My Experience with the ŌURA Ring (+ Why I Quit Using It After Two Months)

Ah, the Oura Ring. I’ve wanted to buy this innovative sleep + activity tracker for a long, long time. It’s been on my radar since the Gen 1 days, when the ring was the size of a small city and had zero aesthetic appeal. Personalities I followed (like Ben Greenfield or Wellness Mama) as well as friends (like Alex Fergus) spoke very highly of the ring, and as the community of people with an Oura ring grew, the praise kept piling up. When the generation 2 ring came out, my interest started to really spike. I have many friends who have and love their rings, not to mention the constant teasing of the Oura ring users Facebook group… and so when I was in Berlin in February of this year, I finally bit the bullet and ordered my ring.

This article will give you a little background on what the Oura ring is, why I bought it, how my experience with it was, and why ultimately I stopped wearing it. Note that I’m not an expert on the Oura ring— there are surely many aspects of the ring I have not fully grasped or possibly overlooked, but this is my experience/ perspective. Take it or leave it!

Image:    Oura   .

Image: Oura.


My Experience with the Oura Ring (+ Why I Quit Using It After Two Months)

what is the oura ring

In the picture above you can see the main parts of your new Oura ring:  A: The outer shell: made out of titanium with diamond-like coating (DLC);  B: The electronics: including processor, battery, memory, sensors;  C: The inner molding: non-allergenic, seamless and medical-grade.   Image:    Oura   .

In the picture above you can see the main parts of your new Oura ring:

A: The outer shell: made out of titanium with diamond-like coating (DLC);

B: The electronics: including processor, battery, memory, sensors;

C: The inner molding: non-allergenic, seamless and medical-grade.

Image: Oura.

The Oura ring is a ring with sensors in it that track various metrics including HRV, RHR, IBI, sleep stages (Deep, REM, and light), sleep timing, duration, and quality, respiratory rate, breathing variances, thermometer level body temperature deviation, movements and daily rhythms, intensity, timing and length of physical activities, and inactivity and sedentary time, circadian alignment guidance, and sleep improvement programs.

How Oura Works

Thanks to an infrared lense, an NTC body temperature sensor, and a 3D accelerometer and gyroscope, (yes, those are all real words), Oura is able to capture the aforementioned data. It mostly doesn’t serve up raw data (yet), but rather through their app offers stats (often relative to your previous data) and makes recommendations on how to carry out your day. A readiness score tells you (essentially) how well rested you are, and then sets an activity level target for you that day.

On the left is a screen shot of the app’s activity tracker screen, and on the right is the readiness score.

 

Is oura accurate?

Ah, the golden question. Apparently, no, it’s not currently all that accurate. Sleep experts like Matthew Walker (author of Why We Sleep) have spoken about the Oura ring (on podcasts like JRE and Found My Fitness), and highlights the ways in which Oura data deviates significantly from proper sleep study data. The technology is still relatively new, and is making strides to becomes more accurate— and although it’s not perfect it’s still great information that you can use to see in which direction you are trending.

I’m just going to go ahead and say it: (according to the online community) the Oura ring is not at all an accurate fitness tracker (steps + calories burned). Whether it be the Facebook group or personal blogs, people are insecantly comparing Oura stats to their other devices, and there’s no doubt that if ‘fitness tracking’ is your goal: there are better wearables on the market (although I’ll explain to you below why I think they aren’t ideal, either). It’s a widely accepted consensus that although Oura offers ‘fitness tracking’ — the relevant data (and primary reason to purchase the ring) is for the sleep data.

This video by Oura explains the app/ features offered.

My pal Alex with a review of the gen 2 Oura ring.


Why I Bought the Oura Ring

oura2.jpg

Body Temp Data

Apart from the aforementioned fact that many people have been hyping up Oura for years now, one of the major reasons I was specifically excited about the Oura ring was to get body temperature data. I track my menstrual cycle using the Justisse Method, a sympto-thermal method of fertility awareness that enables women to connect with their bodies and know when they are fertile (which you can use for so many things, including assessment of your hormones and health, as well as pregnancy prevention or conception), and it requires taking your basal body temperature (BBT) every morning. Having a ring taking my temp all day every day seemed like a much better way to get accurate BBT readings.

