find sleep patterns within your changing schedule.

“It’s not just sleep we’re talking about,” says Winter. “ Everything in our body is timed. It all works on a schedule, and when the schedule is in flux, it creates significant problems for the body beyond just feeling exhausted and poorly rested all the time.”

Sleeping Environment

A sleeping environment that contains loud music, bright lights, and distracting electronics is no place to get healthy sleep. “That 24 hours of technology really does affect the brain in negative ways and sleep in negative ways as well,” according to Winter. Your sleep environment should be quiet and free of any distractions that prevent you from falling asleep and staying asleep.

Sleep Disorders

“Sleep disorders are so much more common than people know,” says Winter. “They’re some of the most commonly undiagnosed disorders out there.” Disorders such as insomnia or sleep apnea influence the sleeping habits of millions around the world.

Whether these disorders are short-term problems or chronic issues, poor sleep as a result of a sleep disorder will stop you from getting the rest your body and mind crave. Sleep medicine can help you sleep better, but you should discuss your options with a healthcare provider before determining what you can do to overcome a sleep disorder.

Sleep Tracking With Modern Technology

Sleep Tracking: Woman looks at Biostrap dashboard in the morning

Now that we have a solid understanding of how we sleep and what factors will influence our sleep, it’s time to examine sleep analysis in greater detail. To analyze our sleep, we rely upon sleep trackers, smartwatches, and other wearables that contain technology capable of monitoring sleep patterns.

Wearable sleep trackers will often do more than simply track sleep. In fact, many of these devices are fitness trackers that record your physical activity throughout the day and night.

For instance, a biometric tracker will monitor and analyze your sleep, as well as track other health metrics such as your heart rate and oxygen saturation. After the data has been recorded, it will sync with your phone via a health app that provides digestible information about your sleep habits.

“These devices can really help people understand when you’ve moved past what you can do on your own,” says Winter. “The field of sleep is wide open, and these devices might help you understand when you’ve progressed well past something you can fix by yourself.” If a sleep tracker is reporting information that you need help understanding or resolving, bringing that data to a sleep doctor or physician can be a crucial step toward achieving better sleep and better health.

Most devices that are capable of sleep tracking are worn around the wrist. These pieces of tech contain an accelerometer that detects body movements to determine whether you’ve had a restful or restless night of sleep. Some devices include sleep coaching technology that provides suggestions to help you get better sleep if there’s room for improvement.

Advanced sleep trackers will go one step further by evaluating your sleep quality based on the different sleep stages described above. These devices can produce graphs or visuals that pinpoint the amount of time spent in each sleep phase, thus highlighting when you slept well and when you didn’t.

Get Better Sleep With Sleep Analysis

These fancy devices aren’t just for show. The data they provide can help you get better sleep by providing critical insights into your nightly sleeping patterns. But remember that the information collected by these devices is only as useful as you make it out to be.

Tracking your sleep is important, but so is implementing healthy sleep habits that include eliminating distractions and seeking professional help if need be. Invest in a sleep tracker to analyze your sleep, learn what your sleep patterns are over time, and decide if you need professional help to get the healthy sleep your body and mind deserve.

Reading time: 4 min

It is normal for us as humans to feel tired. It can be a multitude of factors that contribute to our own personal fatigue; work, physical activity, and stress. When athletes feel tired it can be from a buildup of fatigue from a hard day of training, or due to a lack of recovery from a previous day. Feeling a bit off for a day or two is normal. Our bodies need time to recover and muscles can go through periods of fatigue for a few days. The problem is when that feeling begins to linger and become more pronounced, that is when flags should begin to raise. There are a large number of factors that can contribute to fatigue and it is best to always consult a physician if you feel that you suffer from chronic fatigue. For now, we can take a deeper look into a condition many of us face; anemia.

What is Anemia?

Anemia is a condition in which your body’s blood contains a lower amount than normal of red blood cells. Another way to define anemia, is when your red blood cells do not contain enough hemoglobin. It may get a tad confusing from sorting through different sources that talk about anemia, or “iron deficiency” but we can discuss it further to ensure there is no confusion!

Let’s break this down a bit:

Our blood is made up of a few different parts: red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and plasma. Each part of our blood serves a specific purpose and job. Red blood cells are made in the marrow of bones and are disc shaped and help to carry oxygen throughout our body. This is especially needed during exercise, when red blood cells are sent to our working muscles to help supply oxygen. Red blood cells also work to remove carbon dioxide from our bodies.

White blood cells are also created in our bone marrow and help us to fight off sickness and infections. Platelets help to form clots to stop further bleeding. All of these components of blood can be affected by anemia.

Another important piece of blood is, hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a protein that helps red blood cells transport oxygen from the lungs to the rest of our body. Hemoglobin also helps to give our blood its red color. Iron, is an essential protein of hemoglobin that helps make this transfer of oxygen from the lungs to the muscles possible. Iron is also essential in the production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), a key factor in our body’s energy source. Iron is not produced naturally within our bodies so it is essential that we obtain it from outside sources. Ferritin, is another key player in our bodies. Ferritin is also a protein that helps to transport iron and release it in the body when necessary. Ferritin is important to understanding and connecting anemia, hemoglobin, and iron deficiencies.

If an individual suffers from anemia defined by lower red blood cell count, your body will begin to fatigue faster. You can also remain in a state of fatigue for longer bouts of time as this condition progresses. When our red blood cell count drops, our body is no longer receiving the proper amount of oxygen rich blood to supply it with energy. Take exercise for example: when we begin a workout, our body senses this change in activity and makes it a top priority to send blood to our working muscles. When we do not have enough red blood cells there is a decrease in oxygen and our muscles are “starved” to put it in perspective. They are unable to complete the workload due to lack of oxygen being supplied. We begin to tire much faster than we had before and this is due to a buildup of lactic acid in our muscles.

If an individual suffers from anemia defined by low amounts of hemoglobin. Individuals may have normal levels of RBC, but if their hemoglobin levels are below normal, then our body’s can experience very similar effects to the anemia discussed before. Fatigue will begin to set in quickly, especially during efforts of activity in which we need oxygen supplied to our working muscles.

Individuals can also be affected by low amounts of Ferritin levels. This means that you may potentially have normal levels of hemoglobin and are only iron-deficient. This case is not as severe as anemia.

The Biostrap Buzz

Sign up to our email newsletter to receive curated content on the latest news in digital health and health optimization. Plus, special access to Biostrap offers and community updates.

These types of anemia and iron-deficiency yield similar symptoms: fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, and headaches. Symptoms can also progress, and you do not want to leave this unchecked. Fatigue experienced through anemia can be different for each individual, and it is very prominent in athletics. Athletes can go day to day performing workouts and training loads in a normal routine, and then experience periods of time when it seems as though no amount of physical rest will help them recover. It is vital for athletes to get their blood checked regularly to monitor their red blood cell levels as well as hemoglobin. What may seem like small decreases in each can have drastic effects on some individuals. Creating a baseline level is crucial to optimal performance. Being able to catch slight drops in levels can help save a season of training.

Combating Anemia and Iron Deficiency

There may not always be one finger to point when it comes down to determining the root cause for why individuals are affected by anemia. A few large factors (especially when it comes to athletics) can include an improper nutrition, improper absorption, increase in training (duration and intensity), and blood loss. Blood loss is especially true when speaking to the female population as they go through menstruation monthly.

According to the National Institute of Health, the RDA (recommended dietary allowance) for iron is 16.3–18.2 mg/day in men and 12.6–13.5 mg/day in women older than 19. While most of us may hit this range daily, individuals performing and competing at high levels daily, may have a harder time obtaining this level. Ensuring that we are consuming proper amounts of nutrients is vital to maintaining normal iron levels. Eating foods that are iron rich can help combat anemia. These foods include: spinach, lentils, quinoa, and meat (beef and liver.) It is always best to receive your iron sources from food before you go to supplements.

Finally, sometimes it is best to just give your body what it needs: rest. We cannot sustain tremendous amount of load for a year. We must train in blocks of time and give ourselves days and weeks to recover after each. When we are training, we are destroying red blood cells as we work, known as “exercise-induced hemolysis.”

Sometimes our bodies know what is best for us. It is quite incredible how quickly we can detect changes in blood levels and fatigue levels. Having a better understanding of where fatigue may be coming from, can help us correct it that much faster. As stated previously, it is best to go for routine blood work if you think you may be falling victim to anemia or iron deficiency. Always consult with your doctor prior to starting any exercise changes or nutritional changes.

Reading time: 5 min

Modern diets are a dime a dozen. Scrolling through social media, you’d think everyone was on some sort of diet the way they’re discussed in such fervorous detail.

The ketogenic diet, or “keto diet” for short, eliminates carbs entirely and is a favorite of bodybuilders. The South Beach Diet insists a low-carb approach is the healthiest diet for you heart. And even eating techniques like intermittent fasting are diets in their own unique way, suggesting we eat during specific periods of time throughout the day while restricting food entirely during others.

Truth be told, there’s no single diet that solves every problem, nor is every diet safe for every person. That being said, there are eating methods we can adopt that utilize the basic principles of a diet alongside simpler rules for consumption. One of these diet plans that’s proven to have a significant effect on one’s health is referred to as carb cycling.

No, this method doesn’t involve eating a bowl of pasta before spending hours on a bicycle. Instead carb cycling is a diet plan that seeks to simplify carbohydrate intake over a period of time, thus leading to weight loss as a result. But before we delve too deeply into the process of carb cycling, let’s begin with the basics. Let’s start with the simple carbohydrate.

What Is a Carbohydrate?

