We continue to post stories about how experiments and data analysis help people improve their lives. This case is about a person who changed his habit of staying up very late by using notifications. The case is taken from Quantified Self, a website for those who want to find their own life hacks based on facts and quantified data.

Abe had sleeping problems.

He could read books, work on his laptop or do other things that didn’t really need to get done all night long. But he couldn’t make himself go to bed earlier. At some point he thought he had to do something about that. Constant lack of sleep affected his health, relationships and productivity. The main problem was that Abe wouldn’t be aware of how much time was passing.

He decided to create a reminder that would tell him, “bed time is coming,” “bed time is here” and “it’s really time to go to bed.”

Abe’s old smartphone came in handy. He taped it to the wall in front of his couch in the living room where he spent most of his sleepless nights.

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He set up the phone to show a soft blue colour at 9:30pm. This reminded Abe that bed time was coming and prepared him to get ready to sleep.

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He decided he would go to bed at 11pm. At that time the screen would get brighter and more insistent and would show purple. He thought of that as his butler clearing his throat and saying, “It’s time to go to bed, sir.” When Abe would go to bed the phone would turn off.

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It really helped Abe go to bed earlier and sleep better. He felt he got more productive at work and less grouchy. This simple life hack really helped him tackle the problem he struggled with for a long time.

Some of his friends were skeptical and asked him, “You’ve heard about the placebo effect, right? Maybe you just feel better because you do what you know is going to make you feel better? Are you sure there is a correlation here?”

Abe thought about how to check that and remembered that he had a light sensitive camera in his living room. If it was dark it meant that Abe went to bed. If it was light, he was up doing something. The living room was the last place where he switched the lights off before going to bed. The diagram shows 5 and a half days of data where you can see when someone woke up in the middle of the night and turned on the lights in the living room.

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Abe gathered data for several months.

Each column is a day. The base of a column is when it got light in the living room, and the top of a column is the time the lights were turned off. The base often coincided with the time of sunrise because everyone in Abe’s family woke up very early. And the time when the lights were turned off showed when Abe went to bed, he was always the last one. The blue dots show when Abe went to sleep. The red line is the date when he started using his life hack.

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The third diagram shows average numbers for the time Abe went to bed before and after using his phone as a signal. You can see that on average he went to bed about 18 minutes earlier. For someone who suffers from sleep deprivation that’s a lot.

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Abe was satisfied with his experiment, the life hack really did help him and he was able to show that.

Abe’s case is interesting but perhaps few people would like to do the same. 🙂 Our users often ask their health analysts in the app, “How can I go to bed earlier? How can I sleep better?

Try switching off your computer 1.5-2 hours before going to bed. Better read a book. Screen glow affects the production of melatonin which is a sleep hormone, and that in turn worsens the quality of your sleep. Another life hack that our analysts recommend is installing Flux on your computer. It adapts the glow of your screen to the time of day. It will be similar to what Abe did, you will know in advance when bedtime is coming and you should stop working and turn in for the night.

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