Improving Mental Focus Through Lifelogging
cognition | sleep | social life & social media
Justin Lawler has struggled remaining focused in school and in work throughout his life and so about a year and a half ago he went on a paleo diet and noticed some real improvements in focus. However, he noticed that he was still having some noticeable mood swings, so he decided to try Quantified Mind to start quantifying his cognitive function and short-term memory. In this talk, he shares his upward trending data and analysis over the past two and a half months.
Basis Band | Quantified Mind
My name’s Justin, so I’m a developer. I chose this project, I suppose, because it focuses on something that I’ve always struggled to all my life. I was always a very distracted kid in school, so it was just a pretty bad dose of brain fog. Looking back on it in retrospect.
So, about a year and a half ago I went on the paleo diet, and I started noticing some real improvements in focus. I was just able to much concentrate much more in meetings, but I was still having a lot of ups, and down days, so I started to try and quantify it and so I started using this test called Quantified Mind.
It basically tests all these various aspects of cognitive function, short-term memory. So, I was basically trying to figure out what lifestyle choices I make or do and carry out during the day and what diet impacts on various aspects.
So this is one particular test that was in the Quantify Mind test that tests executive function. You’re just trying to match a particular aspect of the below image, which one of the above images.
So this is my test results over two and a half months, and so there is a fairly clear trend upwards. Probably a lot of it is due to because I was getting a better result at the tests, but as you can see kind of towards the end, it kind of flat lines a lot more as I was kind of taking out things out of my diet to try to improve.
So I started tracking sleep and seeing how that correlates against the results. So with the Basis Band, it can track deep sleep, light sleep, REM sleep.
So here’s all the various aspects of cognitive function, against each of the individual phases of sleep. So you can see the deep sleep has the biggest impact on the results. REM sleep, not so much. So probably part of this it might be a bit sketchy with the Basis Band. I know there has been a lot of mixed results with the Basis Band, but this is what I’ve been getting.
So, I started trying to hack my sleep, trying to just improve the quality percentage of deep sleep. I was getting. So the blackout blinds definitely has a big improvement, and not drinking coffee after 2 PM, and things like the lux.
So this is the percentage of deep sleep I was getting throughout the 2 ½ months. There isn't a big improvement, that's probably the quality of the Basis Band results, but at the end, I was kind of getting a little bit better there.
So another said I was testing was coffee, how does coffee improve cognitive function to the Quantified Mind tests. So, there is a fairly dramatic improvement, so the test was before and after you know, a day in and a day out over the course of 30 days. So there is a very dramatic improvement in the motor skills after coffee, and before coffee.
Again, this is probably not sustainable. You know, drinking coffee throughout the day because it goes into sleep so here's a comparison; deep sleep versus coffee. It's a big improvement, but it's again, probably not sustainable just drinking coffee.
So I started testing other externalities, the biggest kind of factors, they say, is lactose, gluten, and alcohol. So I wouldn’t have a huge amount of data for this, so I would be lactose intolerant anyway. So you can see with the lactose, there’s a fairly dramatic decrease. Gluten doesn’t seem to impact me at all, the results. Alcohol, very mixed results.
So, part of this. I would be kind of a little bit concerned about the quality of my experiments, because you know I was probably running a bit too many experiments at the same time. You know, sleep quality and if I took lactose, and had a pizza the night before and I was maybe drinking alcohol at the same time, and I got five hours sleep, something like that.
I think the test has been very beneficial for me because it kind of like got me into a mindset of tracking this much more. My results of the experimental quality has got a lot better over time, again it was very poor at the start, you know, not taking the tests at different times of the day. So I was kind of like self-learning, self-bootstrapping with the tests.
The tracking devices again, the Basis, it’s not probably the best band to track sleep on the market, but it does give some kind of quantitative figures here to work with. There’s the limited dataset, which is only two and a half month.
And for things like lactose and gluten, I don't have a huge amount of dataset for that, so I wouldn't take those results too seriously. And then correlation, you know, if I had a late-night, if I was maybe drinking alcohol and then is the alcohol or is it the late-night that impacting my results, or is it something completely something else because maybe I was very active the day before.
So the benefits, I suppose there have been huge benefits regardless, even with this limited tests. I've learnt a lot about myself. I’ve been tracking and everything I've been trying to learn about health, I've been looking at my diet, blogging my diet throughout the course of the experiment. And that's really kind of motivated and to help me improve my diet.
What I'm getting in the real-time feedback to the results the next morning, it kind of helps me, and it's almost like gamification of the results. You know, I want to get those results higher and higher and less of those spikes and more kind of stable results. And definitely, I have been getting them over as the experiment went along.
I've also noticed other kind of intolerances I have. I have IBS, and green tea was really kind of irritating that, and that's something I didn't really connect those dots before. Nut as well, something I can’t take anymore. So that has been a big benefit for me just to find that.
Sleep quality has definitely improved. Blackout blinds has really improved the quality of my sleep, but the Basis Band doesn’t really tell so much, but I definitely feel it.
I think there is a whole lot more I can do here, there's productivity, and I'm more focused if I'm less kind of IBS symptoms. You know, there is a huge amount of anxiety I get when I get IBS symptoms. So removing those has really kind of improved productivity.
And motivation, it just kept me continuing on with this experiment, and I think there’s a lot more I can do here. A lot more to health improvements that I can keep on working on, so it’s been great for just to keep on going.
I think probably the biggest change over me in the last year and a half is just communication. So with the more focus and present, I am at the moment it just really helps with general communication skills.
So that’s been my experiment anyway.