Sleep As A Galaxy
Danielle Roberts shares the background behind the artwork that she designed for Emfit. Danielle is a long-time tracker and took a month of sleep data she captured using Emfit. She analyzed the data and visualized it into a final presentable art piece that she calls "Sleep as a Galaxy."
Sleep As A GalaxyAs Terry said I’m an artist and I use personal data and programming to create works. In 2014, I met the nice people from emfit QS. They gave me a sleep tracker in return for an art work.
My problem with sleep is I wake up around three or four AM in the morning and have trouble falling back to sleep again, so I was curious in what affects my sleep. The aim was to create a poster which is over there, that would inform me about my sleep but it’s also an expression of what sleep is to me and I’d like to share that process with you.
For those of you who don’t know, this is the emfit tracker. It goes under the mattress. It calculates a lot of sleep data and I selected the ones most relevant for my project. These are all my behavioral parameters. I included all my hunches that you saw earlier and added my overall feeling of happiness and stress for that particular day.
I created Google form to track my behavior and I recorded it every night before going to bed. I exported it to Excel and combined it with the emfit data.
The emfit data is formatted in nice comma separated values but it can only be downloaded one night at a time, and I also had to convert the minutes into decimals to work with it in my programming environment.
I wanted to design to represent the mystery of the night, the emphasis of the universe, something peaceful but at the same time informative. So I came up with the metaphor to display night as planets. It had enough potential to display the four sleep phases, and here you see my first step at the design. Then I started adding variables. That was quite a challenge because I wanted them to fit with the theme, and also there were quite a lot of them.
I started out with calories eaten after 6 PM. It ranged from zero calories to 900 and I made this sketch to check out how I could plot them. I visually combined the mood and stress data for the complete day and mapped them together so to create either a smiley or a frown.
I struggled a bit with how to display recovery. I finally settled for a band that you see on the right and it varies on fitness and color depending on the amount of recovery for that night.
By regarding the circles as a clockface, I could map the minutes spent on different evening activities. I assigned each of them a different color. I also had trouble coming up with visualization for my sleep ratings. I had used up most of my possibilities, but I thought it was important, so I settled for dots.
During an average night I spend around one and a half hours in REM sleep, which according to the emfit website is a bit too little. And I spend four hours and 20 minutes in light sleep which is a bit too much according to them.
So, at this point I had turned my data into expressive shades that made sense within their own universe, but I was curious to see what science would tell me.
So, I used SPSS to find correlations between my 35 nights. To many of my hunches turned out to be significant, so I used other data that I gathered during that period. I found for example that lying awake rises my blood pressure, while more REM sleep lowers my blood pressure, or meditation in the morning didn’t have any effect.
The more calories I eat in the evening, the less deep sleep I get, and the more I eat in the evening, the lower my heartrate variabilities values are. Both in the morning and in the evening. My sleep appreciation depends on the amount of REM sleep I get. The more the better, but it depends even more on the amount of light sleep. Deep sleep had no significant impact for me.
I learnt that accurate logging of sleep is quite hard. Lying in bed but being awake is very hard to track so I’m still looking for good ideas of that.
Obvious influences like screen time didn’t have a significant influence for me during those 35 nights. Calorie intake on the other hand does have an impact, both on deep sleep and HRV morning and evening, so now I’m very strict with my eating times. I used the app for my circadian rhythm to learn more about them. So now I don’t eat or drink after 7 PM except water, and I use a strict 11 hour eating window.
Yes, I just love statistics. I learnt most from running the data through the statistic program and I use these insights to improve my sleep and it actually has improved. But there is magic to turn data into something completely new. It represents me in a more universal way. It communicates something about the quality of the night and the mystery of sleep.
So, this is the completed poster. What exactly drives my sleep is still a mystery, I’m still exploring what works and what doesn’t and I’m learning every day.
I’d like to thank you very much for your attention and if there are any questions, I’m happy to answer. Thanks.