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health

Tracking health data for its own sake

<!––>For the past few months, I’ve been using my Apple Watch to track my sleep. AutoSleep uses the device’s internal accelerometer to measure both sleep quality and total sleep time.

The app is surprisingly accurate, and it’s fun to peek at my sleep stats each morning. But I don’t actually do much with that data. The numbers don’t factor directly into my bedtime decisions or sleep habits.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that my sleep tracking efforts are fruitless. There’s something powerful about knowing where I stand—particularly when it comes to health.

Take food tracking as a example. For the past year or so, I’ve input my consumed food via an app called Lose It. I don’t really adhere to a strict daily limit, but knowing how gluttonous I’ve been earlier in the day is often just enough motivation to resist dessert. Conversely, when I don’t record my meals, I tend to overeat.

Weighing myself each morning has proven similarly useful. Again, I don’t have strict weight loss targets; I simply record my poundage day after day using Vekt for the Apple Watch. This habit populates the Apple Health database with a running tally, giving me a general idea of which direction my weight is trending.

That knowledge leads to better food choices—almost automatically. If my weight drifts too high, I find myself gravitating to healthier options—fruit instead of sweets, salads instead of sandwiches, water rather than Coke. Conversely, when I’m hovering near my ideal weight, I’ll reward myself with an extra treat or two.


All that to say, even if my sleep stats seem inconsequential, I’m going to continue wearing my Apple Watch to bed. I’m hoping that a peripheral awareness of my sleep habits may (subliminally) lead to better sleep decisions. Maybe I’ll skip that Netflix binge in favor of an early bedtime. ■

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Life technology Uncategorized

Why is it impossible to completely mute the iPhone?

I use my iPhone in bed a lot. In the predawn dark, I scroll through Twitter to find out what happened while I was asleep. And every night, I read until my eyelids grow heavy. These cherished rituals bookend each day. I’m loathe to give them up, even if they do undermine my sleep.

But what about my wife’s sleep? I hate the thought that my bedtime habits might sabotage her rest. My iPhone’s LED-lit screen casts bright, bluish light into our otherwise pitch-black room. To minimize the impact, I dial down the brightness to zero, block the offending light with my body, and avoid apps that lack an eye-friendly “night mode.”

Noisy videos can also threaten my wife’s slumber. Frequently during my nighttime browsing, I’ll stumble across a clip that I want to watch. I can’t don headphones, since retrieving them would create a racket (Click. Tap-tap-tap. Draaaaag).

Instead, I resolve to watch the video with no sound. After all, many short snippets—say, a funny slapstick clip or a sports highlight—don’t need audio to be appreciated.

You’d think that muting my iPhone via the side-toggle would prevent the device’s speaker from making noise. Only it doesn’t. This mute switch applies only to the phone’s ringer and app notifications. Even when muted, the phone plays back media at full volume.

The next option, logically, would be to use the phone’s volume rocker buttons before hitting ‘play.’ That doesn’t work, either; by default, volume up / down applies only to the phone ringer—i.e., again, not to media playback.

So until the audio actually starts playing, I can’t tell how loud it will be. And I can’t change the volume until playback starts, either. All too often, I’ll tap ‘play’, and a video starts blaring. I desperately scramble to press ‘volume down’ until the damned thing finally silences. Meanwhile, my wife rolls over and groans at my stupidity.

Why can’t the iPhone’s “mute switch” act more “mutey”? When I silence my phone, I want it to shut up! No ringer, no media playback, and no notifications.[1]


UPDATE: Kudos to Joel Ross, who points out that the volume slider in Control Center (swipe up from the bottom of the screen) applies only to media playback.


  1. Maybe user alarms deserve an exception. No one wants to obsess over whether she detoggled the mute switch—remember the nightly dance with old school alarm clocks? Then again, even if the alarm didn’t sound, the iPhone’s vibrator is loud enough to wake the dead.  ↩