Unboxing an Oura Ring is like Christmas. You put it on, play around with the app, and praise the great battery life. Now what?
The promise of wearables is to see how lifestyle changes impact your biometrics.
The Oura Ring doesn't exactly come with instructions to do so. I wrote a complete hands-on review of the Oura Ring, outlining the things I wish I knew before I bought it.
So how do you take scores, biomarkers, bars, and trends and make use of them?
You're not alone. It is a question that I and countless other Oura users began wondering after the novelty of the new gadget wore off. Here are my tips on using the Oura Ring like a pro.
Tips to Effectively Use the Oura Ring
Before you order your ring: thoroughly test different sizes. Had I spent more time with the sizing kit, I would have chosen a smaller ring. For the most accurate data, you want the ring to fit snug but not painfully tight.
Some other things to know:
1. Give Scores Some Time
My Oura came charged and I eagerly jammed it on my finger. I awaited some massive transformation. My hope diminished. The ring's algorithms need data to work. Lots of it.
Expect the Oura Ring to take two full weeks to establish your baseline. It runs calculations on the previous days of data. Your baseline only starts once you begin wearing it. Those two weeks go by slow.
2. Make Good Use of Oura Data
Professional athletes quickly adopt promising new technologies. In fact, the NBA recently purchased 2,000 Oura Rings just for reliable recovery metrics.
I only recently discovered a powerful tool used by athletes to extract more from their Oura data.
The third-party app is called HRV4Training. In 2019 they released software that lets you use your Oura data in other ways.
If you want more thorough and actionable insight, check out HRV4Training.
3. On-Demand Measurements Chew Through Battery
The Oura Ring can last between four to seven days on one charge. A wide variation. Your battery life depends on how heavily you use the sensors. Why?
Oura's secret to incredible battery life lies in the lack of screen and optimized data collection intervals. The device automatically tracks biomarkers at precise times. Using the “moment” feature force activates all the sensors, capturing more data at the expense of battery life.
4. Asleep Shorter Than Expected
I always thought that I sleep for around eight hours per night.
Oura showed me otherwise.
Lying in bed, awake, isn't the same thing as sleeping. Throughout a night, I actually “slept” about 45 minutes to an hour less than I realized. So my 7.5 hours sometimes turned into 6.5 hours.
From Dr. Matthew Walker's research, we know that 6.5 hours is inadequate.
5. Trends > Day
Day to day score variation is normal. Sometimes scores won't match how you feel. The algorithm is decent but gets things wrong.
While useful to check the day's insights, the true power of the Oura is its ability to show trends. Daily activity scores in the 80s would be good if last month I averaged 70s. Or concerning if I averaged 95s.
You can use the “Trends” tab not just for activity, but most of the metrics. I check my HRV trend to check for overtraining and adjust my fitness plans accordingly.
One trend I discovered, is how travel affects me.
Specifically long days sitting around, and one or more plane flights.
When I fly, my otherwise steady body temperature fluctuates between one and two degrees. Sometimes for two to three days.
I feel better and bounce back quicker when I swim in the ocean on the same day or ground for a while.
7. Gym Scratches Ring
Oura and fitness don't go well together. If your workout involves your hands, take the ring off. It's not made to withstand the friction and pressure from barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, and heavy-duty gym equipment.
Mine hasn't broken. Sometimes I forget to remove the ring before exercising and pay the price. Minutes ago, I lightly scratched it against a door knob.
8. Planning Accordingly
Oura sometimes tells you things that you don't want to hear.
The other night I got two minutes of REM sleep. Not a chance, Oura. But the algorithm gets a lot right.
I trust Oura's readiness metrics:
- Respiratory rate
- Body temperature
- Resting heart rate
- Body temperature
- Resting heart rate
For sleep and activity, I listen to my body.
On days with low readiness, I scale back my training and don't push for new personal records. By dynamically changing workout plans, I prevent injury and progress faster.
9. The Real Value of The Oura Ring
Biomarkers are cool and flashy. I find them useful and take them into account when I'm planning my day. But that's not what I like most about the Oura.
There's no cheating, “days that don't count”, or pulling the wool over someone else's eyes. Just one cookie doesn't work on an algorithm.
When making a bad decision, I often catch myself in the act. I wonder, how will this look tomorrow on your dashboard? Ultimately, the Oura is like having an accountability coach scrutinizing your every decision.
Tips to Improve Your Oura Sleep Score
10. Overall Sleep Hack: Regular Sleep & Wake Times
Called “Timing” in the app, Oura scores the consistency of your sleep schedule."An Hour of Sleep Before Midnight is Worth Two After" — Ayurvedic Principle Click To Tweet
Your Timing score depends on how closely your sleep pattern follows the sunrise and sunset. I find that I get both more Deep and REM sleep when I'm in bed by 10 PM.
11. Deep Sleep Hack: Cold Showers Before Bed
I discovered this hack by accident. And now reproduce it whenever I can.
One day I lost track of the time and didn't exercise until night. In my late-night shower, the hot water randomly went out. Completely out. Determined to finish what I started, I stuck through it.
As I wrote previously, cold showers give a quick burst of energy. 15 minutes later though, the sleep pressure overcame the surge. A wall of fatigue hit me. I fell asleep easily. Not only did I ace the sleep latency score, but my deep sleep went through the roof.
Nevermind that I didn't sleep enough total time (I'm working on it), but 48 percent of that was in the deep restorative stages. And I regularly reproduce this.
12. Deep Sleep Hack: Glycine
Do you have a pre-bed snack? Common sleep snacks include:
- Raw honey
- Healthy fats
Collagen works because it's very high in the amino acid glycine. Glycine reduces blood sugar and induces sleep. Glycine is key in Dr. Mercola's sleep promoting autophagy tea recipe.
Glycine improves deep sleep, but less significantly than cold showers for me. This particular amino acid also helps me stay asleep longer (something I need).
13. Deep Sleep Hack: Exogenous Ketones
I only recently discovered that ketone esters, ketone salts, and MCT oil can drastically improve deep sleep. You'll find hundreds of glowing reviews on the impact of just a tiny dose taken before bed.
Check out the KetoneAid Instagram, for testimonials on how the world's most potent ketone product, called KetoneAid KE4 consistently can increase deep sleep scores by over 30 percent (as measured by the Oura Ring, Whoop, or Biostrap).
Exogenous ketones also seem to improve HRV and overall measures of recovery.
This is one area I'm playing with as ketones have a profound ability to protect and upgrade how the brain works. Check out my post on the top ketone supplements to learn why folks ranging from hard-charging CEOs to elite professional athletes have started using these products.
14. REM Sleep Hack: Sleep Longer
REM sleep gets glossed over. Online discussions always talk about deep sleep optimization, but REM is when the brain does its informational alchemy.
If you care about learning, memory, and brain function REM matters.
Generally, Deep sleep occurs in the first half of the night, and REM sleep after that. So by sleeping less, you miss most REM.
Sleeping longer is possibly the simplest and most effective REM sleep hack (I feel weird even calling it a ‘hack'). Simple, but not easy to do.
15. Sleep Quality Hack: Exercise Timing
Athletes take note. Late night sessions might be killing your sleep.
First of all, my exercise routine consists of weight lifting, bodyweight training, daily kettlebell movements, sprinting, endurance activities, yoga, and tons of walking. I sprinkle in fitness hacks like slow strength training and blood flow restriction.
When I exercise impacts sleep quality:
- 3+ hours before bed improves my recovery and sleep biometrics (especially deep sleep).
- <3 hours hurts my recovery
My body naturally prioritizes deep sleep. At the expense of REM. Shifting my workouts earlier in the day improves overall sleep quality and balance between the two.
16. Sleep Quality Hack: Zero Alcohol
Alcohol and sleep don't mix. But I thought that I could get away with a few drinks.
I tested the range of alcohol consumption. From one drink up to nine… for science, of course.
A glass or two of wine with dinner briefly wakes me at 3 AM every time. Not for long, but enough to register in my data. I now realize that I'm sensitive to alcohol at low-doses.
Three drinks destroys all markers of sleep quality:
- Increases “junk” Light sleep
- Slightly decreases Deep sleep
- Kills REM
- Fragments sleep with many wake-ups throughout the night (although I don't recall them)
Recovery biomarkers don't respond well to alcohol either:
- Resting heart rate increases
- Respiratory rate increases
- HRV declines slightly
Putting at least 90 minutes between my last drink and sleep seems to help.
17. Sleep Quality Hack: Diet & Food Quality
I've tried a few different diets. Keto, carnivore, vegetarian (briefly), and carb backloading.
I stuck with keto for months on end, well beyond the impressive honeymoon results characteristic of any dietary change. Only eating keto did I see noticeable sleep score improvements.
My HRV increased by an average of 10 points. Resting heart rate dropped by three beats per minute.
Conversely, eating processed junk food at night correlates with a respiratory rate increase of 20 percent. HRV drops and resting heart rate increases.
18. Sleep Quality Hack: Time-Restricted Eating
When I eat sometimes matters.
On occasion when I eat close to bed I've seen normal sleep and recovery.
But most times I barely recognize my own biometrics. They look like another persons.
The later and heavier my dinner, the worse my sleep. Ayurveda's huge lunch and small dinner prescription agree with my biology.
My Top Tips on Using the Oura Ring
The ring may come with an instruction manual, but I haven't found much guidance on putting it to good use.
People initially choose the Oura Ring for sleep, but I've found the recovery biomarkers more useful and reliable:
- Heart rate variability (HRV)
- Resting heart rate
- Respiratory rate
- Body temperature
Want to make use of your Oura data?
Control as many variables as possible, and see how you respond to different:
- Training protocols
- Meal timing
- Natural and artificial light
- EMF exposure
- Pre-bed showers
Check on your trends occasionally, and you'll discover patterns that you otherwise wouldn't.
What's been your largest Oura “aha” moment?