For the past few years, smartwatches and fitness bands have been at the forefront of wearable trackers, but lately, biohackers and data-collecting health fiends have added a new piece of jewelry to their collection: smart rings. There are currently several health-tracking smart rings on the market. Go2Sleep focuses only on monitoring sleep patterns, while Motiv focuses on fitness tracking. The Oura ring is the only trackable ring that does it all. Health professionals are reveling over the Oura ring, a one-stop-shop for tracking your sleep patterns, daily activity levels, heart rate variability, and more.
Oura’s website calls the ring the “perfect fit beyond your finger,” due to its ability to hack your biology and provide you with data and insights that can have an impact on your health. Professional athletes like Pekka Rinne to celebrities like Prince Harry are taking advantage of the vast knowledge this ring has to offer about their biology. Health experts are also using the ring as a learning tool— especially to determine sleep quality. Read on to discover how the Oura ring works and how six health experts have used this small circular band to improve their sleep quality big time.
Oura Ring In A Nutshell
Simply put, the Oura ring tracks your activity levels during the day and your sleep at night. Think of it as a Fitbit for your finger that is constantly collecting accurate sleep and body data. This small waterproof ring is equipped with an optical sensor, 3D accelerometer, NTC body temperature sensor, and infrared LEDs (which measure blood volume pulse). It even has the ability to disable Bluetooth and still track all of the same data in “airplane” mode.
The Oura ring, which was developed in Finland, is also connected to an app that provides you with loads of data regarding how well you sleep and recharge, your sleep trends, physical activity, and more. The Oura app then consolidates all of this data into scores that you can use to evaluate your daily habits.
Oura Ring Review: Measurements — Readiness & Activity
The Oura ring app is full of metrics and advanced analyses that it conveniently compiles into “scores.” The ring’s advanced sensors work hard to record your body’s resting heart rate, heart rate variability, body temperature, respiratory rate, and recovery optimization. Some of these measurements are then used to calculate a Readiness Score (0-100 percent). How could the readiness score help improve your life? Well, it will help you perform at your best. The score uses signals of your autonomic nervous system, like resting heart rate, to help you figure out how well you’re balancing physical activity and rest — or how “ready” you are for the day. For instance, a high readiness score, like 85 to 100, lets you know you can push yourself, 75 to 85 means a more moderate day of physical activity, and 75 or less alerts you to reduce stressors or take it easy. Not paying attention to your score could result in overdoing it at the gym, which can negatively impact your sleep. This specificity is difficult to find, but the Oura ring and the readiness score makes it easy. It is personalized to your unique body reactions and is a reliable way to help you learn about your biology and prepare for your day.
The score consists of:
- Previous night’s sleep score
- Previous day’s activity
- Sleep balance
- Activity/rest balance
- Body temperature
- Resting heart rate
- Recovery index
This article won’t dive into these components but there are a couple of unique measures worth mentioning.
One measurement included in your readiness score is your body temperature. When you sleep with the ring, it quietly records your skin temperature every minute and automatically detects the time when your skin temperature corresponds to your body temperature. Changes in temperature at night can indicate things like sickness, sleep quality, and ovulation or fertility time points (though the precision of this is still in question — accurate fertility tracking requires temperature tracked along with other factors such as cervical mucus). All these insights can help you adjust your physical daily habits for optimal health. For instance, you could improve your sleep quality by simply decreasing your room’s temperature one or two degrees. A 2012 review of data on sleep and temperature found that heat and humidity increase wakefulness and decrease REM sleep, while other studies show that sleeping in cooler temperatures will result in a better sleep quality.
Although it isn’t included in your readiness score, the ring measures your heart rate variability (HRV), or the variation in the small time gap between your heartbeats. HRV is an effective indicator of your overall health and shows how your body recovers from fatigue, exercise, and stress. HRV is normally difficult to measure (it’s usually done using an electrocardiogram or an at-home heart strap), but the ring tracks it from your finger, giving you a comfortable way to get accurate long-term data (you can dive into the specifics here). Research indicates that HRV is associated with sleep efficiency or the ratio between total time in bed and total time actually asleep, and sleep quality. For example, one study suggests that a higher daytime HRV is associated with better subjective and objective sleep quality and that daytime parasympathetic (rest) HRV is associated with sleep arousal or sudden changes in brain wave activity that indicate a shift from one sleep stage to another.
