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Posts tagged ‘Health’

How I Optimized My Sleep With Technology

As a data geek, I’ve been quantifying my health for over a decade, measuring different aspects of my life in order to improve it.

For years, I was frustrated by the quality of my sleep. One day, I’d wake up refreshed after just 6 hours of sleep, but another I spent fatigued, even after getting the “recommended” 8 hours of shuteye. Given how important proper sleep is to brainpower, health and overall well-being, I wanted to optimize how I spent my nights.

As many struggle to get a good night’s sleep, I decided to lay down how I measured, understood and optimized mine. Here’s my guide to sleeping better with technology.


Getting started with improving sleep quality: Finding the problem

A mistake people often make when wanting to use technology to live better is rushing to buy a wearable device. Devising a way to optimize your life is up to you. A wearable can only show you data, which won’t be actionable if you don’t know what should be changed.

As each health tracker has different features, you must find the one that can solve YOUR problem. So the first step is understanding the problem itself.

I knew I wasn’t satisfied with my sleep quality, but to understand more, I started scoring my sleep every day. To learn exactly what I measured, check my free, step by step guide to hacking sleep.

Measuring sleep quality

Making a simple graph in an Excel spreadsheet made it clear that I regularly make mistakes before going to bed, as my subjective sleep quality often plummeted. But the change in quality didn’t depend greatly on time spent sleeping, or other often cited factors in sleep quality. So the scores helped me realize there are many things to improve, but without precise data about sleep quality, the best I could hope for was trial and error approach. To dig deeper into what made certain nights refreshing and others frustrating, I needed more data. It was time to look for a wearable device.

I purchased a small device, Withings Pulse, which, worn on the wrist, measures sleep quality. I chose it because it offers detailed sleep data such as how much time it took to fall asleep; how long light and deep sleep periods I had; and that is what I needed. It was also affordable with a cost of about 90 EUR.

One thing I often hear people worry about is wearing a tracker for the rest of their lives, but don’t worry! I only wore the device daily for about a month when optimizing my sleep. Nowadays I just put it on every other month or so – when I feel something’s amiss with my sleep quality.

In a week, I learnt more about my sleep than in decades before. It confirmed it doesn’t matter whether I sleep for 7 or 9 hours, as long as I have at least one long deep sleep period. Crucial information that flies in the face of common sense.

Improving sleep quality based on data

Now that I had found out how high quality sleep looks like for me with help from Withings Pulse, it was time to find out how to get more of it. The device couldn’t help me do this, so it was time for some experimentation.

I started compiling a list of things I should and should not do before going to bed. I tried each and measured its impact. If something like increased exercise or eating a certain type of food increased my time spent in REM sleep, I noted it down, then tried another. In another week, I learnt I should not exercise after 8 pm or check my phone before falling asleep. These things, among others, definitely ruin my sleep quality.

Upgrading my health with technology

I couldn’t have done it without data and experimentation. But with a simple and affordable device, my sleep quality today is not random, but consistently great and I don’t need to sleep with a device anymore. When I sleep badly for two consecutive days, I re-measure to make sure I’m still on the right track.


This free guide is only part of the story of upgrading my health with available and affordable technology. As well as improving sleep, this strategy helped me be more active, improve cognitive capacity and reduce stress. If you want to learn how health technology enables us to live a better life, check out my recent book, My Health: Upgraded.

The Future of Gaming Is Here and Will Produce Athletes

A few weeks ago I wrote about future video gamers becoming athletes.

As technology today doesn’t just get upgraded, but improves at an amazing pace; it might have some surprises for us in the coming years. What if video games assisted by virtual reality devices and whole body sensors would increase the experience of being inside a game by moving in real life? What if gamers will have to run in real to let the character in the game run faster? This area is called exergaming and it is about to boom.

Today I saw the announcement about the Omni + Vive/Lighthouse Demo and immediately thought that It’s not just coming, but it’s already here. See it yourself:

This integrated setup results in a fully decoupled first-person shooter experience with two independent pistols. Players can walk forward, backwards and sideways in 360 degrees on the Omni independently from their looking and aiming directions. Just imagine, now you can take out your targets while running backwards, looking forward, and shooting left and right at the same time! This level of freedom of movement in VR is a new milestone for us and creates the fun VR experience we always dreamed of.



