Data Trends

Better Sleep Through Data Gamification

What’s the very first thing you do when you open your eyes in the morning? I check my Sleep Cycle app. I could choose to do something else: smile at my spouse, check the news, or make coffee. But instead I look at data. Data about me.

The Quantified Self

Why is my own data so fascinating? Charts and graphs become far less tedious when they describe my company, my department, or myself. There are whole groups dedicated to analyzing personal data. I first came across the quantified self movement in 2008, when a small group was meeting in Palo Alto to share their data-driven self discoveries. So nerdy, yet so intriguing!

Why is that? Studies show that having information makes good decisions easier. It’s all about gamification. Instead of trying to kill more zombies or fling irate fowl more effectively, I can fixate on getting my sleep stats higher and getting more exercise.

But do I really need an app to tell me if I slept well? After comparing the data to my perception of how well I slept, it was immediately obvious that I do need an app for that. That irritability, lack of focus and “foggy brain”? Turns out they occur when my “sleep quality” was under 65%. That was a big motivator to get more and better sleep.

Leveling Up

After years of struggling to get to bed before midnight, I found myself racing through housework to see how early I could turn in. Television faded out of my life painlessly.

But how can I get better quality sleep? The app lets me add tags: drank coffee, meditated, exercised, etc. Turns out that coffee and eating late in the day don’t have as much of an impact as I thought (hooray!). And my worst sleeps happen in hotels. I can even figure out if it’s really worth that extra $100 a night to get the hotel with the “Celestial Sleep” bed, or whatever it’s called.

And just for fun, I uploaded my sleep data into ThoughtSpot. I didn’t need a sleep consultant or a prescription to get better sleep. Just a little behavior tweaking, made easier through my obsession with data.


Do you have a habit you’d like to change? Can you measure it? If so, you just might have a shot at taking it to the “next level.”