In addition to your readiness score, the ring provides you with your sleep score and your activity score, all of which can be found in the Oura Cloud. Your activity score is fairly basic. It provides data on your movements per hour, training frequency, recovery time, etc. But since the focus of this article is sleep, let’s talk sleep score.
Oura Ring Review: Sleep
Your sleep score reveals important insights regarding your quality of sleep. The following factors determine your sleep score:
- Total amount of sleep
- Sleep efficiency (percentage of time you spend sleeping while in bed)
- Sleep disturbances (the amount of time you spend awake)
- Total amount of REM sleep, deep sleep, and light sleep
- Sleep latency (how long it takes to fall asleep)
- Sleep timing (consistency in your circadian rhythm)
Two sleep score factors to study closely are your total amount of deep sleep and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Why? Because these are the most restorative sleep stages. Deep sleep, or “slow wave” sleep, is the stage of sleep marked with extremely slow brain waves, no eye or muscle activity, and low heart and respiratory rates. This stage helps our bodies perform restorative functions like protein synthesis, muscle growth, and tissue repairs. Meanwhile, REM sleep (when you dream) is linked to memory consolidation, learning, and emotional processing. Loss of these sleep stages can leave you feeling exhausted and can even result in health issues like elevated cortisol levels and other hormone alterations.
You can use your sleep score, activity score, readiness score, and other Oura ring data to understand what’s really going on while you sleep and how it affects your well-being. See what these six health professionals have to say about how Oura ring has improved their sleep.
6 Health Professionals Who Use Oura Ring
1. James Maskell
Like many other health professionals, James Maskell — CEO of Knew Health and founder of Evolution of Medicine —started using the ring to uncover better data on his sleep and activity. Maskell wanted to “see how valuable a tool Oura could be working in functional medicine doctors’ offices,” since sleep and lack of exercise are two of the biggest drivers of chronic disease.
Maskell says that though he was getting enough sleep, Oura helped him realize that his sleep quality was dismal. This was a great indicator for me as we have a tendency to measure sleep without that key data. With this information on board, I cleaned up my sleep hygiene (e.g. stopped looking at my phone before bed), and my [sleep] score went up.
Research confirms just how impactful small changes in lifestyle habits can be for sleep hygiene. For example, a recent study found that as smartphone use before sleep increases, sleep quality, and duration decrease. The blue light emitted by cell phones and other screens prevent the production of melatonin, the hormone that influences your circadian rhythm. A decrease in melatonin makes it difficult to fall asleep.
In comparison to other health tracking devices, Maskell prefers Oura. “The charge on the Oura ring lasts [at least] four days, making it much easier for me to use than other wearables,” he said. “It also looks cool and is unobtrusive.”
2. Ben Greenfield
Ben Greenfield is a fitness author, personal trainer, and founder and CEO of Kion. He’s been using Oura for more than two years. In an interview with Oura, Greenfield explained that he tracks his sleep, activity, and readiness stats to “know what’s working and what isn’t” in regard to his diet, supplement choices, and workout routine. For example, he said that if he takes NyQuil before bed, he will sleep through the night. However, his sleep score takes a hit, because “taking an antihistamine before bed completely destroys” his deep sleep levels. Research backs up how harmful antihistamines can be for reaching deep sleep and illustrates that they also have the potential to deprive people of REM sleep.
Greenfield also uses the Oura ring to track his respiratory rate and resting heart rate. He told Oura:
What I’ve found is that when I pay attention to deep breathing patterns and deep belly breathing during the day rather than shallow chest breathing, I can see direct correlation between a drop in my respiratory rate, when I’m looking at the trends on Oura, and a drop in my heart rate accompanied by an increase in my heart rate variability and an increase in my sleep efficiency.
