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Archive for the category “Health”

Back Down

Over the weekend, I somehow wrecked my back. I don’t know quite what happened, but yesterday was seriously painful.

I think that I somehow did something stupid – moved in a strange way, or slept in a weird position – because I do recall being vaguely awake and feeling something ‘wrong’ in my back. But then I went back to sleep.

It was OK again in the morning, a bit sore but nothing to write home about. But then I went off for a walk (which I try to do on a regular basis, building up exercise routines and so on) and this time it was down to the local wildlife centre – about 3 miles all told, which isn’t that much. But while there I sat on one of their picnic tables to read my book. I reckon I must’ve been leaning forward over the table for a period of time.

And the return journey was painful, the muscles in my lower back definitely hurting in style. I still walked home, but it hurt a lot more than the first half had.

Over the rest of the day, it got worse, to the point I wasn’t wanting to bend down or anything. I hoped that a hot shower/soak of the muscles would help, but no. I hoped that sleep last night would ease it up, but no. Still exceptionally sore this morning.

It’s eased off a bit today, but time will tell. There’s a good portion of the day remaining, after all. We’ll see. But in the meantime, bloody hell that was sore…


As I’m now working in Cambridge, I’m seeing a lot more cyclists. And a question occurred to me…

If a cyclist has one of those flashing/strobing LED cycle-lamps at a high-flash-rate, and they ride towards a driver prone to epilepsy through strobing (which isn’t something one would normally/usually expect to encounter while driving) who is responsible for any damages etc. should that driver suffer a fit at the wheel?

I’ve seen four or five cyclists already with these super-bright LED lamps set to a *very* high strobe rate, and it just made me wonder…

Fitbit Flex – Sleepy Time

Carrying on from yesterday’s post, I’m writing a bit about how I’m doing with the Fitbit Flex, a wristband pedometer and sleep monitor. Today it’s more about the sleep monitoring that the Flex does.

As with the pedometer side, the sleep monitoring can be a useful tool, but it’s not something to rely on absolutely.

The sleep monitoring is activated manually (which is usually OK, but could be a pain in the ass on occasion) and also needs to be manually deactivated – which is more of a pig, because if you forget, it screws the figures. It would be nice to have some automatic deactivation in there, although I suspect that the variables for it are pretty wobbly.

Based – I assume – on movement during the night, the Flex can report on “Sleep”, “Disturbed Sleep” and “Awake”. “Sleep” is – again, I assume – when the sleeper is motionless, as REM sleep paralyses the body. (which is why most people don’t sleepwalk, or do anything else physical that they’re dreaming about) “Disturbed Sleep” is when the sleeper is moving about. I’ve no idea how it discerns “Awake” though – it pegs my awake-in-bed time as ‘disturbed sleep’- so I assume that “Awake” means “Registered as sleeping, but actually walking around”.   As such, the categories are a bit rough, but at least provide an illustration of sleep quality – or lack thereof.

One thing I do find affects me though is actually looking at the results. (Which is a bit meta and ‘chaos theory’, but bear with me)  It’s one thing to feel like you’ve had a bad night, but it’s another one entirely to know it with the readings from the Flex. And yes, I could ‘leave it’ til later, but damn it, I’m interested.  However, it does make me feel more tired, more justified in being tired, with that knowledge of “Oh yeah, but I had a crap night”.  Seeing the information makes me aware of that crap night, and does affect how I feel during the day.   (Similar to how reading a horoscope first thing can sometimes subconsciously direct you towards doing the things ‘predicted’)

It is interesting though. It’s proven that I usually actually get by on 3.5-4 hours sleep per night most of the time, and that it’s really only when I’m on sub-three-hours that I feel shockingly bad. I have good nights (rare), bad nights (common) and very bad nights (thankfully not quite as common as I’d thought)

I’ll keep on using the Flex for this – as I’ve said, it’s a useful indicator, if nothing else. Whether I continue to be aware of the timings or not, bearing in mind how much that knowledge affects me, remains to be seen.

Fitbit Flex – Taking Steps

It’s now been a couple of months since I got the Fitbit Flex, and it’s been pretty interesting.  I didn’t buy it to boost my fitness, or any of that other rot – I just wanted to see how much I do walk on any given day, keep track of it, and also to look at how I sleep. (which I’ve written about before)

The sleep monitoring is quite useful – although I do wonder about how it affects me subliminally. (of which more later in the week)

For the walking / pedometer, it shows I’m currently walking about 3 miles a day. Not brilliant – but equally, not at all bad. I started this year with the intention of getting out and walking more, and getting into a routine of doing so. (This actually started back in November-ish, but has been more fixed since January) I try to make sure I walk around the village (a decent mile loop) most days – although I still sometimes fail to do so when the weather is truly vile – as well as walking more when I go to the local cinema etc.

The Flex helps me keep track of that, and it’s been useful. There is a certain satisfaction when it buzzes away on my wrist, letting me know that the daily target (currently set at 5,000 steps a day, approx 2.5 miles) has been achieved. And weirdly it does get into your head – I find myself thinking “Oh, well if I park there, it’s a longer distance to get to the shop/cinema/whatever, I’ll be closer to that target” and similar.

If nothing else, it’s a useful tool for just keeping track of exercise through the days and weeks – but also as a minor kick-up-the-arse for actually getting out and walking more.


Since getting the FitBit Flex, I’ve been thinking a lot about technology, innovation, and devices.


Because actually, despite being useful, the Flex feels something like a backwards step. Despite it still doing a number of things, it’s nowhere near as advanced as it could (and should) be.

Yes, this one device – worn on a strap on the wrist – can detect/monitor motion, whether that be steps, or motion during sleep. It can communicate via Bluetooth with my phone. But really that’s about it. It’s not got GPS to show where I’ve been, it’s not got a display for showing time, heart-rate, or anything else. In essence, it’s a pretty dumb device.

How has this happened? I remember back in the late 80s and early 90s when Casio were bringing out watches galore, and they could do so much more than the Flex. Casio’s corporate history is amazing for the number of innovations and firsts. Their first databank watch was made in January 1984, their first watch with GPS was released in June 1999. Within that time they certainly made watches with thermometers, weather predictions, heartrates, and many others.

So why are we now in some ways less advanced than these watches of 20-odd years ago? Why can’t my Flex also display the time, or be able to monitor my heartrate? Casio did it 20 years ago – it just seems bizarre that we can’t get one device to do all that now.

Monitoring Sleep

Over the years, I’ve kind of got used to sleeping really badly – although I’d still like to know the causes, and whether it really is as bad as I think/feel it is.

The reason I’m not sure is because – as I think I’ve said before – according to partners, sometimes I’ll have slept through the night, but woken up and been convinced I’ve had a bad night. Yes, I apparently manage to dream that I’m waking up and having a bad night. And yes, that is really really fucked-up, however you look at it.

Anyway, as part of the whole ‘weighing less’ part of this year, I was also wanting to monitor (or at least better monitor) my activity, steps-per-day and the like. So I’ve ended up ordering a FitBit Flex which should let me keep an eye on all of that at once.  It’ll also integrate with a couple of other apps on the phone etc., which will make for some interesting reading over time.  The only downside is that I’d have liked one that also allows me to check/monitor heart-rate (and really, why can’t you get a wearable wristband device that’ll do that? It can’t be that difficult, surely?) but there just isn’t anything like that around at the moment.   The closest would be the Pulse from Withings – but that doesn’t do the integration stuff, and doesn’t keep track of heartbeat in the way that I wanted.

I’m not relying on it, or assuming it’ll be the thing that changes everything for me – but it should at least answer some questions, particularly about how I sleep. And that at least will be interesting, and make it worth what I’ve paid. Anything else is a bonus, really.


I snore – always have, likely always will. I hate it, but it’s one of those things. Maybe it’ll change as and when I lose some weight, but honestly, I’m not convinced.

Anyway, over the years I’ve always had firm pillows on the bed, and tend to sleep with my neck crunched as high as possible. Some of it’s to do with reducing snoring (i.e. rather than sleeping laying on my back etc.) but also it’s just how I’m now comfortable. Basically, the higher and more solid the pillows, the better.

When I moved into the new house, I got some new pillows, and went for the hefty memory-foam ones. I thought they’d be great. Oh wow, was I wrong. While it was OK when going to bed, the memory foam would mould itself into the strangest shapes, and be generally really unpleasant by halfway through the night, which would mean I woke up and had to move the pillows, change them round, or just generally do something to them. I assume my head gets hot in the night, meaning the foam moves and loses support, or something. Anyway, vile.

I’ve stuck with them for a fair while – probably for too long, if I’m honest – but they haven’t improved, and I never got used to them. But Lord knows, I’ve tried.

After Christmas, I finally gave in and bought some new ones – at long last. Overfilled, firm, but not memory foam. Wow, what a difference. I mean, I still wake up during the night and so on – insomnia is business as usual – but at least I’m not fighting weird and solidly squelchy pillows. This makes me happy.

(And yes, I know, this is likely to be of no interest to anyone else. I don’t care)


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