There are three main macronutrients that our body gets from food: fat, protein, and carbohydrates. Fat is stored in large amounts throughout the body and acts as a slow-burning fuel. A gram of fat contains 9 calories. Protein, on the other hand, is used to make hormones, build muscle, and create enzymes. A gram of protein contains 4 calories. And finally, carbohydrates are stored in the body as glycogen and act as the main fast-burning fuel source for the body and brain. A gram of carbohydrates also contains 4 calories.

While carbs may serve a number of functions, their primary responsibility is to provide the body with a source of energy. They’re the body’s most readily available form of fuel. Yet because our body will only need a certain amount of fuel from carbohydrates each day, excess carbs are converted to fat for future use when needed. But often times such stores of fat can go unused, thus contributing to an increase in body weight over time.

The solutions we can utilize to combat this conversion of carbohydrates to fat are numerous. For instance, we can attempt to burn fat and carbs by exercising regularly. We can reduce our calorie intake each day or practice healthy eating habits that provide fewer carbs. Or we can adopt a technique like carb cycling, which aims to match the body’s need for glucose with a specific activity, or our overall activity levels. That final option remains one of the healthiest ways to regulate our carbohydrate intake.

The Biostrap Buzz

Sign up to our email newsletter to receive curated content on the latest news in digital health and health optimization. Plus, special access to Biostrap offers and community updates.

So How Does Carb Cycling Work?

You may now be wondering how exactly carb cycling works. If the intent is to match the body’s need for carbs, what measures can we take to ensure this occurs?

When breaking down the carb cycling procedure, we must start by discussing how we use carbs during different carb cycling days. While most people are generally consistent in terms of daily carbohydrate intake, carb cycling seeks to manipulate intake in a regimented fashion. These days can be categorized as high-carb days and low-carb days.

High-Carb Days

Think of all the food you’ll consume on any given day. Most of us will incorporate breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks between meals. Yet as we all know, higher-carb days are bound to occur throughout any given week. Perhaps your morning will start with a bagel, and the night will end with a hearty bowl of pasta, followed by a slice of cake for dessert. When days like these occur, and we’ve increased our carb intake more than we otherwise would, this is considered a high-carb day.

So what do we do when we’ve got a day ahead of us that’s chock-full of carbs? Ultimately, our goal is to match that increased intake of energy-dense macronutrients with high-intensity workouts that are sure to burn the carbs off.

When we exercise at high-intensity, our body requires more fuel from carbohydrates to meet the increased energy demands. By breaking down the carbs either aerobically (with oxygen) or anaerobically (without oxygen), the body is using more carbohydrates during the workout itself, as well as after the workout to make glycogen to refuel and decrease muscle breakdown.

Low-Carb Days

So what happens if the day is reversed? You’ve eaten far fewer carbs, and instead have relied on healthy fats like avocado or protein from meat and veggies as opposed to that plate of pasta.

This is the other end of the spectrum that completes the cyclical carb “cycle.” While it was once believed that low-carb days ensured little need for exercise, recent research has instead suggested that training on low-carb days can still serve a purpose by speeding up any adaptations to aerobic training while increasing fat burning and thus improving endurance.

By participating in days of low-carbohydrate consumption, the body is forced to rely on fat as the primary form of energy, thus increasing aerobic capacity, defined as “the maximal amount of physiological work that an individual can do as measured by oxygen consumption.”

However, the body must grow accustomed to a diet that reduces the total amount of carbs if it’s to burn fat on a consistent basis. While fat loss is often a product of utilizing the carb cycle, the body will still be dependent on carbs in the short-term before progressing to fat as the primary energy source.

A Carb-Cycling Schedule

Though the schedule below leaves room for customization, this is a solid example of your typical carb-cycling routine. Remember that lower-carb days can still be accompanied by exercise, but high-carb days should most certainly be combined with training days, as is standard procedure for the carb cycling diet. The schedule below also fails to address the opportunity for a rest day, but these can be incorporated once per week if needed.

  • Monday: higher-carb day
  • Tuesday: lower-carb day
  • Wednesday: higher-carb day
  • Thursday: lower-carb day
  • Friday: lower-carb day
  • Saturday: higher-carb day/optional reward day to enjoy a favorite meal
  • Sunday: lower-carb day

Keeping Your Diet in Mind

While it may be easy enough to keep track of the carbs we consume while exercising accordingly, often our diet and everyday meal plans alone can play a sizable role in our body and brain health. A low-carb diet or even a moderate carb diet that relies on whole foods and high-protein is a common means of altering one’s body composition. When we elect to maintain a healthy diet, many changes can take place.

That being said, it’s important to consult a nutritionist or dietitian when considering an extensive overhaul of your diet. Any form of food consumption that suddenly alters protein intake, fat intake, or carb intake can be dangerous for those with an insulin sensitivity or blood sugar concerns.

Additionally, weight loss in any form is a product of both diet and exercise. According to Shawn Talbott, nutritional biochemist and former director of the University of Utah Nutrition Clinic, “weight loss is generally 75% diet and 25% exercise.” It’s not a product of diet alone. To ensure we’re establishing our exercise routine alongside this new diet plan, we can use measurement techniques like the rate of perceived exertion scale, to make sure we’re exercising at the correct level for our personal fitness.

The most difficult aspect of carb cycling tends to be sustainability. While we can go perhaps one or two weeks on any given diet plan, low-carb diets are no easy task. As a result of this reality, medical professionals often recommend striving for a more balanced plan that focuses on fruits and veggies, lean proteins, and whole grain carbs.

Because cutting calories too low can lead to a decrease in muscle mass, the general rule of thumb is to allow 10 calories per pound of body weight — so a 125-pound person should strive to consume 1,250 calories per day, thus leading to weight loss no matter how much you exercise.

Is Carb Cycling for You?

Determining whether or not you should participate in a carb cycling diet requires research and experimentation based on your lifestyle and fitness routine. Striking a balance between high-carb and low-carb days is a process that can change in the long-term, so be patient and pay attention to your body as you go. Incorporating exercise and even consistent sleep are other necessary tools to ensure your carb cycling is as effective as possible.

To learn more about carb cycling, be sure to consult a nutritionist or dietitian rather than go it alone. Carb cycling allows for flexibility and empowers choice, making it one of the most popular diets in that ever-expanding catalog of dieting options. And it could be a more sustainable option for carb-cutters with a love of pasta.

Reading time: 5 min

Our body works endlessly to keep up with our daily demands. From getting out of bed in the morning to sprinting up a hill, we put bones, ligaments, and muscles to the test, each and every day.

Sometimes our body experiences pain and discomfort as a result. Maybe deadlifts at the gym lead to back pain, or a sports injury causes chronic pain that you can’t seem to shake. To treat these aches and pains, we can employ a wide variety of techniques and treatments — from general stretching to physical therapy and beyond.

One form of treatment to alleviate pain and promote healing is microcurrent therapy. Used to treat a wide variety of injuries, microcurrent therapy will apply electrical currents to specific parts of the body to help tissues heal faster while providing pain relief along the way. Let’s take a deeper look at this form of pain management to see what the buzz is all about.

How Does Microcurrent Therapy Work?

Also known as electrotherapy or microcurrent stimulation, microcurrent therapy uses electrical energy to help reduce pain, repair tissue, strengthen muscles, promote bone growth, and more. But how exactly does it work?

Believe it or not, your body is a conductor of electricity that produces an electrical charge of its own. Cells conduct electrical currents to communicate with one another, and your nervous system uses electricity to send signals throughout your body and brain. These signals allow us to move, think, and feel.

When your body suffers from an injury, this necessary signaling is disrupted or hindered. Without the proper signals between cells, your body can’t operate efficiently.

Microcurrent therapy aims to restore the electromagnetic communication between cells in order to promote healing and provide relief from muscle pain or joint pain. Additionally, microcurrent therapy is used in spas for its anti-aging properties to contour, tone, and firm aging skin, often on the face.

Using microcurrent therapy to increase cellular communication helps stimulate your body’s production of ATP, or adenosine triphosphate, in the injured tissue. ATP is the body’s primary source of energy that allows cellular interactions to take place. Microcurrent therapy works to increase ATP production by as much as 500% in damaged tissue — an increase that can help with the recovery process.

Microcurrent Therapy vs. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation

Microcurrent therapy is often confused with a different form of electrical therapy known as transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, or TENS for short. While TENS uses mild shocks that you can feel under the skin, microcurrent therapy uses electrical currents that are extremely weak, so you won’t feel a thing. TENS offers short-term relief from pain and inflammation, while microcurrent therapy offers long-term relief and healing properties.

What Conditions Can Be Treated With Microcurrent Therapy?

Microcurrent treatment has the ability to treat a wide variety of issues, but it is often used to treat nerve and muscle pain, or reduce scar tissue and inflammation due to the following conditions.

  • Fibromyalgia
  • Myofascial pain
  • Arthritis
  • Carpal tunnel
  • Sprains
  • ​Concussions
  • Bell’s Palsy
  • Headaches
  • Burns
  • Asthma
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Low back pain
  • Disc injuries

How Is Microcurrent Therapy Administered?

The microcurrent therapy application process is simple. First, a therapist applies a moistened towel or self-adhesive electrodes to the affected area. Then he or she sets frequencies on the microcurrent device that correlate with the condition being treated. This process is referred to as frequency-specific microcurrent therapy, as the frequencies will change depending on what the injury is and where it is on the body.

The Biostrap Buzz

Sign up to our email newsletter to receive curated content on the latest news in digital health and health optimization. Plus, special access to Biostrap offers and community updates.

Once the therapy is applied to the skin, electric currents will act as a stimulator to help repair damaged tissue and provide pain relief. Be sure you’re well-hydrated before receiving microcurrent treatment in any form, as this further promotes electrical stimulation. Your cells are composed largely of water, and well-hydrated cells will better conduct the electrical current with one another.