Again, Greenfield’s observations are backed by science. Research shows that breathing more deeply can lower your resting pulse rate, and that the regular practice of diaphragmatic breathing can improve your heart rate variability. And more generally, deep belly breathing alleviates stress, and when stress lowers, sleep efficiency improves.
Although Greenfield has used the data to positively influence his health, he does not recommend dwelling on it for too long each day. He told Oura that he would rather “glance quickly” at his data and get the most he can in a short period of time than “spend 15 minutes, say, pouring over my dashboard.”
3. Dave Asprey
Entrepreneur, businessman, New York Times bestselling author, and founder of Bulletproof Nutrition, Dave Asprey has been carefully tracking his sleep for more than a decade.
“For me, the pain point has been wearing an ugly headband that my wife didn’t really like, or a chest strap, or a wristband that didn’t get great data,” he said in an episode of his Bulletproof Radio podcast.
However, he explained that the Oura ring gives you a new level of convenience. People probably aren’t going to go out and get an expensive chest strap or headband unless they’re actively trying to evaluate their sleep, “whereas getting a signal every single day that is nearly invisible and effortless becomes much, much more valuable,” he said.
Asprey expressed that seeing his sleep data in the Oura app can really help him assess his sleep. He has used it to experiment and make small lifestyle changes like eliminating light while he sleeps. “It turns out, I noticed massive changes on my score and sleep. If I had a few LEDs on or the curtains cracked, I didn’t sleep as well even though I still slept the same amount,” he said. Many studies have found that exposure to light late at night can impact your sleep quality and lead to health problems like heart disease and diabetes. A recent study even found that a single night of light exposure during sleep “acutely impacts measures of insulin resistance.”
Asprey also revealed that he began using the device because it can track your sleep while in “airplane” mode, as previously mentioned. “To be honest, I don’t want a radio transmitter turned on my body 24 hours a day. I don’t think that’s good for my live-to-180 (at least) goal. And maybe I’m wrong, but I bet not,” he said. The dangers of Bluetooth radiation need further study, but you can read more about it here.
4. Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, “The Paleo Mom”
Dr. Sarah Ballantyne is a New York Times bestselling author, podcast host, and creator of the award-winning blog ThePaleoMom. She has been using Oura for well over a year. “Beyond being the absolute best biotracker on the market, I qualify it as a necessity for my health,” she wrote on her Facebook page. “It helps me achieve balance between stress, training and recovery so that I don’t burn out, and I’ve come to trust it more than I trust my own qualitative assessments of how I feel.”
Ballantyne looks at her specific sleep stages and temperature to assess her recovery and restore balance. “I know every single morning how much deep restorative sleep I got versus REM versus light,” she wrote.
This can help Ballantyne decide if she should have a heavier physical day or if she should rest more. She also mentions that she uses the ring’s HRV metric to determine if she’s “rested enough to workout.” Several studies highlight HRV as a tool for adapting participants’ cardiovascular training. For example, a 2013 study used HRV measurements to conclude that recreational endurance runners with a high HRV baseline improved their performance after intensive training periods in comparison to basic training.
“I can’t stress this enough: all signs point to balance being an absolute necessity for health. So, it is worth our time to keep track of whether we’re in balance as much as we can.”
5. Alex Fergus
Health coach and fitness expert Alex Fergus purchased the Oura ring for its accurate sleep tracking reputation, and he has been wearing it for nearly two years. Fergus has spent countless hours studying sleep and has “fine-tuned” his sleeping habits as a result. His self-analysis aligns with the information he sees in his Oura app each morning.
“I’ve used various sleep trackers, including Fitbit, Jawbone, and Beddit, and I couldn’t say the same thing about these devices (i.e. you wake up from an amazing sleep and the data on these devices says otherwise or vice versa),” he wrote on his blog.
