If you want to skip through this piece quickly, read the parts that are bold and then determine whether you want to read the entirety of this or the article I discuss. The link to the article is in the bottom.
As probably a lot of you do, I find myself reading through a lot of articles about productivity, tips on what to eat, how to train, rest, sleep etc. If you keep yourself a little up to speed on these things, you very rarely stumble upon something you haven’t heard before. Most are spin off’s on each other and the new and groundbreaking discoveries are far apart.
But after having read this publication I actually found myself in possession of theories I haven’t heard before. It also shed some quite interesting light, on the whole field of self-experimentation. And a good philosophical discussion of both pros and cons.
The author starts his article with a discussion about how clear defined theories, in the field of research, can cause you to miss interesting correlations, that you weren’t looking for. He talks about how he had looked for ways to get rid of his type of insomnia, that is called early awakening. He had experimented with all the theories he could think of to get rid of this, but his list of possible solutions/factors, had not produced any significant results. In the field of big scientific research, this would probably have meant that the research would have been shut down. But since he was self-experimenting, he has the same advantages as small start-ups have over larger corporations – agility and the ability to quickly shift attention and direction.
When trying something apparently unrelated, like eating foods with more water content, to lose weight, he suddenly found himself waking even earlier, when replacing his morning oatmeal with fruit. He went back to oatmeal, the early awakening reset to its “normal” level – back to fruit and again he had even earlier awakenings. Suddenly he had made a breakthrough, though in the wrong direction, it was still a breakthrough. Without looking for it, he had found something that impacted his early awakenings. You can read the whole article, yourself if interested, it contains quite a bit of self-experimentation and after the article some professors makes some good comments about the whole self-experimentation.
But what struck me, was that he experimented with standing up and walking as means of losing weight. He couldn’t measure any significant changes to his weight, but what he found was, that his early awakenings started disappearing. I have struggled quite a bit with falling asleep at night, so possible solutions to that problem is always welcome. Since I actually also wanted to get back into a rhythm of standing more, it was a pretty obvious choice to try it out.
From falling into a quite bad rhythm of sitting working during most of my day, I then switched to standing the majority of the day. It was and still can be a bit tiring, but just focusing on my work instead, of on the slight discomfort, at times, seems to keep it at bay. And somehow, it works. I honestly feel like I fall asleep easier at night. It is not like I lay my head on the pillow and then – BANG – I sleep. But it seems to have drastically reduced the time it takes for me to fall asleep. I just feel much more tired when I lay in bed at night. Like my body really feels like it needs the rest. An interesting side effect for me, has been that my productivity has gone up. It simply feels like I have an easier time concentrating on hard tasks, when standing up. So it might help battle procrastination as well. Nevertheless I really want to stand more, it is way healthier for the body, and this positive side effect of improving my sleep, will surely make it easier for me to keep.
Some other quite interesting findings from that article, is the alertness 3 hours before mealtime. Apparently it is very well known that animals are much more awake and alert 3 hours before meals. This should be so apparent that the author thinks the same behavior should translate to humans. He uses it to explain some of his early awakenings – whether he is right or not, I am not to tell, but interesting theory. As I follow intermittent fasting I might consider timing my awakening and meals with this, just to try it out.
The last rather fun finding I will share, is his connection between seeing faces upon waking up and next day happiness. Somehow he measures his mood improve, the day after having spent the first hour after waking, on looking at faces. He does not even use real people, but faces on television – quite a fun read.
Read through the entire article if I somehow sparkled your interest. I find it quite interesting and if you like self-experimentation, I am sure you will as well.
Here is the link to the full article: Surprises from self-experimentation: Sleep, mood, and weight