If you’re receiving a microcurrent facial, two metal prongs will mildly shock the face in specific locations. Though this process may sound intense, it’s both safe and FDA-approved.

Is Microcurrent Stimulation Painful?

Treatment with microcurrent stimulation is a noninvasive, injection-free procedure that’s generally painless. The electrical currents used to treat injuries are administered in doses so low that the patient rarely feels them. The only effects you may notice include a warming sensation, tingling, or softening of affected tissues.

How Long Do the Effects Last?

The effects of microcurrent therapy, including pain relief, can last for several days or longer depending on the injury being treated. For acute injuries, lasting pain relief can be achieved, though multiple sessions of therapy may be necessary.

The Benefits of Microcurrent Therapy

As you may have guessed, microcurrent therapy can be used to treat many things. From sports injuries to wounds to sagging skin, it’s a healthy form of therapy with lasting benefits. Microcurrent therapy can:

  • Reduce neck, joint, hip, and back pain
  • Heal tendons
  • Reduce muscular degeneration
  • Lessen headaches
  • Improve symptoms of diseases like arthritis or fibromyalgia
  • Tone the skin and promote collagen production

The Risks and Side Effects of Microcurrent Therapy

A medical professional applies electrode pads to a patients knee for microcurrent therapy

The risks that come from microcurrent therapy only apply to those who have pacemakers, implanted pumps, uncontrollable seizures, or women who are pregnant.

While low-level electrical currents aren’t dangerous, they can interfere with the body’s electrical signals in those who already suffer from conditions that affect the body’s electrical system, such as epilepsy or multiple sclerosis. Speak with your doctor or a licensed physical therapist before utilizing microcurrent therapy to determine whether it’s right for you.

How Much Does Microcurrent Therapy Cost?

While microcurrent therapy is often covered by your insurance and used in conjunction with other recovery aides, you can also seek this form of therapy on your own. Whether you’re seeking pain relief or simply want a microcurrent facial, microcurrent therapy can cost anywhere from $250 to $500. This depends largely on where you go (some cities such as Los Angeles or New York City will charge higher prices) and what you wish to treat.

Professional Treatment Versus At-Home Devices

If shelling out hundreds of dollars for microcurrent therapy isn’t your cup of tea, at-home devices are available for the price of one or two professional sessions. While these devices are available in abundance for your face, you can also find others that treat your body as well, though these may be more expensive.

And don’t expect the results to come immediately should you choose to purchase your own device. You may need to administer the therapy consistently for 60 days or more before seeing any results should you choose at-home treatment — these personal devices are often weaker than the devices used during professional treatment.

Practical Pain Management With Microcurrent Therapy

Various therapies seek to provide pain relief and healing in some form or another. From pain medications to invasive surgeries, there is much we can do to alleviate injury and pain. Fortunately, treatment options such as microcurrent therapy can provide non-invasive relief and healing.

While administering electrical currents to your body in an effort to promote nerve stimulation may sound intimidating, this lesser-known form of therapy has been used for decades without fail. If you find yourself suffering from muscle pain, nerve pain, or damage beneath the surface, take some time to determine if microcurrent therapy is right for you.

Reading time: 5 min

Whether you had too much coffee too late in the day or your mind is racing with thoughts, we all struggle with restless sleep from time to time. But, what happens when your sleep always feels restless, no matter what you do?

This could be a sign that something else is the culprit. Specifically, certain sleep disorders could unknowingly be causing your sleep problems and disrupting your ability to sleep well. If you’re suffering from restless sleep, here’s a look at the most common reasons people have sleep issues, plus what you can do to improve your sleep quality to get a good night’s sleep every night.

The Dangers of Restless Sleep

Restless sleep is characterized by frequent sleep disruptions throughout the night. When a person is constantly tossing and turning, as well as waking frequently, their sleep can be classified as restless. One of the greatest dangers of restless sleep is that it leads to sleep deprivation, which contributes to a host of additional problems.

For one, sleep deprivation causes severe fatigue that can slow a person’s reaction time. When a person can’t react quickly to changes in their environment, they’re more likely to get into an accident or hurt themselves. In fact, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that fatigue leads to 100,000 car crashes and 1,550 crash-related deaths per year in the United States.

Restless sleep also leads to excessive daytime sleepiness that impairs a person’s functioning at work, which can further endanger their safety and compromise their quality of life. Aside from sleep deprivation, another dangerous side effect of chronic restless sleep is that it can lead to an over-reliance on sleep medicine.

A few signs that you’re taking too much medicine for sleep include: using sleeping pills to treat anxiety, taking extra doses of sleeping pills, and taking a second pill after waking in the middle of the night. While sleep aids can be helpful in certain situations, becoming dependent on them can further disrupt your body’s ability to sleep and function normally.

Restless Sleep and Sleep Disorders

When you’re experiencing restless sleep, the first thing to consider is a sleep disorder. Many people who suffer from lack of sleep have sleep disorders without even knowing that a medical condition is causing their distress. That’s why it’s important to be aware of the disorders that contribute to trouble sleeping and to understand how they can interfere with your ability to get quality sleep.

Restless Legs Syndrome

Restless legs syndrome is one of the most common sleep disorders that can cause sleep disturbances. Also known as RLS, restless legs syndrome is characterized by uncomfortable sensations in the legs. This can include cramping, twitching, or even tingling feelings that cause the sleeper to move in order to relieve the discomfort.

These feelings persist throughout the night, distracting the person sleeping and making it hard to stay still and fall asleep. Restless legs syndrome also tends to wake people once they’ve fallen asleep, making it hard to maintain sufficient sleep throughout the night.


Narcolepsy is another sleep disorder that’s often associated with restless sleep. While people with narcolepsy tend to feel rested after waking up, they usually feel the urge to fall asleep again shortly after. This extreme urge to sleep can strike a person in the middle of any activity, including talking or driving. Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder that disrupts a person’s sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm.

In addition to experiencing overwhelming sleep attacks throughout the day, a person with narcolepsy may also experience cataplexy: a sudden loss in muscle tone that causes a person to collapse. While it sounds scary, it’s quite similar to the paralysis that all people experience during REM sleep.

Narcolepsy can also cause sleep paralysis, in which a person is unable to move when entering or leaving REM sleep. Sleep paralysis is when a person is conscious and knows they’re awake, yet they’re unable to move.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

There are three main types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and mixed sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of sleep apnea and is when a person stops sleeping periodically throughout the night. This occurs because their airway is too tight or floppy for the breath to flow smoothly from the mouth and nose into the lungs.

The Biostrap Buzz

Sign up to our email newsletter to receive curated content on the latest news in digital health and health optimization. Plus, special access to Biostrap offers and community updates.

These disruptions to the person’s breathing most commonly cause snoring but can also lead a person to wake during the night gasping for air. This causes restless sleep because a person may wake multiple times during the night due to airway obstruction. These frequent disruptions can lead to forgetfulness, daytime drowsiness, poor sleep quality, and irritability throughout the day.

Rapid Eye Movement Sleep Behavior Disorder

Rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder (RBD) is a sleep disorder that occurs during REM sleep, which is the dream phase. Instead of staying still like most people during dreaming, a person with RBD will act out their dreams as if they’re awake, says the National Sleep Foundation.

In some instances, this can involve tossing and turning, thrashing, sleep talking, hitting, or even shouting. More extreme cases involve people getting up out of bed, sleep walking, and engaging in other activities — all while still asleep.

It’s important to understand that rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder usually happens when a person is dreaming vividly. When these dreams are frightening or unusual, the person suffering from RBD may scare themselves or their partner. This can lead to restless sleep because a person may wake themselves by moving or walking about, or their partner may wake them if they’re engaging in violent behavior.

Lifestyle Changes to Improve Sleep Hygiene

Suffering from sleep problems can be a major detriment to your quality of life, but there is hope. Using a sleep tracker is one of the best ways to understand everything about your sleep patterns, since many issues can arise without your knowledge — especially if you don’t sleep with a partner. Even people who suffer from narcolepsy can improve their sleep hygiene by following a consistent sleep schedule and adhering to the following healthy daily habits.

Establish a Bedtime Routine

When you do the same thing every night before bed, your body begins to associate these activities with feeling tired and getting rest. These activities should include relaxing activities like reading, stretching, or listening to music. Similarly, it’s important to only use the bedroom for sleep and relaxation — working on the computer while in your bed can associate the space with the need to be alert.

Avoid Stimulants That Keep You Awake

Most people understand that drinking coffee late into the night can disrupt their sleep. But sleep can also be disrupted by things like drinking alcohol, exercising, and napping too close to bedtime. All of these things can make you more alert when it’s time to get some shuteye, increasing the chances of waking during the night.

Try Melatonin

You can also improve your sleep quality by adding more sleep supplements to your daily regimen. For example, supplementing with melatonin may help with REM sleep behavior disorder. Melatonin has fewer side effects than chemical sleeping pills, and it can offer nearly the same benefits. Since melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone, taking more melatonin can help you sleep better throughout the night.

In addition to supporting a more regular sleep wake cycle, melatonin also regulates body temperature, blood pressure, and hormone levels. Specifically, research says that melatonin “binds to receptors in the brain to help reduce nerve activity. In the eyes, it can help reduce dopamine levels, a hormone that helps you stay awake.”

The greatest benefit of melatonin for people with restless sleep is that it can help a person stay asleep. This is primarily due to the reduction of dopamine and nerve activity, which can keep a person alert late into the night.

Improving Sleep Quality for More Restful Nights

Spending an entire night in restless sleep isn’t fun for anyone. In fact, people who have chronically restless sleep are more likely to suffer from sleep deprivation, which can lead to a host of challenges and dangers.

