News & Views

At Work and At Leisure, Part III: Health and Wellbeing

15 July 2020

This time, in Hannes Snellman’s summer series “At Work and At Leisure”, Tech & Innovation Coordinator Maria tells you about her hobby – tracking her health data with the assistance of the Oura ring and a couple of other apps too.

You are tech-savvy by nature. Where did your enthusiasm for tech come from?

Now that you ask, I realise that, in a way, I have been raised to that mentality. My father worked with patents at Nokia and was a part-time inventor and he had several patents under his name. My childhood home was full of rigs and gadgets for the purpose of making life easier – and some of them actually worked! And even if the solar panel could only warm our sauna up to 47 degrees Celsius, at least our cat was still very pleased about it.

My mother was a main frame administrator at a bank, and we used to write our shopping lists down on throwaway Hollerith cards. She explained to me the logic behind basic programming and if-then thinking quite early on. I think all this may be the reason why it comes very naturally to me to turn to technology when looking for a solution to something and why I feel very comfortable around information systems.

How did you get to know about the Oura ring?

I saw their presentation in a Hel Tech event in 2018. I have occasionally had trouble sleeping, and I was drawn by the possibility to measure not just the quantity but also the quality of your own sleep and to investigate what kind of factors affect them. Around the same time, I happened to read a couple of articles about treating menopause symptoms, and I was a bit aghast at the amount of guesswork there seems to be involved. Being a middle-aged woman, I figured that I had better start collecting data about my own health to know what exactly is going on, to have a baseline, and to thereby be in a better position to notice and analyse any oncoming changes. For example, I remember how deflated I would feel when I was sleep-deprived and if that happened again, I could ask a doctor to prescribe a day-off rather than antidepressants.

I believe that the more data I have, the easier it will be to make rational decisions. In addition to Oura, I also use a couple of other apps to track my health data.

What kind of data can you collect with the Oura ring?

Oura tracks resting heart rate, heart rate variability, body temperature, respiratory rate, and movement. You can synch the ring with a mobile app that calculates your recovery rate, shows how active you have been and how you have slept. It tells you how effective you are at sleeping, meaning how big a percentage of your time in bed you actually sleep, it shows the curve of your pulse during the night and tells you how much of the total sleep has been deep, light, and REM sleep. You can also see the statistics for the past week, month, or year to track your progress.

What have you learned about yourself or your habits since you have been using the Oura ring?

I suppose that the biggest discovery was that I was not getting enough sleep. If I sleep seven hours, typically around three hours of that is deep sleep, and I could feel quite rested in the morning. However, it is only when I sleep closer to eight hours that the amount of REM sleep increases. Having learned that, I am now consciously aiming for eight hours of sleep every night, and whenever I manage that, I am in a much better mood and everything in life just seems easier.

Another observation is that a hard workout in the evening disrupts my sleep. So, no matter how much I hate it it is much better for me to exercise in the morning before work.

And it has become very clear that alcohol is a poison that effects your system even in small amounts. Seeing clear evidence of that has made me switch to non-alcoholic beer after sauna and think twice about that glass of wine at dinner.

Making a change is really all about making small choices every day.

Are there any other innovations or technologies that you would like to test out?

I think that my next present to myself will be a sports watch and/or a heart rate monitor for collecting data on my workout routines. It would also be interesting to be able to measure stress levels during the workday and to see how much for example meditation sessions would reduce them.

Photo: Tiina Tuohi

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