My Jawbone Up and Me: A Story of Insomnia, Pedometers and Shame

My Jawbone Up and Me: A Story of Insomnia, Pedometers and Shame


The most awkward part of starting life with a Jawbone Up activity tracking band was the first night sleeping together. Does it know when I’m up to pee? Does it know when I’m flipping my pillow around over and over again? Does it know when I’m tricking it by keeping my arm really still while – guess what – I’m wide awake? I started to personify it as a mom/doctor-like hybrid judging my every move.

But in the morning I was hooked. I plugged the device into my phone (yes it does not have Bluetooth, which makes no difference to me) and it gave me a wealth of complex data about how long it had taken me to fall asleep, how long I was up in the middle of the night, how long I was in bed total, and how much of that sleep was light vs. deep sleep.

For some people, this is too much data. They just want a simple metric to aspire to every day and don’t care about the quality of their sleep. Those people can head toward the Nike Fuelband, which condenses all your movement into a daily goal called Fuelpoints. I had 3 Fuelbands before deciding to try something else, mostly for these reasons:

-The data was oversimplified and uninteresting
-The first two stopped working and my third, the white ice one, was getting gray/green and ugly
-They look boyish in general and I’m a girl
-It didn’t make me that much healthier in the long run

Everything that the Nike Fuelband wasn’t, the Jawbone Up is. It’s cuter, less boyish and incredibly motivating.

I first tried it while I was on a work trip to Atlanta, which means a lot of airport food, a fancy hotel mixed drink and an insomnia-inducing change of time zones. For a couple days, the thing was truly my enemy. It made me realize that a couple airport cocktails had more calories than the dinner I’d ordered, that I was only sleeping 5 hours a night when I generally assume I sleep eight, and that I was consuming a lot more calories than I burned.

I got back and showed my boyfriend all the fun and bizarre data it had collected about me, including my food consumption word cloud, which contained fun words like “chicken, granola, kisses [Hershey], beer.” He pointed out that the app might actually give me a complex, given that I am prone to anxiety, especially of the psychosomatic illness variety.

And while he does have a point – the app did give me “sleep anxiety” at first – I don’t think that will be a problem. So far, the app is much less geared toward shaming you and instead into providing a fun way to chronicle your life. For example, you can take pictures of all your meals, which feels more celebratory than shaming, and also keeps me from posting them all on Instagram (bad habit).

Eventually, I decided to adapt a policy of complete honesty with the app, telling it exactly how much I eat or drink, despite the harshly real numbers it may pump back out at me. It was scary to see how many calories a night out at the bar involved, but it’s scarier still to think I might be regularly consuming that without even thinking about it.

I’ve had it a week now, and the complete honesty has rewarded me with a holistic look at my life and my relationship with my body. Diet, exercise and sleep are not as disconnected as we think of them being, and once you find a way to look at them all at once from a bird’s-eye view, interesting trends start to come out.

I can’t say how well this will all pan out in the long term, but hopefully a month from now I’ll be healthier in general. And hopefully the thing won’t have pulled a Nike Fuelband move and broken.

Becky Lang