Restless sleep may or may not be caused by a sleep disorder such as restless leg syndrome, RBD, sleep apnea, or narcolepsy. Taking a look at your sleep habits and overall sleep hygiene can help you understand where you’re missing out on sleep — and how you can catch up.

Reading time: 5 min

Whether it’s getting more protein, losing weight, or boosting lean muscle mass, there are many reasons why people choose low-carb diets like the Paleolithic (paleo) and ketogenic (keto) diets. If your goal is to decrease carbohydrates and sugar while increasing healthy fat and protein intake, you may be considering paleo or keto. Curious about the differences between these popular diets?

Both paleo and ketogenic diets aim to boost healthy eating habits. However, they each have different rules, restrictions, and philosophies. Whether you’re new to these diets or you just need a refresher, here’s what you should know about keto vs. paleo — and how each low-carb regimen can work for you.

Paleo vs. Keto

The ketogenic diet and the paleo diet have a number of things in common. For one, both diets drastically reduce carbohydrate intake. This includes most grains and starches, including wheat, barley, rice, and potatoes. At the same time, both diets call for an increase in high-quality whole foods, like veggies and greens.

Legumes are also restricted on both the keto and paleo diet — this includes beans and peanuts. Both keto and paleo restrict highly processed foods, as well as those containing refined sugars. This means that most diet foods, like processed protein bars or low-fat sodas, are off the table.

So what can followers of paleo and keto enjoy? The main components of both these diets are healthy foods like meat, fish, eggs, non-starchy vegetables, leafy greens, and healthy oils from nuts and seeds, though some restrictions apply.

For example, ketogenic diet followers don’t eat starchy vegetables or root vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, or parsnips. And while paleo allows for nearly all fruits in moderation, ketogenic followers eliminate all fruits except small portions of berries. Keto also places an emphasis on butter, cream, and unprocessed cheese. This is one of the key differences when exploring keto vs. paleo: Dairy is prolific in the keto diet while paleo followers are strict about avoiding it.

Weight loss is the primary benefit of both these diets, especially for those who struggle with weight gain or diabetes. As explained by Harvard endocrinologist and author Dr. David Ludwig, carb restriction stabilizes blood sugar levels and reduces insulin, which is a core driver of weight gain.

“By lowering insulin levels, fewer calories from the meal may get stored in fat cells, leaving more to fuel metabolism and feed the brain. As a result, you may feel fuller longer after eating,” Ludwig says.

Ludwig also found that low-carb diets help people burn more calories and lose more weight than following a low-fat diet alone. In contrast to the high-carb diets that are common in the western world, low-carb diet plans work to restore the body to its natural state.

What Is the Paleo Diet?

The paleo diet refers to the Paleolithic era when early humans got their dinner by foraging for wild plants and stalking giant mammoths. This was long before cooking and agriculture transformed the way we eat. It refers to the time when cavemen only had access to food they could find in the great outdoors. Processed foods, dairy products, and refined sugars were nonexistent.

Cavemen and early hunter-gatherers also relied heavily on an array of wild plants and vegetables. (Their plant-focused diet may have contributed to their survival.) Like paleobiologist Amanda Henry explains, hunting for meat wasn’t the only way Paleolithic humans found nutrients.

In fact, different cultures from around the world ate a rainbow of food groups from the earth depending on where they lived and what was accessible nearby. Today, people who want to accurately reflect the diets of early humans must eat not only grass-fed meat but also a wide variety of nuts, seeds, veggies, and fruit. Maple syrup and natural sweeteners like stevia are also accepted on the paleo diet, as these can be found in nature.

Health Benefits of the Paleo Diet


Following a paleo meal plan has many benefits, including accelerated weight loss, decreased waist circumference, reduced blood pressure, and improved cholesterol. Paleolithic eating habits may also support relief from certain conditions, such as epilepsy and cognitive decline. People who suffer from anxiety, brain fog, and other mental illnesses may also stand to gain from starting a caveman diet. Proponents of the diet have also said that it helps with type 2 diabetes.

Nutritional psychologist Georgia Ede explains that she’s seen significant improvements in patients’ mental health outcomes after they switched to a paleo-style diet. Achieving mental clarity and reducing anxiety are common side effects of making paleo-inspired food choices.

There are many reasons why paleo diets play a role in mental health. On one hand, paleo diets eliminate gluten, which can cause inflammatory reactions in certain people. Gluten intolerances have also been linked in schizophrenia, autism, and bipolar disorder, Ede says.

Paleo diets may also improve mental health because they’re low in refined carbohydrates, which can drive up inflammation, oxidative stress, and hormonal imbalance — all conditions that destabilize the activity of mood-regulating neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and GABA.

The paleo diet also emphasizes an active lifestyle, much like our ancestors would have had while foraging for food. Exercising daily and staying properly hydrated are two key lifestyle components of the paleo diet that can greatly improve long-term health. The best way to work out on the paleo diet is to get off the treadmill and get out into the great outdoors. Rather than pushing yourself to the point of exhaustion, the paleo diet stresses a healthy balance between training and recovery.

What Is the Ketogenic Diet?


The ketogenic diet is focused on accelerating ketosis, which is when there aren’t enough carbs in the body for energizing the cells. This high-fat diet causes the body to produce ketones, which encourage the body to rely on fat stores for energy instead of carbs. In addition to making you more energized, ketosis can improve mood and reduce hunger symptoms to keep you fuller for longer.

The keto diet depends on healthy fats to induce this process, so it’s important to up your intake of foods like grass-fed butter, ghee, flax seeds, fatty fish, eggs, and whole-fat yogurt. It’s also important to add avocado oil, coconut oil, and olive oil to your diet.

The high-fat keto diet has strict rules for carb intake, capping the limit at 50 grams of carbohydrates per day. Breaking this down, you’ll want 60-75% of your calories to come from fat and 15-30% of your calories from protein.

One word of caution is that the keto diet eliminates grains and most fruits, which may cause a reduction in folic acid. Since this is an important nutrient for cell generation and recovery, it would be smart to add a multivitamin with folic acid to your diet.

Also be aware that, when first switching to keto, it may take about a week for your body to adjust. The body likely won’t go into ketosis for 3-4 days, during which you may feel tired and sluggish. Carb withdrawal can also cause mental fog, headaches, and cramps — a combination that’s often referred to as the keto flu. Getting over this hump, however, is key to kicking your body into ketosis and reaping its full benefits.

Health Benefits of The Ketogenic Diet

Low-carb diets like keto are effective at targeting reductions in visceral fat, which lodges around the organs. Reducing visceral fat is important because it’s associated with inflammation and insulin resistance.

It’s clear that the keto diet can help you lose weight, but can it help with other health challenges? The low-carb, high-fat keto diet has been proven to support a reduction in seizures in people with certain types of epilepsy. Specifically, keto diets have been used for years to help children with disorders like Lennox-Gastaut syndrome or Rett syndrome, both of which cause seizures.

Some people have claimed that the diet can help reduce acne, improve heart health, and regulate hormone imbalances, though more evidence is needed to support such claims. Regardless, switching to keto may help people live longer, healthier lives. Since the fat-burning nature of the keto diet will likely lead to weight loss, it can support overall health by reducing obesity-related ailments like diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers in individuals who were previously overweight.

How to Choose Between Keto vs. Paleo

Both the keto and paleo diets may reduce weight loss and obesity-related diseases. And while both these diets follow a low-carb meal plan, they each have their own set of science-backed philosophies.

The keto diet emphasizes healthy fat intake with foods like grass-fed and full-fat dairy, nuts, eggs, and lean meats to induce a state of ketosis, which burns fat and boosts energy. Paleo also supports the consumption of healthy fats, but allows for all fruits, vegetables, and meats while restricting dairy products. If you’re interested in losing weight and pursuing a healthier overall diet, here’s the bottom line: both keto and paleo may provide the results you’re looking for.

Reading time: 6 min

The nervous system is a fascinating and complex network of nerves, synapses, and organs that work together to transmit signals throughout your body. It’s one system in a larger environment, and it’s responsible for everything from movement to unconscious acts like adjusting your vision and maintaining your resting heart rate.

Want to learn more about the parasympathetic nervous system and why it matters for your health? We’ve put together this scientific guide to help you understand how the system works. Plus, you’ll learn what it means for your health and how you can use tools to track metrics and monitor your wellbeing.

What Is the Parasympathetic Nervous System?

Understanding the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) can be complicated because it’s part of a much larger network of bodily processes. Essentially, the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the “rest and digest” system controls bodily functions associated with the body at rest and after digestion. To fully understand this system, you need an overview of the network it works within.

Your body is a complex network of cells and structures that come together to drive movement, create thoughts, and sense the world around you. Within these complex networks, the nervous system plays a key role. The nervous system consists of nerves and neurons that work to transmit signals from one part of the body to another. It’s the process that underlies everything from waving your hand to coughing to standing up.

The nervous system consists of two parts, the peripheral nervous system (PNS) and the central nervous system (CNS). The brain, spinal cord, and nerves make up the central nervous system while neurons and clusters of neurons — known as ganglia — are the key actors in the peripheral nervous system.

Since these systems are so complex, scientists have broken them down even further. The peripheral nervous system is divided into two sections: the autonomic nervous system and the somatic nervous system.

The Biostrap Buzz

Sign up to our email newsletter to receive curated content on the latest news in digital health and health optimization. Plus, special access to Biostrap offers and community updates.

For our discussion of the parasympathetic nervous system, we’ll focus on the functions of the autonomic nervous system, which controls involuntary smooth muscles and glands. The parasympathetic nervous system is one of two subsections of the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system is responsible for things you can’t voluntarily change at a moment’s notice, including your heart rate and digestive functions.