*More below on why Oura is not a reliable source of BBT for FAM.*

Check-in on the QUALITY of my sleep

Sleep is king. We all know how long we sleep, but we don’t have much insight into what ratio of Deep/ REM/ light sleep we’re getting every night (ie. how well we sleep). I remember hearing an interview with Dr. Mercola about 2 years ago where he was explaining that he thought that he was doing “everything right” (health wise) and yet according to his Oura ring he was getting something insanely low (like 15 minutes) of deep sleep per night. It horrified me, and I think I’ve held onto the quiver in my spine that that podcast gave me ever since— wondering what if that’s me!? I knew going into it that the Oura ring is far from perfect when it comes to the data, but even having a vague idea was enough for me to know if my lifestyle was translating to decent sleep or not.

Airplane mode

All of these wearable tracking devices use bluetooth to sync data to your phone, which emits dangerous EMF radiation. The Oura ring has an airplane mode, in which you can wear the ring all day and night with it on airplane mode and still collect data. You would then remove the ring to sync the data to the phone (using bluetooth) and return the ring to airplane mode before putting it back on. You can click here for a video explaining the EMF levels and a live testing. It’s legit.

The Heritage style Oura ring, in black.

The Heritage style Oura ring, in black.

Curiosity killed the cat

I love the vibe of the company, I look up to many of the people using Oura, and ultimately I just gave in to my curiosity/ craving (greed? ego? materialistic fiend?) to have a ring of my own.

So for all of these reasons, I ordered the size 9 Heritage in black, in February of this year.


my experience with the oura ring

setting up the ring

Not going to lie, receiving my Oura ring brought me back to being a kid at Christmas time. It was a long time coming, and I was so excited to unwrap that box, slip that ring onto my finger, and get to sleep! Setting it up is super easy: you download the Oura App, pair it to the ring, and you’re off to the races.

the daily routine

I kept my ring on airplane mode all day and night, and would pop it on the charger each morning to upload the data and charge up while I brushed my teeth. Syncing the data is simple: you just put it on the charging dock and turn your phone’s bluetooth ON. It will automatically sync. You want to make sure to be away from the devices during this time, because bluetooth blasts out concerning levels of EMF’s (which is the same reason why wireless headphones/ all wireless devices are essentially slow suicide). After that I would turn the ring back in airplane mode, pop it back on, turn off bluetooth from my phone, and have a browse at my previous day/ nights data.

Results

Although it takes a few days/ a week to calibrate to your body, very quickly my sleep data started spitting out consistent 90+ ‘readiness’ scores. It was very reassuring and mildly ego-boosting as well, to see sleep stats that essentially destroyed (relative to what I saw online).

You can click on the photo to see it larger.

My sleep inevitably varies like all people, but as you can see, it wasn’t uncommon to be raking in 4+ hours of deep sleep, 2-3 hours of REM sleep, and consistent 90+ readiness scores— all the while (these past 2 months) being out of routine, and sleeping in hostels. Although I was going into this expecting high sleep scores considering my lifestyle, it was Dr. Mercola’s sly comment a few years back that always made me wonder.

One other note about the rings results is that the resting heart rate (HRH) randomly didn’t track throughout the night. For no apparent reason (I always made sure the sensors were place on the bottom half of my finger and snug, but not too snug). Some days I got a pretty good nights reading— but other nights it was full of gaps. I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of data is was collecting and in fact how accurate any of these predictions/ suggestions were if the ring hadn’t actually collected data consistently throughout the night.

You can see two examples where one night captured almost no RHR (left) vs. almost all captured (right).

oura ring and fertility tracking

The ring has made a few apperances in my pictures over the last two months. Here I was harvesting wild pine pollen on Crete, in Greece, mid March.

