My watch is stalking me

My Garmin Forerunner 255 on my weirdly skinny wrist

One of the features of my Garmin Forerunner 255 is a daily summary that pops up just after 9 p.m. to tell me what kind of day I’ve had and to pass on a little sage advice on health/sleep/exercise before I bed down for the night. It always starts with a summary, like:

  • Active Day: This seems to be the best. It means I wasn’t a sloth and got some good exercise and generally stayed out of trouble.
  • Easy Day: As expected, this pops up when I don’t meet my step goal and am generally slothful and sitting on my butt. The blurb is never too judgy, but it will suggest I get some “light exercise” or something because it knows I’ve done nothing.
  • Demanding Day: This is likely to pop up when I do a lot of walking (20-30,000+ steps), exercise and have not gotten a good sleep from the night before, which means my body battery will be quite low (I think it bottoms out at 5/100, which has happened a few times). It basically tells me GO TO BED AND SLEEP WELL.
  • Stressful Day: Even if I otherwise have a well-balanced day, with a good mix of activity and exercise, this will still pop up if the watch feels my stress level has been too high. I suspect it is doing a simple correlation between heart rate and activity, so if my heart rate jumps up, but I’m not doing exercise, it’s probably stress. Maybe it’s more nuanced than that. I could probably look this up, but for the moment I’m pretending the rest of the internet doesn’t exist.

Stressful Day is when I most feel the watch is stalking me, because it has been uncannily accurate in this particular assessment. In fact, it’s been so accurate that at the start of a SE1Stressful Event, I will stop and think, “My watch is going to chide me for this later” and start thinking about kittens instead, to reduce the stress/anxiety/existential despair.

So even though my watch is stalking me, it’s helping me be more relaxed, fit and shinier. And that can’t be stressing me out.

My watch has turned against me

My watch thinks I’m doing a lousy job of sleeping and handling stress. But no naps!

My Garmin Forerunner 255 gives me a morning report every day. It sums up a few stats, like my sleep score and body battery, then sends me off for my daily adventures. It’s a nice little feature.

Lately, though, it’s been giving me less welcome news. You had a lousy sleep. Too much stress. Try to relax. Get better sleep. Exercise. Then rest. Why are you so stressed?

Through all of this, I haven’t felt notably different.

Take last night. If you asked me this morning to rate my sleep score, I would have guessed around 70 or so (on a scale of 1 to 100). Average, nothing special. But my actual sleep score was 47 and the description was this:


You slept long enough, but not well enough to bring your stress levels down overnight. You might feel higher stress or fatigue today.

Reading this does cause me stress, so it is at least partly accurate. It also meant that my body battery (which can also go to 100) began below 50 and is currently down to 9 at 4 p.m. I’m being told I had an active day and to rest. I’m not sure how low my body battery can go, but I’ll take this as a good excuse to laze around for the rest of the day.

In the meantime, I need to figure out what is causing the phantom stress and poor sleep. While I think the watch is exaggerating things, there may be some subtle change that is actually stressing me out without me being overtly aware of it.

So maybe my watch is just, uh, watching out for me1Really, it’s the natural thing to say. It’s technically not a pun.. I’ll report back if things improve, get worse, or get weird. Basically, I’ll follow-up.

My watch watches me

Watching over me

Last fall, I got a Garmin Forerunner 255 to better track my running and sleeping vs. the Apple Watch (Series 5) I had previously. Generally, I quite like it. It’s not as “smart” as an Apple Watch, but it’s smart enough for me, and the battery life is insanely better. I charge it when I jump in the shower and never have to think about it otherwise.

This faboo battery life means I use it to track my sleep and while I’ve heard that smartwatches in general are only about 80-85% effective in terms of accuracy when it comes to sleep-tracking, I feel my watch knows me, almost too well.

This morning it told me my sleep suffered due to stress, and I was indeed stressed out last night. If I start stressing out about something in the moment, the watch will jump in and suggest a breathing exercise. If I get super-stressed out (this has only happened once) and my heart rate gets above a certain threshold, my watch blares an alarm at me in warning (which is somewhat ironic), so I can maybe try to calm down a bit.

Anyway, thanks, Garmin watch, for staying vigilant and reminding me to chill the heck out. I promise to do better!