sleep | social life & social media
Eri Gentry works at Genomera as the Community Manager. Genomera is a collaboration platform for group health science, enabling participants to design and operate scientific health studies. In this video, Eri talks about some of the social studies that they did and what they are working on for the future.
I’m Eri, nice to meet you, and I am talking about social studies. This is like Quantified Self but Quantified Us, so I pushed the boundaries a little bit to make it not just about an individual, because we’ve already talked about how motivation changes when other people are in the game and it’s the same for me.
So when I want to change my behavior I like to do it with other people, and I’m going to tell you about some of the studies that we did and what we’re working on for the future. So I work at Genomera as the Community Manager, and of all places we are seeing the power of individual tracking and individual experimentation. And I’m going to kick it off by talking about one experiment in particular that Seth Roberts started where he presented to us about the effect of butter on cognition. So Seth had found that eating half a stick of butter everyday improved on his performance on a math test that he designed.
So I heard this, it’s interesting but it might be hard to believe. Butter, we’ve heard that it’s not good for you, but if it improves your brain then maybe there is some tradeoff we want to explore.
I was curious whether this would work for me because I, just like most people want to be a little bit smarter, but I was curious if it would work for a larger group. So we started a group study called Butter Mind. So with 45 people for three weeks we did math and we ate butter and to test another fat against that we ate coconut oil and we had a control group.
And it seemed to work pretty well to do this as a group exercise; 72% retention and here’s the results, and thank you Seth for actually creating this. So we found that the way to read this is the math test was testing how quickly you would respond correctly to a math question, and so if you responded more quickly and were down here, then your performance improved.
We found a significant improvement in the butter group, and no improvement in the coconut oil group or the control group, and this is actually against my expectations. So I had a theory that coconut oil was going to work. I had read before that it showed improvements for Alzheimer patients, you know they they them early on where they draw a clock and those who have this disorder draw it very messily , and after the coconut oil they’re able to draw the clock more accurately. So I actually was expecting that and butter wouldn’t work.
There was a way that I could bake cookies with butter and coconut oil but a little bit too intensive for me, so you did know what you were actually getting into. I actually did put myself in the butter group because I hadn’t eaten butter in over six years because I follow the sort of popular advice or the advice for the average sort of person that butter causes heart disease so I didn’t eat it. Since I’ve been on that I’ve probably had way too little fat in my diet in general and I found an interesting side effect in the butter group that I was sleeping better. So I didn’t notice consciously that I was improving in that, but sleep is a very powerful thing and that’s going to be the remainder of my talk as well.
So we’ve talked about the placebo effect. I was going in fully expecting that the coconut oil was going to do well, butter whatever, and I tried this with coconut oil after and I saw myself doing better on butter to this day, but I don’t know why but I would really like to.
A single question is not good enough; group studies are sometimes more powerful than individual studies, but it has to start somewhere and I hope that we’re able to continue doing things like this.
Seth and I are working on Butter Mind 2. We hope to start it eventually where we’re still trying to work on some stuff. So what we’re looking at is doing a way of self-tracking together. So you’re not tracking for you and you’re not tracking for me, but we’re sharing the data. And we found that hosting reviews after Butter Mind that people were you know excited by what they saw on there.
You’re taking butter or coconut oil or nothing and taking a math test, and sometimes that’s all there is to it when it’s just you. but if you’ve ever undergone a self-experiment or done a clinical trial you know that more questions come up. Just like I had a side effect that I slept better, people were saying “Oh the coconut oil makes me have the runs” or what have you. I mean you can share your concerns on the wall and people were coming out to support.
So pits and strategies on how to do your studies better. And this really helped me and I think it’s a big part of sharing your data and participating I a single thing together.
So studies are for everybody, not just with sick people, and I say in clinical research you typically see a disorder being studied, a very popular disorder, diabetes or heart disease. But what about how can I improve my math performance and when do you see that study. It really comes down to us, and I also hear that in clinical research is that recruitment is the hardest part of what they’re doing, but it was never hard to recruit me. I was that person who was looking for clinical trials.
Clinical trials dot gov, so I knew the address of by heart and I was saying, what’s going on in my area so that I can learn a little bit more about myself. But when I would talk to researchers I would find I couldn’t get back my data. I couldn’t find out that if the results of their research had the effect on me. So I decided not to do it. and looking back I see their methods for recruitment are pretty outdated, so posters, newspaper ads, or something I actually did when I was a student researcher is I tried to offer diet Snaffles to students to get them to be part of my study. What’s really more effective is just allowing people to be part of what you’re doing.
I did Butter Mind as my first group experiment, so it’s a social experiment as much as anything else. And I didn’t know if anybody would join in or didn’t know if anybody would find it interesting. But just by saying “Here, this is what I’m doing and it would be real fun if other people joined a lot of people didn’t. so care for what ails you, and how I introduced myself is tired of coffee. Really, I’m pretty tired and I am right now too, and there’s not much that I can do about it. I’ve tried coffee, I’ve tried warm baths. I’ve tried valerian, so I have a lot of strategies, a lot of old wives tales that I’ve followed that weren’t really helping me.
I’m not going to give you the cure to fatigue here, but I’m going to talk about my new method for working on my sleep problems. In the past year I’ve undergone this shift in mentality where before I was going to researchers that were now saying can I be part of the study. Can I make healthy insights from your work? I wasn’t thinking that I could do it myself.
I was always amazed and drawn to Quantified Self because of the insights that I saw people making and sometimes incidentally. But for some reason there was this barrier that I wasn’t thinking about doing it for myself. But through coming to meetups like this and doing group research online I started to think of curiosities and ways to solve problems or to create bodies of research.
So what I’m focused on now is sleep research because I’m tired of my multiple Starbuck’s and I don’t have the resources to look for help I n the traditional way. So sleep studies are not only unrealistic, they don’t mimic real sleep but they cost thousands of dollars. I didn’t have the chance to do it but I now have a Zeo and going to use that along with these orange glasses that you saw with Seth and Ben to do orange induced sleeping.
It’s a group sleep study where it’s my own pet project and trying to sleep better and I’m working with Michael Nagel, who is the Boston QS organizer to create this based on the finding by somebody who presented on their own Science of Sleep meetup. And he found wearing these orange tinted or blue light blocking glasses three hours before bed. He was able to cut his time to fall asleep rom 24 minutes to four minutes and he increased his deep sleep, the time where your body repairs itself in sleep from 60 minutes to 85 minutes and I wan that.
So we’re working on creating this group study, where all you need is a pair of these glasses. Don’t be fooled by the $200 a pair of what you see online, the $4 ones on EBay work just as well. then you need a Zeo and an internet connection. To join you can go to bit.ly orange –you-sleepy.
The world is indeed changing, a couple of years ago I would never have thought of doing a sleep study myself. I actually did want to do one of those academic sleep lab things, although I still don’t have the means to do it, but I think what we’re finding is much better. And it’s not only a finding of my own that you can do your own research, but I challenge all of you to take all your ideas and create them into new bodies of research in ways that have never been done before, and what you’re seeing here is the Body Bug, so you can use it to your track movement, to lose weight. Or the My Basis it’s a watch that monitors your vitals that you wear on your wrist obviously and I’m pretty excited about trying. And then you have the emotive that has this claim that you can move things with your mind. So it’s using video games that you can actually move things on the screen without having to touch anything. And it’s also being used on biofeedback for those with ADHD.
So here’s how I turned my curiosity and my desire to improve into a study. So in a few simple steps figure out what’s important to you, what would you like to change in your health? Ask a questions, design a simple protocol, and invite others to join you. Create research together, analyze and please share the data.