The ring has made a few apperances in my pictures over the last two months. Here I was harvesting wild pine pollen on Crete, in Greece, mid March.

I noticed very quickly that the ring does not give you an absolute temperature reading, but rather a relative difference between this and the previous nights. Using it to track my menstrual cycle it did kind of work, because I could essentially tell I ovulated when my body temperature remained elevated on the ring for three days— but I didn’t like the lack of specificity about what by actual basal body temperature was. For temping your BBT— I don’t recommend using the Oura ring at all. Specificity is very important when it comes fertility awareness and body literacy, so whether you’re using FAM for prevention or conception— skip the ring and opt for a proper thermometer.


why i stopped wearing the oura ring

ok cool, i sleep really well

The first most obvious reason are my consistently high sleep scores. Once my lifestyle was validate by these hours of Deep/ REM sleep, I no longer had any doubt that my conscious efforts to get high quality sleep were indeed paying off. I can see the value if you don’t sleep well, and it can offer you a barometer with which to start examining the impact of variables to try and increase your Deep/ REM sleep… but when you’re waking up with 90+ scored most days, do you really need Oura to pat you on the back every morning?

Getting a little sun on a walk in the South of France. But so unnecessarily plugged in (earphones + podcast on an iPhone, and Oura ring).

Getting a little sun on a walk in the South of France. But so unnecessarily plugged in (earphones + podcast on an iPhone, and Oura ring).

Relative data

The HRV and body temp data is relative… which ultimately is relatively useless. It boggles my mind that Oura would collect the raw data, and then not offer it up that way. To give a deviation is so surface level fluff, and gives no opportunity for a deeper look at your body’s rhythms. For BBT and fertility tracking, a deviation is not enough data, and although Oura says that real-time HRV is a feature they are working on… so far, it isn’t available.

Morning Routine with More Technology? Ugh.

Every morning when I woke up I was excited to check my sleep score first thing, and it started becoming a little OCD. I value stillness and quiet in the morning, but if you’re wearing the ring you want to know your sleep score to be able to integrate the information into your day (ie. good sleep = more activity, lower readiness score = take it easier)… anyways, I found having this as a part of my daily morning ritual to be problematic for my overall mental health. Do I really need an added 5-15 minutes spent glued to a phone, first thing in the morning? Personally, the answer to that is no. I’m trying to have less screen time, and having this habit injected into my morning started bothering me after about 2 weeks with the ring. Also I would read the data that would essentially tell me how I already knew I felt. It was cool to confirm my intuition, but was it really necessary!?

Being A Slave to A Rings Targets

Based on the Oura rings daily recommendations, I felt the pressure to walk/ move to hit the daily target. Look, this is a double edged sword. Back when I was in university, I got the Apple fitness band (I can’t remember the name, and I think it’s discontinued now that they have the Apple watch), which tracked steps and calories burned. Back then I hated walking, and yet after wearing the band for about 6 months, I learned to loved walking. Having this thing on my wrist literally created a Pavlovian pleasure response between walking and collecting points, and so very quickly I started loving walking and this love is still with me to this day (pretty cool). That being said, now that I am in a much more intuitive place when it comes to movement and my body— I don’t like the pressure that apps and devices like this set. I don’t believe in daily recommended targets of anything. I believe we ought to listen to our bodies, and live accordingly. I sensed myself pressured to walk the 12,000 steps (or whatever) recommended daily by the device, and having read the amazing work by Katy Bowman (Move Your DNA and Movement Matters) I learnt that in fact this repetitive goal isn’t really benefiting the body. Better walking goals would involve one day of average walking (say, 8,000 steps), one day of really high walking (say 40,000 steps), one day of rest, one day of average (10,000 steps) and so on. We’re not robots that need X amount of set steps per day, and I started getting into this routine of trying to make the Oura app happy instead of living my natural, cyclical life.