Now that you have a basic grasp of the entire nervous system, we’ll dive into the functions and actors of the parasympathetic nervous system.

Functions of the Parasympathetic Nervous System

The parasympathetic nervous system is one of two divisions of the autonomic nervous system. The other division of the autonomic nervous system is the sympathetic nervous system. That system is responsible for the body’s fight or flight response.

On the other hand, the PSNS controls unconscious movements and signals that occur during a variety of activities. The parasympathetic nervous system is what’s working behind the scenes when you cry, when you digest and process foods, and when you start drooling over a delicious meal. It’s responsible for everything from urination and defecation to sexual arousal.

It works to constrict certain eye muscles to help improve vision at close range, and it makes it easier for you to use the bathroom. It works like this: M3 receptors — which help to slacken smooth muscle — are stimulated to relax the urethra, which makes it easier to urinate. In scientific terms, parasympathetic stimulation signals peristalsis in the ureters — an involuntary constriction that relaxes urination muscles, creating a wave-like effect that moves the contents of your bladder toward the urethra. In essence, the PSNS is responsible for the urge to use the bathroom. Some of the main functions of the parasympathetic nervous system are that it:

  • Stimulates salivation
  • Constricts pupils
  • Contracts the bladder
  • Inhibits the production of adrenaline
  • Decreases heart rate
  • Stimulates digestion
  • Relaxes sphincter muscles
  • Dilates bronchial tubes

The parasympathetic nervous system essentially works behind the scenes to keep things running as smoothly as possible. It’s a system you may not think much about, but it is a key part of most of your daily routines.

Actors Within the Parasympathetic Nervous System

The parasympathetic nervous system operates mainly within the lungs, heart, bladder, and stomach. It sends signals using parasympathetic nerves — special nerve systems that are rooted in the spinal cord — and cranial nerves, which are rooted in the brain. The system triggers bodily functions when signaled by parasympathetic nerves throughout the body. The main parasympathetic nerves are autonomic or visceral nerves that work with two neurons to carry signals to the target organ.

Cranial nerves are also among the key actors in the PSNS. The body has a total of 12 cranial nerves that are rooted in the nuclei of the brain and spread out to vital organs. Because of this structure, the PSNS is often said to have a craniosacral flow — a flow of information from the brain to other organs.

The cranial nerves carry signals from the brain to ganglia — a structure that consists of cell bodies including neurons. These ganglia comprise four parasympathetic synapses including the ciliary ganglion, which control pupil dilation, and the pterygopalatine ganglion, which produce tears and mucus. The other two synapses include the otic ganglion and the submandibular ganglion, which control salivation.

These signals are transmitted through nerve fibers known as preganglionic fibers. After the ganglion processes the message, the PSNS sends the singnal to the relevant organ, using fibers known as postganglionic fibers. The nerve fibers also contain neurons that are involved in the transmission process and known respectively as preganglionic neurons and postganglionic neurons.

Think of the parasympathetic ganglia like train stations — a train arrives with a passenger holding a briefcase of information and departs to deliver that briefcase to another location. You can also think of it as a post office. A letter or message comes through the postal depot and is then transmitted out to its destination.

In the PSNS, there are 4 main nerve types that perform most actions.

  • Oculomotor nerve: This cranial nerve is located in the eye and is responsible for constricting the pupil. This makes the pupil smaller, bringing in less light. It also contracts the ciliary muscle — an eye muscle responsible for vision — helping to improve vision at close distances.
  • Facial nerve: The facial nerve is responsible for controlling the salivary glands and glands in the mouth and nose. This parasympathetic nerve also controls the lacrimal glands, which produce tears.
  • Glossopharyngeal nerve: This nerve delivers signals to the salivary glands known as parotids glands.
  • Spinal nerves: Spinal nerves are made of desiccated pathways from the spine to the heart that help manage overall heart control.
  • Vagus nerve: The vagus nerve originates in vagal nuclei that are responsible for an incredible amount of body functions. According to StatPearls, the vagus nerve acts on “the viscera of the abdomen and thorax” and is especially important because it “carries 75% of all parasympathetic fibers”. The nerve delivers messages to a host of organs from the bladder and stomach in the gastrointestinal tract to the kidneys, liver, and sexual organs.

Why the PSNS Matters

The parasympathetic system is incredibly important when it comes to normal bodily functions. If something within the system breaks down, you may develop issues including digestive problems and heart problems. The latter is particularly important since the PSNS plays an important role in heart health that we haven’t covered yet.

The PSNS includes special heart receptors known as muscarinic receptors. The function of these receptors is to prevent stimulation from the other autonomic system — the sympathetic nervous system, which triggers the fight or flight response in stressful situations. Research shows a correlation between sympathetic nervous system activity and negative outcomes in patients with heart failure.

On the other hand, parasympathetic nervous system activation may help to protect heart health. That’s because these systems work in parallel. While the sympathetic nervous system can trigger increased heart rate and fight or flight responses, the PSNS tends to relax and constrict body responses.

Additional research shows the parasympathetic nervous system may help protect heart health by regulating blood pressure and heart rate. This system sends signals for vasodilation — or widening — of the blood vessels, helping to lower high blood pressure.

The PSNS may also help regulate the resting heart rate. A normal resting heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute. If you’re not sure what your resting heart rate is, you can easily calculate it at home.

Use a health tracker like Biostrap’s wristband to get accurate readings of your resting heart rate. Alternatively, you can take your heart rate by placing two fingers on your wrist and counting the number of beats for one minute. If your resting heart rate is abnormal, it may be a sign that something within the parasympathetic nervous system isn’t working properly.

The PSNS and Your Health: How to Monitor Metrics

The parasympathetic nervous system is a key component of overall health. It’s responsible for unconscious movements that are vital to digestion, vision, and heart health. Monitoring your health can help you identify underlying issues that may affect your PSNS and other important health networks.

The Biostrap App and wearables are a great way to track and monitor your health. From monitoring your resting heart rate and oxygen saturation levels to tracking your sleep habits, the tool offers unrivaled insights into your health.

Reading time: 3 min

Calisthenics may remind some of PE classes from a foregone era, but like all fitness trends they cycle around again.

Trendy workout formats like Crossfit, bootcamp classes, Strong by Zumba, and others are fully or partially based on calisthenics. Even Pilates, barre, power yoga, and dance fitness classes contain exercises that may be described as calisthenics.

What Are Calisthenics? Is It Just Another Name For Bodyweight Training?

The term Calisthenics refers to exercises that don’t require weights, machines, or equipment. People also frequently refer to calisthenics as body-weight training.

Most classic Calisthenics are a form of resistance or strength training exercises. Popular bodyweight calisthenics include squats, pushups, lunges, crunches, and planks. Some high-intensity calisthenics raise the heart rate and trainers and boot camp instructors often arrange them into circuits for an interval-based or steady state cardio workout. In addition to the previous examples, calisthenics that fit this category include jumping jacks, burpees, and mountain climbers.

Many prefer calisthenics and bodyweight training because they don’t need expensive equipment to get an effective workout.

Pros And Cons Of Bodyweight Calisthenic Workouts

Some people base their fitness routine around bodyweight training and calisthenics. Others prefer to supplement their weight lifting workouts with calisthenics. You don’t have to choose one approach exclusively, however there are some key benefits and disadvantages to bodyweight training.

Benefits Of Calisthenics Based Workouts

  • You use your own body or gravity as resistance so you don’t need additional equipment.
  • Most calisthenics can be made more or less challenging by adding equipment such as resistance bands. For example, people training to do pull-ups can use a heavy resistance band to make the pull-up a little easier while they build their strength.
  • Many calisthenics require only a small amount of space so people can do them in hotel rooms, dorm rooms, and other crowded spaces.
  • You can adapt calisthenics to many training strategies. For example, many trainers leaders arrange bodyweight exercises into circuits for High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workouts. Others may arrange them into a classic bootcamp style workout.
  • They offer a fun, excuse-proof way to workout. Some people mix it up through apps, workout card games, or following their favorite YouTube trainer. The options are limited only by your fitness and creativity.

Disadvantages of Calisthenic Based Workouts

  • Like any exercise, you need to use good form for a safe and effective workout. If a bodyweight exercise is too challenging, it may not be possible to modify certain exercises.
  • Weight lifting is so effective because you can progressively increase the resistance as your body adapts. For some bodyweight exercises, once you master it you have to switch to more challenging variations or add extra resistance to see more gains.
  • People who use step counting fitness trackers often feel disappointed when they work up a sweat but see a very low step count. Many effective strength exercises like squats, pullups and pushups do not register as steps for most trackers.

Calisthenics And Your Biometrics

Calisthenics affect your biometrics in different ways depending on how they fit into your routine. Vigorous circuit workouts using calisthenics will affect your Heart Rate Variability (HRV) readings as they involve anaerobic training. You may need to allow yourself an active recovery day after a vigorous calisthenics circuit session. As you get fitter, you may find that this style of program causes your and HRV to trend downwards over time.

As mentioned, people who wear popular step counting devices sometimes feel cheated by how few steps they accumulate during a calisthenics workout. Fortunately, exercise classification functions evolved and Biostrap can recognize, classify and track over 100 exercises including many popular calisthenics. This function also may help you refine your technique in response to the feedback.

Finally, many use heart rate training to pace their bodyweight workouts. Your working heart rate may prompt you to ease up or work harder depending on conditions that day. Monitoring your heart rate also helps you better time your recovery intervals.

Calisthenics are ideal whenever you want or need an efficient, no-equipment workout. They are a classic in bootcamps, gyms, PE classes, and boutique studios throughout the world.