What I Learnt While Wearing Body Sensors For Three Days

I use a lot of health trackers to give me data therefore I can fine tune my lifestyle to be as healthy as possible. But I need to be able to analyze data and charge them, not even mentioning Bluetooth connections. So I was glad to find Fusion Vital, a company that tries to help people like me by providing them with actionable data regarding their health.

I wore this sensor for three days without interruptions.


Here is how it works:

And here is a sample result regarding how stress, physical activity and sleep affected my days and how I could recharge my energy repositories (green means good vibes, and red means stress):


Here is the summary of one day:

Screen Shot 10-25-15 at 12.42 PM

Things I learnt:

What I learnt is that measuring simple health parameters and vital signs with devices available today is not enough in making lifestyle decisions.

I also learnt that unless you are a medical professional and a researcher, you will need a report like this to understand what’s going on.

I learnt that collecting data constantly and writing notes about what I do helped a lot in discovering new things in my lifestyle. One example is how games such as Lumosity can refresh me in minutes even during a 10 hours-long work session.

Things I missed:

The sensor is still too big (even though it was comfortable) and de-attached from my skin during running and football sessions.

The report requires a professional to go through it, therefore it’s more about personal coaching than smart algorithms.


If you wanted to get a clear picture about your lifestyle and your physical form right now, I would definitely suggest giving it a try for 3 days. You will learn things I’m sure you haven’t known about yourself. Although, I expect them to reduce the size of the sensor and to make the whole process of measuring even smoother.

The era of digital tattoos is coming and it looks quite bright.


Revolutionary Technologies To Bring A Healthier Future: Part I.

An excerpt from my new book, My Health: Upgraded:

Millions of medical studies and papers exist, making it humanly impossible for physicians to remain current without digital help. Some estimate that starting in 2020, the amount of medical data will double every 73 days. During their life an average individual will generate more than 1 million gigabytes of health–related data. Data sets that large can no longer be analyzed by people. Cognitive computers such as IBM’s Watson can analyze tens of thousands of clinical studies and patient records, and suggest–for a particular patient–possible diagnoses and therapy options from which the physican can then choose. The time saved by crunching this enormous amount of data could be spent on direct patient care.

Radiology devices will soon provide real–time and more detailed images of a patient’s internal organs. Virtual– and augmented reality devices will further improve this. Such images could help surgeons plan their operations more precisely by guiding 3D printers to produce models of a tumor or other abnormality. Such printers could also create economical prosthetics and instruments.


Patients can not receive proper medical care if they are unable to wear devices that monitor their vital signs and health parameters at home. Telemedicine services like this are vitally needed in areas that have a shortage of doctors. Without it, care cannot be delivered, patients must miss time from work, or travel to an institution far away. Biotechnology that can produce artificial organs in the lab could elimiate transplantation waiting lists forever. Virtual models could test potential new drugs in seconds instead of having to rely on lengthy and expensive clinical trials with real people as we do now.

New technologies are disruptive and revolutionary because they are less expensive, faster, and more efficient than previous ones.

The question is not whether we should use surgical robots, but how we can let underdeveloped regions access their benefits. It is not whether patients should measure their vital signs at home, but making sure that doing so doesn’t lead to wrong self–diagnosis and harmful self–treatment. It is not whether patients should be able to access their records and medical data, but how to implement and safeguard that access.

In the past we have asked whether to use a certain technology or not. Today we ask how not to overutilize them and still make them accessible to everyone. Ethical issues lie ahead of us, but so do unbelievable advantages. And yet no government, organization, or authority has been able to prepare populations for that. Nonetheless, revolutionary technologies are coming, and we must prepare.

Hundreds of research trends and thousands of real–life examples demonstrate how reality is getting closer to the science fiction depicted in movies. Supercomputers analyze medical records and draw personalized conclusions. They model how the brain works. Microrobots swim in bodily fluids and might perform small operations soon. External robots draw blood from individuals without the need for human interaction. And yet still I lose days from work when I catch a common cold.

For thousands of years physicians have been the pilots in the cockpit while the patient hadn’t even arrived at the airport not having access to their data and the measurements of their body. Now patients are settling into the cockpit due to the swarm of health trackers, but they are not welcome by their physicians. This is the status quo we need to change by putting them there together in an equal partnership. Together they can make better informed decisions.


We are at a stage in which the gap between healthcare technology’s potential and what we have in reality has become huge. The only way for human evolution to adjust to the pace of technological change is to embrace disruptive innovations. We need to do so in our jobs as well our healthcare. While robots and the algorithms behind them improve at an increasingly faster pace, we should strive as human beings to improve ourselves and utilize the mind’s utmost creativity. If we cannot make this happen, then we will lose the battle sooner than most skepticists thought.

The changes I propose are not going to happen over our shoulders. Only we, individually, can accomplish that. By upgrading our health to a level not yet seen, and improving the skills that make humans extraordinary we have a chance to retain what’s really important to us while still improving healthcare worldwide.


The 2015 Innovation By Design Awards Winners In the Health Category

Fast Company announced the Innovation by Design winners in the health category and my jaw dropped a few times. Three examples why.

Drinkable Book, a beautifully bound tome whose tear-out pages purify water. The pages are coated with silver nanoparticles that, when used to filter water, can trap a reported 99.99 percent of the bacteria found in cholera, E. coli, and typhoid. One book can provide up to four years of clean drinking water for a single person.


The OR 360 simulation center. The key features include movable walls and equipment; color coded trauma bays to help staff locate supplies; whiteboards in trauma bays that display key patient information; and an iPhone application that puts diagnostic data at the fingertips of medical teams.


Juno is a machine that processes small amounts of DNA samples easily so lab technicians can focus on analyzing data instead of navigating equipment. Samples for Juno take just 15 minutes to prep and the machine produces data in less than three hours.


Browse among the other winners here.

Testing The Scanadu Scout

I’ve been following the Scanadu Scout since their successful Kickstarter campaign. There were significant delays when they tried to ship the first devices to early backers, but finally a prototype version came out. This is what I tested. According to their website:

Scanadu Scout™ is being designed to provide you with access to valuable data which your body provides every day. Don’t let that precious information get lost; use Scanadu Scout™ to analyze, track, and trend your health data with unprecedented simplicity.


You hold it between your fingers and put it to the forehead. In a few seconds, it is supposed to give the reading of your blood pressure, pulse, blood oxygen level and body temperature.


I struggled with the signal quality. You put it to your forehead and wait for the signal quality which you can see on the smartphone app. While it’s weak, scanning takes a really long time. When it finds the good signal, it is done in seconds. I couldn’t find any correlation between how I hold the device and how good the signal quality is. It seemed to be depending on pure luck or who knows what else. I assume they will solve this by the finalized version.

The readings seem to be accurate as I re-checked them with my other health trackers.

The Scanadu Scout doesn’t deliver what it says to deliver and it is not the Star Trek Tricorder yet, but there is no doubt it will improve by time. Reading and analyzing ECG would be a nice addition and changing the traffic light signs to a more sophisticated assessment of the results would definitely be a good idea.

The more similar devices we have on the market, the better. Giving people a chance to measure important vital signs right away with a simple device is crucial in creating a health-conscious society.

The Pebble Time Smartwatch: Review

The original Pebble was the first device that I backed in a crowdfunding project and I didn’t regret doing so. Therefore becoming one of the first backers behind the Pebble Time was not a hard decision to make. And it was a good one again.

A swarm of smartwatches has flooded the market in the past 2 years. The reason why I wanted one is that my long term goal was to stop using plenty of health trackers and use one instead that could be paired with my smartphone. The Pebble Time is perfect for that.


First, it is beautifully designed, comfortable to wear, waterproof and doesn’t get damaged easily.

As a geek, I love the watchfaces with which I can change what I see on the front screen whenever I want. Right now I can watch how far away the New Horizons space probe got from Pluto.


The app database is amazing and for free.

  • I can see my progress when I use the Runkeeper app on my smartphone while running.
  • It lets me know how much time I’ve still got while giving presentations with gentle vibrations.
  • It wakes me up at the best time by being connected to the Sleep app on the smartphone.
  • E-mails, messages, weather, Twitter, stopwatch, pedometer, 7-minute workout and I could go on.

As they just came out with the round watches, it’s clear they also want to get to people who look for elegant smartwatches. I see no reason why not the Pebble would soon become the king of smartwatches if they keep on improving. The team and the products they create are always ahead of the competitors in a way that the Pebble is about being useful instead of being a luxury jewelry on my hand. Go Pebble!


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