Related to the previous point, I constantly had this underlying awareness of the ring, and wanting to make sure it was accurately tracking my movement. For example if I was holding something in my arms, I would always wonder if the ring knew I was walking still (with very little arm swing), if I was holding groceries in one hand I would swap the ring to my other hand to make sure it had ‘freedom’ and was accurately tracking movement. I felt like a goddamn slave to the thing, wanting it to know that I was indeed moving and walking and essentially wanting to please an inanimate object by achieving the goal it had set for me. What a weird/ toxic mindset. No thanks.

Vipassana + Materialism & Intuition

Ultimately what sealed the deal for me were realisations I had when I recently on a 10 day silent Vipassana meditation retreat. Initially I was going to wear the ring all 10 days to see what kind of data I would collect whilst meditating for 11 hours per day, but I decided against it when I realised that the ring only stayed charged for about 5 days. I could recharge it by putting it on the charging dock, but in doing so the ring is taken off airplane mode (and since I didn’t have my phone with me during the retreat, the ring would have stayed on bluetooth mode for 5 days). I wasn’t about to blast myself with EMFs for 5 days, so I decided to leave it stored away with my phone for the entirety of the retreat.

Upon taking the ring off and living ‘ring-free’, it took me about 48 hours to realise how hypnotised I had become by that thing. I know this sounds weird— but I felt so free going for walks simply because I wanted to, and without the ring knowing. I literally get how twisted it sounds, but that’s what kind of power it started having over my psyche. Serious Big Brother shit. Don’t get me wrong, I love walking— but I don’t like the sense of being tracked, or that I have to fulfill a duty to some device.

The next thing that clicked in for me during Vipassana, is the fact that the more we rely on external points of view (be it from a machine like the Oura ring, or a doctor), the less we tune in and connect with our own bodies, and cultivate our own intuition. When I went to Vipassana this time around (I had been once before) I realised how profoundly disconnected I had become from my self. This is due to a few things, mainly the insane travel schedule I have been living for the past 6 months— but the ring didn’t help. I was using sensors to tell me how I slept, how many steps I am taking, how I feel. I don’t need a machine to tell me that, it is my divine right as a human being to tune in and download all that data, for free.

Speaking of free— look, I live from a place of abundance. I trust that money will flow in and out of my life with ease, and it does. But we have entangled ourselves in a paradigm of over consumption. Not only is the ring disconnecting me from my intuition, it is also plugging me into a world of power and greed. During these meditation retreats, you live like a monk/ nun (on the charity of others) and it hits you like a brick wall— how little you need to find peace and fulfillment. The ring isn’t cheap (give or take about $400) and it really hit me while I was there: wtf am I thinking? Spending so much on something disconnecting me from nature? Insanity.

Have you read Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World? He makes a powerful point in one of the very first chapters, in which a dystopian futuristic society controls human behaviour at the Central London Hatchery (a state-run birthing centre). After birth, human behaviour is manipulated at the state-run ‘Conditioning Centre’. In efforts to breed a population that consumes, the Conditioning Centre conditions humans from the time they are children to only reap pleasure from nature if it is alongside expensive gadgets. They breed out the natural attraction/ pleasure reward of free activities (like hiking or swimming), in favour of “expensive” interactions with nature (like skiing or sailing). That concept blew my brain apart— the idea that we often take in nature with a large dose of materialism. Activities like walking in nature don’t contribute to the GDP: this is the ultimate act of rebellion against a society of over-consumption. Why do I need a ring to walk? To sleep? The more I think about it, the less I want to spend to experience the world. We constantly rely on things to navigate the world, and it’s just sickening.

Another point that comes through fast and hard during Vipassana, is that we’re always trying to change what is. This is the very nature of the modern health/ wellness industry: commodification of wellness. Everyone is trying to sell a plan to become harder, better, faster, and stronger.. and ultimately— what for? After 10 days of sitting in silence, simply observing what is (as opposed to what I wish the reality was) is a powerful reminder that life is pretty dang swell. The constant quest to optimize very quickly takes us to a dark place, in which nothing is ever enough. To be getting ‘scored’ on my sleep, rated on my activity levels and readiness… it takes you back to middle school where everything is being given a mark, to which you can then judge yourself as being ‘good’ or ‘bad. It’s one thing to strive for balance, and it’s another to obsessed over every little aspect of your existence. For me, the ring was a nudge in the wrong direction.

