How I Experimented on Myself: Here are 4 Things That Helped Me Sleep

A while back I did a big post that lays out what you need to know about the science behind sleep and sleeping better. But if you read it, you’ll probably ask the same question I do:

Hey, does this really work?

I don’t post this research so we’re all better prepared for Jeopardy. If it’s stuff that only works in a lab, well, I don’t live in a lab.

So I’ve been testing a few things. Like any mad scientist, on myself.

Here’s what I learned:

Seeing Trends Can Tell You A Lot

By using a cool little app called Sleep Cycle I was able to track a lot of data regarding how I sleep.

Merely seeing trends gave me more insight than you might expect into some bad habits.

I realized that the transition from the weekend back to the workweek was rough. I always screwed myself on Sunday nights:

What was happening? My weekend schedule was very different than my workweek schedule and this meant a lot less sleep on Sunday night.

As if I really needed something to make Monday mornings worse.

Studies show how you start the day affects the entire day and research on daylight savings time and jet lag shows sleep inconsistency hurts performance a lot more than you might expect.

This was also visible in the app’s scoring system. My sleep quality was lowest on Sunday nights.

What Gets Measured Gets Managed

Some of you may be wondering about the Hawthorne effect*. (Knowing a study is being performed makes people change their behavior.)

Actually, I was counting on it. After all, my goal is to improve, not to publish research.

I’ve posted research before that reminders are one of the most powerful things you can do to promote improvement. Sure enough, knowing this little app was watching gamed me into behaving better.

My guilt-driven-improvement is visible in the results. Over the course of measuring my sleep, I went to bed earlier:

Interesting that sleep quality got worse before it got better (By the way, 7/29 and 7/30 were pretty crazy days so I’m okay ignoring them.)

So What Did Help Me Sleep?

As I mentioned in my post on research regarding good sleep, these were the big four study findings from the excellent book Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep:

I already keep the bedroom cold as a meat locker and I rarely drink.

Though the numbers aren’t huge, it was interesting to see what variables had an effect on my sleep:

Here’s what the results showed and my analysis:

A couple other things worth noting:


What Did I Learn?

A few things:

What’s next?


Your Turn

Merely reading this stuff won’t help you much.

Watching Monday Night Football does not make you a great quarterback and 60 years of sitcoms has not made Americans funnier, folks.

Check out what worked for me above and give something a shot for a week.

I’ll be following up with more results and tips on my mailing list, which you can join here.

Happy sleeping. More about getting better sleep in a recent post on the Buffer blog.

About the author:

Eric Barker uses the latest findings in the science of human behavior to improve our performance at work and at home. His blog, Barking Up The Wrong Tree, is listed on blogrolls at the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and became a column in Wired Magazine.

You can get a collection of his most valuable insights by joining his free weekly email update here.