The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health conducted a validation study comparing the Oura ring to the gold standard in the sleep evaluation community, a polysomnography (PSG). The results of their Oura Ring review highlighted the ring’s accuracy. Specifically, researchers found that the Oura was “usable for sleep analysis in the home environment without the need for user actions to initiate sleep measurements.”
Fergus uses the ring’s data to examine his quality of sleep. “I like looking at my deep sleep score to see my overall quality. Though I must admit, the Oura ring’s overall sleep score does a really good job of giving you a good overview,” Fergus says. He also uses the data to experiment with his pre-bed routines, diet, supplement choices and to discover how his choices impact his sleep. “Caffeine is a big one for me, and alcohol also disrupts my sleep a lot. A big meal close to bed has another big impact, [or] if I wear my blue blocker glasses, then my sleep latency is a lot better,” he says.
Studies show that making simple changes like eating less sugar throughout the day, avoiding caffeine in the afternoon, and not drinking alcohol later in the night promote more restorative sleep and less awakenings throughout the night. Research also shows that introducing the blue-light blocking glasses Fergus mentions to your bedtime routine can improve your sleep readiness, sleep quality, and sleep efficiency.
Although the Oura ring’s data helps improve his sleep quality, Fergus would like to see more personalized insights. “Imagine going into the trends screen in Oura Cloud and being able to overlay nights you [drank] alcohol with your sleep score. You would be able to get some amazing insights from such data,” he wrote.
6. Patricia Daly
Nutritional therapist, author, and keto expert Patricia Daly has been using the Oura ring to evaluate her sleep health for more than a year. She sums up her Oura Ring review like this: “It keeps me on my toes”. Daily explained on her site that after talking with several colleagues, she concluded sleep was her weakest point (she is a busy mom of two after all). “I often see when my general health goes ‘downhill’ mainly by looking at deep sleep, HRV, and resting heart rate,” she says.
The deep sleep, HRV, and resting heart rate Daly mentions are important for optimal sleep health. As previously mentioned, deep sleep is essential if you want to achieve restorative sleep. During this stage, your body releases growth hormones that aid in cell repair and your immune system strengthens and renews itself. HRV is also important for your recovery, because it is a significant indicator of stress. Tracking your changes in HRV can help you decide when to scale back your physical activity, or eliminate stressors in your life, and in turn, get a better night’s sleep. And your nightly heart rate, presented in a “heart rate curve” in the Oura app, can reveal the effects of things like late meals, alcohol, and circadian misalignment. For example, if you noticed your heart rate started high and reached its lowest point right before you woke up (a downward slope), your metabolism was likely working too hard.
But if you noticed a hammock-shaped curve, your body relaxed during the night and you woke up feeling rested. In other words, your heart rate dropped during your first sleep cycles, it reached its lowest point in the middle of your sleep, and it began to rise to wake you up.
Daly uses the Oura ring measurements to obtain a “welcome sense of control” and to learn how her sleep patterns are influenced by what’s going on in her life (e.g. her deep sleep seems to be negatively affected by stress, Epsom salt baths before bed, and what and when she eats late at night). “This, of course, will vary from person to person, but I think once everyone has found their ‘weak spots,’ it’s such a good tool to use to keep on track,” she says.
Is The Oura Ring A Good Fit?
These six health professionals have used Oura ring to improve their sleep quality, sleep hygiene, stress and recovery levels, and overall health. You may want to consider the Oura Ring if:
- You’re interested in accurately tracking activity and sleep
- You’re looking to use data to make informed decisions about your health
- You want a device that can perform without using Bluetooth
- You want something small and comfortable with a long battery life (about a week)
In addition, if you love interpreting data, then this ring is worth checking out. The new ring’s base model starts at $299, but you can upgrade the design for $399 or even splurge for the $999 ultra premium diamond ring. Purchase and learn more about how the Oura ring works here.
Listen to Maryam Henein speak about the Oura Ring.
Meredith Minor is a freelance writer, dance teacher, avid reader and wife from Nashville, TN.
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