Recap:

1) I don’t need technology to tell me how I feel. It just disconnects me from the gift and God-given power of human intuition. We often think that things like this give us more insight about our bodies, but from my experience— the more we rely on things outside of us, the less we actually understand about ourselves.

2) Less stuff, more pure divine connection with nature.

3) Less trying to change, more acceptance of what is.


I don’t consider myself a ‘biohacker’, although I have many friends who definitely do, and by proxy I get lumped into this category too. I love experimenting on myself and testing ways in which I can feel better, think more clearly, be happier/ more inspired/ more fulfilled.. but my drug of choice always will be nature. Pharmaceuticals, smart drugs, technology are all sides of the same coin (three sided coin? Anyways, you get the point…), and although the Oura ring is kind of fun, I don’t see how it can possibly factor into my quest to seek answers from Mother Nature.


Affiliates: blinded by the passive income

The affiliate game is a little dangerous, I know because I’ve started dabbling in the world. When I initially got the ring I actually reached out to Oura to see if I could become an affiliate for them— but their affiliate program is currently paused because they can’t keep up with production. Anyways, I wonder how my relationship to the ring would have unfolded had I worked with them as an affiliate. Because look, the ring isn’t terrible by any stretch of the imagination; it’s actually quite neat and entertaining and interesting. Although the accuracy isn’t perfect yet, I do believe the company is making strides in the field of sleep, and providing people with new insights into a fundamental pillar of health. So had I also been making a passive income from wearing/ promoting the ring— I think I could easily have suppressed the ‘negative’ aspects of the ring (or perhaps more accurately, it would have given me more pros than cons).

My point, I guess, is that all these people who vehemently push the benefits and usefulness of the ring on podcasts, website, etc, have a financial gain in doing so. So although the ring is neat, I really do think influencers make it seem more vital than it is, because their livelihoods depend on it. This doesn’t make affiliated bad by any means, I just think it’s important to realise that people really pushing devices are probably (at least partially) blinded by passive income.


Should you get the oura ring?

Unfortunately, I can’t answer that for you. The heart wants what it wants, and even if you may end up agreeing with me— sometimes we need to experience something ourselves before we can fully accept it. My two months with the ring were very fun, and had someone told me this I probably would have agreed on a surface level, but true wisdom requires experience… and so my advice is (like always): do as you feel.

Although the data isn’t perfectly accurate yet, I think the ring would be a useful tool for anyone struggling with their sleep and looking to tweak their habits to sleep better— the ring would provide you a metric to motivate you to keep on track and see which variables are helping. This might also help anyone who is looking to walk more/ move more (Oura’s readiness/ daily fitness target is motivating too). But again, I think it’s fundamentally more valuable to use less gadgets and check-in with your divine human intuition when it comes to your health… instead of relying on objects, technology, tests, and ‘specialists’. The more we rely on external factors, the more disconnected we become from our innate knowing.

I haven’t yet sold my ring, and I am likely going to hold off on selling it because Oura has some potentially exciting innovations coming (like real time HRV, which would be fun to play with during mediation). I’m curious to see how the company innovates, but ultimately I’m trying to distance myself from technology or any external authority over how I feel, in favour of trusting my innate knowing and intuition. Even more importantly: I’m trying to distance myself from always trying to analyze, fix/ optimize, in favour of learning to love myself in the moment and accepting what is. There comes a point in everyone’s quest for health where you realise that this pursuit is actually becoming an unhealthy obsession. The more I delve into this world, the more I realise we need to start being OK with the person we are right here, right now.


dive deeper

This episode features Matthew Walker, PhD, who is a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and serves as the Director of the Center for Human Sleep Science. Formerly, Dr. Walker served as a professor of psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School.

Matthew Walker is Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and Founder and Director of the Center for Human Sleep Science. Check out his book "Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams".