One Ring to Rule Them All

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I thought I was a decent sleeper for a long time. I could drop off pretty quickly 99% of the time. But I didn’t always wake up rested. Why? Who knows. Luckily for me, Dr. Aaron Wenzel of Brentwood MD drew my attention to the Oura Ring. Enter data. Enter optimization. 

First of all, this is totally unsponsored. But if Oura Ring knocks on my door and offers me money, I’m going to take it. Honestly, the organic spread of the Oura Ring has been super crazy in my social circles. I’m in the Entrepreneur’s Organization and after Aaron told our forum about his usage of the ring, almost every member decided to get one.

I went with my husband to Bend, OR where he was working on the Bend Film Festival. There, I managed to talk one of my buddies into getting one. Now we’re in a “circle” and encouraging each other every couple of days. 

My husband got one probably within a week of my initial purchase. 

My workout buddy just got hers today. 

Just about everyone I encounter, including strangers in the sauna, asks me about it. And I pretty much always tell them it’s awesome and I love it. 

It’s not perfect. Just ask Reddit. And there are plenty of little idiosyncrasies to navigate and be annoyed by. But by and large, it’s opened my eyes to all kinds of factors that I can tweak to achieve better, more restful sleep. And ultimately recovery.

Here are a few key things I love about my Oura Ring 

I have learned about the concept of HRV, heart rate variability. This is not something I was aware of previously and it explains a lot about why I wake up tired sometimes. 

Essentially, your automatic nervous system has 2 modes. Parasympathetic and sympathetic. Parasympathetic deals with things like digestion and breathing. When you’re in this relaxed mode, your variability is high because your body is just doing whatever it needs to do to accomplish whatever task it’s working on. When you’re stuck in sympathetic mode, it basically means you’re under duress. This mode is all about fight or flight and you’ll see variability much tighter – much more under control, in a bad way. Which leads me to my next point. 

This daytime stress thing is pretty useful. You can’t always do something about the stress you experience throughout the day, but you can almost always do something to wind down or explicitly take time to try to relax and recover when you see things going haywire. I’ve pulled back a handful of semi-stressful days to “normal” levels. It’s one of those things where if you’re aware, you automatically try to normalize. It’s not always easy to be aware by yourself. 

I can snoop on my husband’s numbers. Best thing ever. My husband is a notorious sleep complainer. He insists that he rarely gets more than a few hours of sleep a night. Now, I can see his sleep score and so can he. I think the awareness this brings kind of helps us both mentally. If you know you did okay, you stop wasting time thinking about what a sucky day you’re about to have.

Since getting the ring a few months ago, they’ve added a number of new features. Daytime stress, for example, is a totally new element. It definitely gives you hope that the things you don’t like may change and that you’ll likely get more valuable info in the future. 

Lots of data! There are a lot of other markers that I’m watching, but they primarily boil down to whether or not you’re appropriately recovering during your sleep. Factors to watch include things like: 

  • Resting heart rate
  • At what point in the night you hit your lowest heart rate
  • Deep sleep %
  • REM sleep %
  • Sleep efficiency (basically time asleep / time in bed)

I love it. Optimizing things is part of my chemical makeup. Having this data gives me immediate insight and the ability to see how lifestyle and behavior changes can affect (and improve) my sleep.

Here are a couple annoying things that I can live with

Automatic capture of exercise is pretty much always wrong. The silver lining is it’s tracking your heart rate so it’s fairly easy to add accurate exercise after the fact. 

There’s no way to track sauna time. I really want to do this. Sometimes the ring thinks I’m still working out once I’m in the sauna. This is one of the key benefits of the sauna for me – extending the effect of exercise. I would love to be able to put that in. Depending on the sauna, you can also burn a ton of calories! As someone who goes to the sauna pretty much every day, this would be nice. 

It’s so hard to use when you’re doing pull ups. I scratched it up pretty badly doing pull ups, and it kind of hurts. Usually I get it off before I do that kind of thing, but sometimes when I’m working out my fingers are pretty swollen and getting it on and off can be a challenge. 

It has never once accurately tracked a walk. While it shows you a map of where you’ve been, mine always starts like 5 or 10 minutes into my walk and there’s no way to adjust it!

Here are some things I kind of question

I think the ring just decides what your chronotype is based on your behavior. I could be wrong, but that’s what I think. It’s telling me to go to bed at 8:15. I only do that because I have no social life and I don’t watch TV anymore

Activity goals seem kind of bogus. Sometimes it’ll tell me I did really bad with sleep and I have a low readiness score. It may even tell me that I should take it easy, but somehow I am still supposed to burn baseline calories (which pretty much requires a workout or purposeful activity). Just not sure how all this works together. This is definitely something I’ve seen others complain about on Reddit.

I’m just not sure how accurate it is. But that said, I have spot checked some things and gotten really similar numbers. For example, oxygen saturation. According to the New York Times, HRV is over 98% accurate. So at least some of these numbers seem very solid. Regardless of objective accuracy, the relative intel I get is worth it to me. 

Buy one though. It’s awesome. Here’s what I did. 

Listen, these ring sizes aren’t normal. You definitely need the sizing kit. I initially tried to get the kit from Oura, but there’s something wrong with their website. You can get the kit at BestBuy for $10 and they give you a $10 BB gift card [UPDATE: now on Amazon as well]. I’d recommend the kit, because then you can wear the fake ring for 24 hours. Your fingers swell during the day and it’s useful to see how the ring fits for that full cycle. 

I bought the ring without the sizing kit. I went to BestBuy and just stuck my finger in their little sizer and it turned out fine. My film fest buddy bought it that way and it was fine. My husband and my workout buddy used the sizing kit. 

Once someone you know has the ring, they can give you $40 off (but they only get to share the discount with 5 people). You can also find a list of other apps where you can get $40 off if you pay for that app. You need to buy through Oura or through the related app to get those discounts.

If you’re using BestBuy to buy the ring, you can’t use those discounts, but you can use your $10 gift card and Rakuten (this link is affiliate, so hopefully you’ll use it and get me my $30)!