Sources And Resources

Drop and Give Me 20! – A research study on the effectiveness of bootcamp style fitness trends by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) By John Porcari, Ph.D., Kirsten Hendrickson, B.S., and Carl Foster, Ph.D., with Mark Anders

The Seven Minute Workout – The Well, New York Times, by Gretchen Reynolds

Reading time: 3 min

Mobility, balance, and flexibility are frequently overlooked but essential elements of well-rounded fitness.

Improving or maintaining good balance and mobility help you feel and look your best. In addition, it helps you move well as you age.

On the surface, it may appear that balance and flexibility training have little to do with heart rate variability (HRV). That is true, however the activities that help develop these areas of fitness also tend to promote concentration and relaxation.

Mind-body activities like yoga, dance, tai chi, surfing, and some sports challenge balance, require careful fluid movement, require carefully timed breathing and use full ranges of motion. This combination of factors results in flowing movements where the participant staying focused throughout the activity. The focus and flow has a meditative effect for many people and can help participants destress and can help stats like HRV, resting heart rate, and blood oxygen saturation improve over time.

Benefits of Balance & Mobility Training:

Balance is skill that typically declines with age. However, even among younger people, those with excellent balance perform better in their favorite activities and are at a lower risk for accidents and injury. Preserving balance grows more essential the older one gets as it is in many ways a “use it or lose it” type skill. Since it is a skill, you can improve it through exercise.

Harvard Medical School said “balance training helps reduce the risk of falls in older adults.” This is especially beneficial to older adults with thinning bones as a broken leg or hip can have devastating consequences for older adults.

In addition, in the mid-200’s a Brazilian study indicated that older adults who can sit on the floor then rise to standing position without aid of their hands were much less likely to die within the next 6 years than those who could not. The study made a splash in the media, although some question how valid it was especially in the case of injury or disability. Older adults who can complete the task maintained good balance, mobility, flexibility, core strength, and lower body strength. Those qualities are all associated with longevity in numerous other studies.

Other benefits include:

  • Improved posture which leads to an improved appearance
  • Grace and ease of motion
  • Being less prone to accidents and injuries
  • Relieved stress
  • Decreased pain in many cases
  • Improved sports, work or activity performance

How To Improve Balance, Flexibility, and Mobility

Core strength helps with balance, so many core exercises like planks help develop balance skills. Most activities that challenge your balance will help improve your balance, spatial awareness, and control. Some examples include climbing, surfing, dancing, yoga, circus inspired workouts, and tai chi. Also simple exercises like standing on one leg help.

Flexibility and mobility exercises can be in a stand alone workout sessions such as a yoga class. Or if you prefer, you can incorporate them into your cool down from your aerobic or strength training workouts.

The Mayo Clinic recommends stretching after more vigorous workouts while your muscles are warm. The American Council on Exercise recommends stretching and doing mobility exercises daily if possible or at least three times a week.

“Lack of mobility is associated with poor posture and pain, which can affect the ability to perform even the simplest daily routines.” The American Council on Exercise.

Mobility exercises are related to stretches but tend to be more dynamic. For example, someone might do gentle hip circles to aid their hip mobility. Dynamic stretching, tai chi, flowing yoga poses, and many gentle sports warm up exercises are all examples of mobility training. People often incorporate these exercises into their workout warmup.

A balanced fitness program includes exercises designed to improve all aspects of fitness including aerobic training, strength training, balance training, and flexibility or mobility training.

Sources and Resources

Fitness Training: Elements of a Well Rounded Routine, Mayo Clinic

Elements of an Effective Exercise Program, American Council on Exercise (ACE)

Current Physical Activity Guidelines, the Center for Disease Control (CDC)

Simple Sitting Test Predicts How Long You’ll Live, Discover

Reading time: 5 min

Finland gets cold. Its territory runs far above the arctic circle and its not uncommon for temperatures to be in the -20s or lower. Could there be a better territory for a man who has been dubbed “The Iceman” for his uncanny feats in the cold extremes?

In January of 2007, the temperature in Finland was -35 degrees. Wim Hof, barefoot and in shorts, would run the world’s fastest half marathon barefoot and in snow, clocking in at just over 2 hours—and this is just one of many instances where Hof pushes his body to the limits.

Wim holds 26 Guinness World Records in all. He has topped Mount Kilimanjaro and climbed much of Everest in just shoes and shorts. In 2011 he would also run a marathon in the Namib Desert without water.  Wim has completed feats that are simply unexplainable. They defy science, yet they have happened under the watchful eye of scientists.

Perhaps the most incredible feat that was monitored by scientists took place in the Netherlands where Wim submerged himself in a cylinder of ice water for nearly two hours. He was able to sustain a core temperature for the whole time and was under the watchful eye of a UMC scientist professor Maria Hopeman.

The only thing that may be more astounding than his feats is the fact that he believes anyone can do these things!

The Wim Hof Method

Wim has since created and documented a method, The Wim Hof Method, that he uses to achieve these radical feats. His school of thought has slowly been gaining traction in the body hacking community, as people find how to manipulate their bodies to perform miraculous feats. The method is largely based on these three pillars:

1. Cold Therapy

This pillar is explained as proper exposure to cold and it is said to have an incredible amount of health benefits.

Proper exposure to the cold starts a cascade of health benefits, including the buildup of brown adipose tissue and resultant fat loss, reduced inflammation that facilitates a fortified immune system, balanced hormone levels, improved sleep quality, and the production of endorphins

2. Breathing

The Wim Hof breathing method is used to saturate the body with oxygen. It involves a steady influx of deep breaths and will make you feel lightheaded. This rush of oxygen to the body also has tremendous health benefits

3. Commitment

The final and most important pillar of all is the commitment. It’s the commitment to the cold and the to the breathing. If you can commit to this Wim believes that you can achieve the feats and health benefits that he has as well.

Why it works: Manipulation of Sp02 and HRV

So, what does science have to say about this real life cryomancer? It would seem he is impervious to cold, disease and discomfort in general. Wim has been characterized as an autodidact who has the ability to control his bodies circulation

The isolation of two key biometrics allows the WHM or Wim Hof Method to be measured not just in the man himself but in anyone who attempts his method. These markers are called SP02 and HRV.

SP02 or Blood Oxygen Saturation

“is a measure of how much oxygen the blood is carrying and can be measured using a pulse oximeter without using a needle. This is a percentage of how much oxygen is in your blood compared to the maximum it is capable of carrying.”

How it applies to the WHM:

In relation to Wim’s success he uses a method that will oversaturate the blood with oxygen. In this way he is able to get blood to the parts of his body that need it. This would explain things like being able to run a full marathon, in the freezing cold without much training.

HRV or Heart Rate Variability

Understanding your heart rate variability will help you understand your overall health and how your body is operating. There are two distinct types of heart rate variability and they are very different. While most people assume the heart beats like a metronome it’s not true. In fact, your body is constantly changing process and taking on new duties. These require more or less blood; thus, the heart rate will vary.

Finding out how your heart beats daily routine will give you a hint to what improvements can be made in your own lifestyle.


Generally speaking, higher heart rate variability is indicative of the control of the parasympathetic system, one of the two sides of the autonomic nervous system. This system is responsible for regulating the body’s unconscious actions including sexual arousal, salivation, and digestion––often called the “rest and digest” system.


Low variance in between heart beats, or a consistent heartbeat, indicates a dominance of the sympathetic system. This system’s primary process is to stimulate the body’s fight-or-flight response but, when experienced without a threat, is signaling stress, overtraining, and inflammation.

How it applies to the WHM:

Based on studies the very best method for developing high heart rate variability is through cold therapy. This cold therapy has been measured and studied by many people and the results are resoundingly similar.

Consider this from Todd Becker of

“The activity that has delivered the single biggest improvement to HRV for me has been…cold showers!  This has also been the most consistent and most immediate of all the measures I’ve tried.”

“cold showers appear to have improved my stress tolerance, by buffering emotional reactions. What I mean by this is that bad news, surprises, arguments, or events that would have previously caused a brief surge in adrenaline or an emotional flush, no longer have that effect, or at most have a very attenuated effect.”

Measuring the Effects SP02 and HRV in Real Time

There is only one way to see how your body is truly functioning. You can do all the breathing exercises and cold therapy you want but without the ability to measure your blood oxygen levels and heart rate variability you could merely be suffering from the placebo effect.

Pulse Oximetry

When you get sick and head into an urgent care facility, or your primary care physician, you will get a small clip placed on your finger and that is called a pulse oximeter. It checks for a percentage of oxyhemoglobin in the blood stream. This machine will sound if the levels are dangerously low.

Using this tool coupled with some monitoring script, you have the ability to not only measure these levels in your blood but also document them for later analysis.

A complete setup was put together by Alan Reiner of he also documented his results. While the setup was a bit crude and rigged together it open the doors to understanding and measuring the effects of the WHM.

Observe his trial and his setup of the hardware and the script HERE

The Practicality of the Wim Hof Method

While you may not be looking to become the next Sub Zero there are some serious health benefits that have been attributed to this method. The missing link between all of this was having a way to monitor the effects on the body. Biometric tech is lagging behind the tidal wave of science that is hitting the average person. This won’t be the case for very long.

Measuring your body’s performance and understanding how you can affect it with these simple therapies is just one example. If the Wim Hof Method can afford its creator the ability to swing 66 meters under the ice of a frozen lake there are many ways it can help you with your own life goals.

Stress relief and limiting inflammation are two massive health benefits that we can also affect with diet and exercise. How about boosting natural immunity?

While studies and research in this field can stir up tons of questions. I think one stands out more than any other. With robotics and tech advancements stealing the headlines, what is the human body truly capable of?

Reading time: 5 min

Sleeping for eight hours a night ensures optimum rest and rejuvenation — or so we’ve been told. Take a quick look into pre-industrial sleeping habits, and you’ll see that the way we sleep is relatively new. What if, instead of giving up the entire night to sleep, we got up in the middle of the night to have more time to ourselves? What if we slept less and napped more?

Scientists, sleep experts, and individuals around the world are waking up to the idea of polyphasic sleep — where sleep is segmented into sections rather than completed in a single stretch. A polyphasic sleep schedule can be used to nurture creativity and mental wellness while reducing daytime tiredness and fatigue.

Find out why great thinkers like Leonardo Davinci, Thomas Edison, and Nikola Tesla all followed a polyphasic sleep schedule, and how it could boost your success and overall health.

What Is a Polyphasic Sleep Schedule?

A polyphasic sleep schedule is just one of many ways to understand and track your sleep. Unlike a monophasic sleep schedule, where a person sleeps throughout the night, a polyphasic sleep schedule involves sleeping in multiple shifts throughout the day.

While there are many ways to achieve polyphasic sleep, it tends to involve resting for 4 to 6 hours total throughout a 24-hour period. Polyphasic sleep differs from ordinary sleep schedules because it doesn’t involve a long stretch of sleep and a long stretch of waking. Rather, it breaks up the entire day into small chunks of sleep and long periods of wakefulness.

Benefits of Polyphasic Sleep

Sleeping multiple times a day can have a number of benefits for certain individuals. This includes increased wakefulness, which provides more time for personal projects, relaxation, or productivity. By realigning your body’s natural rhythms and reducing the fragmentation of sleep phases, polyphasic sleep may also reduce sleep fragmentation and improve overall sleep quality.

“Proponents say that spacing out slumber can maximize the amount of time you spend in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and slow wave sleep, since the body defaults to these stages when it’s tired,” says Jamie Ducharme at TIME.

REM sleep is important because it regulates mood and fosters dreaming and memory storage, and slow wave sleep restores the body. Taking a 20-minute short nap in REM deep sleep may foster better dream recall than sleeping for 8 hours a day on a monophasic schedule. It has also been said to promote lucid dreaming.

Lucid dreamers are aware that they’re awake during the dream and are able to make choices about where they go and what happens. Increased dream recall and lucid dreaming can lead to a deeper connection with our innermost wants and desires.

Then there’s the obvious perks: Without spending time in the lighter, less restorative stages of sleep, there’s more time in the day to get things done. Whether you want more time to maximize work productivity or you wish to increase internal reflection, there are many reasons why a polyphasic schedule might benefit you personally.

The three primary polyphasic sleep schedules are Everyman, Uberman, and Dymaxion.

Everyman Sleep Schedule

The Everyman sleep schedule is the most common of polyphasic sleeping habits. There are 3 main variations of the Everyman sleep schedule, including Everyman 1, 2, and 3.

Everyman 1 involves sleeping for 6 hours and taking a 20 minute nap during the day (this is technically a biphasic sleep schedule as there are only two instances of sleep involved). Everyman 1 is likely to be the safest and most achievable sleep schedule — one that many people may unknowingly be doing already.

Everyman 2 is when a person sleeps for 4 hours and 30 minutes, but takes two 20-minute naps. And the Everyman 3 sleep schedule involves sleeping for three hours per night and getting rest in the form of three short naps lasting 20 minutes each.

Uberman Sleep Schedule

Followers of the Uberman schedule get 3 hours of sleep per day in total, which is broken up into six 30-minute napping periods. The uberman schedule isn’t realistic for most modern people, as it leads to sleep deprivation and little opportunity for restful REM sleep.

Dymaxion Sleep Schedule

Similarly to Uberman, the Dymaxion sleeping pattern follows a napping-focused schedule. Dymaxion sleepers take four 30-minute naps throughout the day for just 2 hours of sleep in total, making it the least restful polyphasic sleep schedule.

Dymaxion sleep patterns are more popular than uberman, but still aren’t likely to leave a person feeling well-rested. This sleeping schedule was pioneered by Buckminster Fuller, an innovator and visionary from the 20th century. Some say that Fuller may have been able to succeed at this schedule due to a certain gene mutation called the DEC2. People with this mutation only need a small amount of sleep to feel well-rested.

Biphasic sleep schedule

Biphasic sleep is a polyphasic sleep schedule split into just two periods of sleep per day. This could be sleeping during the night and taking a nap during the day, as seen in the Everyman 1 pattern. It may also involve going to bed around nine or 10pm and waking at midnight for an hour or two before returning to bed for a second sleep.

Biphasic sleep patterns aren’t a new invention. In fact, it was the dominant sleep pattern before the invention of electricity. Psychiatrist Thomas Wehr pointed out in 1992 that this pattern was natural for people in the pre-industrial era, especially in areas where there were longer stretches of darkness each day.

People across all continents and cultures used to follow this sleep schedule, adds author and history professor A. Roger Ekirch. He points to the siesta cultures still found in Spain and Italy, where people sleep less during the night and take long naps during the hottest hours of the day. This suggests that biphasic sleep schedules may be part of innate human nature. Natural or not, such patterns were disrupted with the dawn of artificial light. The increase in available light allowed people to do more things later in the evening and early in the morning that otherwise weren’t possible. As a result, they adopted a monophasic sleeping pattern.

Adopting a Segmented Sleep Pattern

A polyphasic or biphasic sleep schedule may work well with certain lifestyles. For example, shift workers like nurses, warehouse workers, or drivers who are employed at night often adopt this method.

This is because it allows them to make up for sleep missed during the normal evening hours without spending the entire day sleeping. College students, creatives, or academics might also benefit from the increased time that segmented sleep provides.

Some people — like those who share Fuller’s gene mutation — might simply rest better this way. “A small percentage of people are night owls, where their bodies and overall well being is actually better at night,” says Dr. Joseph Ojile, founder and medical director of Clayton Sleep Institute.

It’s also interesting to note that many mammals have segmented sleep. Aside from our ever-snoozing cats and dogs, wild animal sleep patterns emphasize survival. Polyphasic sleep patterns allow animals to be more alert throughout the day and night, making it easier to find food and stay safe.

This information tells us that sleeping for eight hours may only be a societal construct. And some, whether due to work or biology, may fare better sleeping less, more often.

Challenges of a Polyphasic Sleep Schedule

Adopting a polyphasic sleep schedule is challenging for most people who sleep just once per day. This is primarily due to our circadian rhythms, which regulate our sleep cycles. These rhythms are what tell our bodies to sleep when it’s dark and stay alert when the sun is up. Fighting against our ordinary waking hours by trying to sleep may be difficult — unless we’re already experiencing sleep deprivation.

Polyphasic and biphasic sleep schedules are also challenging socially. Whether its school, work, or going out, most societal structures are centered around a monophasic sleeping pattern. Trying to get shuteye when your loved ones want to spend time with you — and waking when they’re sound asleep — may disrupt your relationships.

Lastly, sleep deprivation can be harmful to the body both mentally and physically, says the Columbia Department of Neurology. Failing to get enough sleep decreases cognitive function, physical strength, and immunity. When a person experiences long-term sleep deprivation, they’re at a greater risk of depression, mental illness, stroke, and severe mood swings. They’re also faced with an increased risk of car accidents and sleep disorders.

Personalizing Your Sleep Schedule for Better Health

The total sleep time you need depends on your body, your work, and your overall lifestyle. Adopting a polyphasic sleep schedule may be beneficial if you want to increase your sleep hygiene while freeing up more time throughout the day. Whether you choose the everyman, uberman, dymaxion, or biphasic sleeping schedule, there are many ways to alter and improve your sleep patterns for better health both inside and out.

Reading time: 6 min

Both the quality of sleep and the amount of time we spend sleeping have been at the forefront of health considerations for quite some time. Recommendations from the CDC suggest adults should get no less than 7 hours of sleep over a 24-hour period.

Adolescents, on the other hand, should get anywhere from 8-10 hours in the same span of time (though two-thirds report getting less than eight hours of sleep each night). And when long-term sleep duration is less than 7 hours per night, the risk of being diagnosed with a chronic health condition like diabetes, asthma, cancer, depression, and even arthritis begins to rise.

While many of us claim to get enough sleep each night, often times we’re simply recalling the amount of time we’ve spent lying in bed. But as most of us know, there’s a stark difference between resting in bed perusing the internet and laying in bed fast asleep. To understand the many facets of sleep quality and quantity, it pays to know a thing or two about sleep efficiency. Let’s learn how to improve sleep through this concept.

The Basics of Sleep Efficiency

Sleep efficiency is the ratio of time spent asleep at night compared to the amount of time spent in bed. For example, if a woman spends 10 hours in bed but only sleeps for 8 of those hours, her sleep efficiency for that night would be 80%. This is calculated by taking the amount of time asleep and dividing it by the amount of time spent in bed, multiplied by 100%. The formula for sleep efficiency would look something like this:

(Time spent asleep / Time spent in bed) × 100 = Sleep efficiency

If, for example, a college student spent 5 hours in bed but only slept for 2 of those hours, their sleep efficiency would be the equivalent of (2 hours asleep / 5 hours in bed) × 100 = 40%.

An individual that spends the majority of their time asleep while in bed is said to be sleep efficient and to possess a high sleep efficiency. But an individual that spends a large portion of time awake while in bed is not considered sleep efficient and possesses a low sleep efficiency, a trait common amongst those with insomnia or other sleep disorders.

As most of us know from years of personal experience, efficient sleep is characterized by very few nighttime interruptions and greater amounts of energy throughout the day. Inefficient sleep, meanwhile, is characterized by sleep disruption that leaves us feeling tired or restless. To ensure good sleep efficiency, the total amount of time spent in bed should be solely devoted to the total sleep time, rather than any amount of time being devoted to waking activities.

Different Sleep Efficiency Rates

Sleep efficiency rates have a tendency to vary from person to person. As a result, sleep efficiency rates are categorized to determine what a healthy rate is and what can be improved upon.

For instance, a sleep efficiency anywhere above 90% is considered very good. A sleep efficiency of 85%-90% is considered normal. Any sleep efficiency rating below 85% is poor, and the individual should strive for more efficient sleep. Sleep efficiency ratings below 75% are poor and can be indicative of sleeping disorders like insomnia. These rates have been outlined in detail below.

  • 90% or higher = very good sleep efficiency
  • 85%-90% = normal sleep efficiency
  • < 85% = poor sleep efficiency
  • < 75% = sleeping disorders may arise

Getting to Know the Stages of the Sleep Cycle

In order to fully understand how healthy sleep occurs (and how we can obtain it), it pays to know the sleep cycle stages that we each experience as we drift off into dreamland. These sleep stages can be broken down into five distinct categories, each one characterized by factors that include heart rate, brain waves, and the movement of the eyes when the eyelids are closed.

Stage 1

Stage 1 of the sleep cycle is characterized by light sleep as you drift in and out. Your eyes move slowly, your muscle activity is slow, and you would be easy to wake if someone tried.

Stage 2

In stage 2 of the sleep cycle, your body commences the necessary preparations for deep sleep. Eye movements and brain waves start to slow down, your body temperature drops, and your heart rate slows.

Stage 3

In the third stage you have finally reached deep sleep. Extremely slow brain waves called delta waves are intermixed with smaller, faster brain waves. The movement of your eyes begins to increase as well.

Stage 4

In stage four, you stay in deep sleep and your brain almost exclusively produces slow delta waves, guiding you toward the fifth and final stage of sleep.

Stage 5

Stage 5 is referred to as the rapid eye movement stage, or REM stage for short. During REM sleep, your eyes are closed but they continue to move rapidly from side-to-side. This is due to both intense dreams and the brain activity that occurs in this stage. It is also during this stage and stage 4 that restorative sleep occurs as the body and mind heals itself after a day of being up and awake.

Now that we know how sleep efficiency rates work and what the stages of the sleep cycle are, it’s time to discuss some of the ways we can seek to improve our sleep efficiency.

Create a Healthy Sleeping Environment

Attempting to fall asleep in an unhealthy sleeping environment is a recipe for disaster. If the lights are shining, music is playing, or your phone is within reach, chances are your sleep efficiency rate will decline as you lay in bed without truly falling asleep. This is when sleep deprivation can take hold if you’re not careful, as nights lying awake in bed will stop you from getting the amount of sleep you need.

To combat these potential negative distractions, turn the lights out and ensure the room is completely dark, thus creating an environment suitable for proper sleep. Cover or remove any lights that blink, flash, or interrupt your nightly routine. From there, leave your phone in a separate room — phone screens have a tendency to produce stimulating brain waves that can keep you awake, along with sounds and tones that act as triggering mental alarms. Be sure your bed and your bedroom are spaces free from sleeping distractions so you can spend your total time sleeping in a space devoted solely to sleep.

Follow a Sleep Schedule

While our day-to-day schedules may change, it’s important to maintain the “internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and repeats roughly every 24 hours,” as noted by Sparta Science We refer to this internal process as our circadian rhythm. Try to follow this rhythm naturally by following the same sleep patterns every single night.

Practice the same healthy habits before bed that prepare your mind for sleep, such as reading a book or drinking water, and go to bed at the same time each night if possible. Try to wake up at the same time each morning as well. Following a sleep schedule can lead to increased sleep efficiency rates and an increased sense of well-being as the body grows acclimated to sleeping and waking at specific times. Though you may not know it, your body benefits greatly from this sense of routine.

Consult a Sleep Specialist

While we’d all like to fall asleep quickly and stay asleep throughout the night, some of us simply aren’t capable of doing so. Conditions that include sleep apnea, insomnia, and even narcolepsy are all common roadblocks to a healthy night’s sleep.

If you think you may have one of these conditions, seek help from a sleep specialist. For instance, those suffering from insomnia would benefit from undergoing cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, or CBTI. Others may need medication, or they may be able to solve their problem with something as simple as a new mattress.

If you find yourself repeatedly struggling to attain a healthy night’s sleep or if your sleep efficiency rates are consistently low, consider reaching out to a healthcare professional who can lend a hand.

Take a Few Extra Steps for Better Sleep

While creating a healthy sleeping environment, sticking to a sleep schedule, and even consulting a specialist are some of the most important ways we can improve sleep efficiency, there are a few extra steps we can take along the way.

For instance, consider creating a sleep diary that you contribute to each morning after waking up. Take time to log how your sleep felt throughout the night, what worked to help you fall asleep, what posed a distraction, and what you can do to ensure you either maintain or create sleep patterns that will contribute to better sleep efficiency rates in the future.

You can also use one of the many apps designed to help you log and track your sleep over days, months, or even years. In these apps you can document when you notice sleepiness during the day, how your sleep felt, and with the help of a sleep tracker, even the total time of actual sleep versus time spent awake in bed. From there you can fine-tune your habits and achieve the best possible rates of sleep efficiency.

We All Need Sleep

Sleep is one of the most underrated yet important things we can focus on to ensure we’re maintaining our personal health. By calculating our sleep efficiency and improving upon that figure if need be, we’re providing our body with the care it craves and deserves.

If your sleep efficiency rating is low, use the tactics listed above to make improvements. And if need be, don’t hesitate to reach out to a specialist for help. While each of us may sleep differently, it remains something we all need, every day.

Reading time: 3 min

It seems that each week there is new technology being released that allows individuals to access even more data related to their fitness.

From watches that track your movement based on satellite positioning, to cell phones that are able to read a person’s heart rate just by the touch of a finger, there is no piece of information that goes unturned. Finding a fitness tracker isn’t the problem, sometimes the hard part is determining what readings are beneficial are which are not. Helping to narrow in on biometrics that are conducive to your specific fitness goals can help save not only money, but the headache of figuring out the functions of your tracker. One of the more up and coming fitness tracking devices are Pulse Oximeters. This relatively new (to the fitness/health sector) fitness trackers brings up these similar types of questions: what are Pulse Oximeters, and is this something that will help increase my fitness, or bring me closer to attaining my fitness goals?


By definition, SpO2 is a measurement of the peripheral capillary oxygen saturation. Peripheral is pertaining to our bodies veins and arteries. This measurement is an estimate of the amount of oxygen in our blood expressed as a percentage of the amount of oxygenated hemoglobin to total hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the protein that carries oxygen in the blood. Most people have heard of hemoglobin in relation to the blood disorder, anemia.

Effects of Low Oxygen Saturation:

When you body’s oxygen saturation percentage dips below 95%, you will begin to experience the effects of hypoxemia. Hypoxemia means that there is a low amount of oxygen in the blood; this leads to hypoxia, or low oxygen in the tissues. These conditions can lead to a person experiencing shortness of breath, headaches, fainting, and even confusion.

How SpO2 is Measured:

Pulse Oximetry is used to measure the blood’s oxygen saturation. This technique of measurement is a non-invasive calculation of the peripheral oxygen saturation. This technique also provides a measure of the individual’s cardio-respiratory function. Pulse Oximetry used to be used in only clinical practice for patients. Now biometric tracking devices are using it with a target audience of the fitness and sports performance populations. Pulse oximeters are useful in the hospital setting, but who really benefits from them in fitness applications?

Applications of Pulse Oximetry Measurement in Fitness:

While Pulse Oximetry may not have many applications in the general fitness population, it can have useful application in sport specific situations. These types of situations include when people are working out at levels hovering below, at, or above their VO2 max. Measuring your SpO2 can be beneficial during these specific workouts to show athletes and their coaches a specific work rate an athlete can sustain before their bodies begin to require more oxygen than is being produced. When individuals are able to look back at their data after a workout, they will be able to see the trend lines of their oxygen saturation percentage dropping. When the oxygen percentage begins to show a declining trend, this means that you are working above your body’s limit.

How can this be applicable? When knowing your body’s’ limits, you can tailor workouts to increasing your body’s VO2 Max by “pushing” your own limits.

For example, a cyclist could ride multiple two minute intervals increasing their power until they hit a point when their oxygen saturation begins to drop. This application does not only apply to cyclists alone, but many different disciplines of sport across the board that require an athlete to hit high, sustainable limits for a certain length of time; runners, cross country skiing, and swimmers are a few examples.

Another application for using pulse oximetry can be in high altitude events. People who partake in high altitude climbing can use SpO2 biometrics to help track their bodies limits and oxygen levels. A climber can use this measurement to also help them moderate their effort levels during an ascent. If they saw that during a certain part of their effort, ie: increasing altitude, that the oxygen percentage is decreasing; they could determine if that specific workload was in a sustainable range. If their O2 saturation levels were decreasing this can help them to reevaluate their effort. It may mean decreasing their rate of ascension or that continuing the climb may not be in the best interest of their body’s health.

Data is constantly evolving in the fitness industry and the ability to produce marginal improvements is constantly being tested. The  fairly new market of Pulse Oximeters for gathering fitness data is just one of the many new products to be introduced. There are clinical and sport specific applications where it’s information proves beneficial. Determining if you are part of this population of individuals can help you determine if investing in the measurement of your oxygen saturation is necessary.

Did we miss anything?

If you have any questions, suggestions or topic requests, please reach out.