August 24, 2014

Alright, so the gist of the thing is that I'm pulling a Gwern.

A while back, I decided I was going to start journaling.

I had a journal to do it in and everything, and carried it around pretty consistently. Eventually I did get into the habit of actually writing in it.

A month or so passes by. I notice, "Hey, wouldn't it be neat if I recorded some specific stuff so I could get a sense of cause and effect in my life?" So I start being a bit more strategic in my writings:

  • I get an alarm for my phone that goes off at random intervals. While the majority of the time I don't notice it's going off, it's still nice to have some criteria for when I write in my journal that's slightly biased towards when I happen to feel like writing in it.
  • The other thing I did is start getting serious about time-keeping. I created a column in each page specifically for writing the time when I make a note. I created another column for specific observations that I'm trying to track, e.g. what I ate for breakfast, what time I went to bed/woke up, what mood I'm in, what medications I took. It was all so very clever, so at this point I'm as pleased as punch.
  • I also start doing weekly reviews. I write one review in my journal, and one on the lesswrong site. They cover slightly different topic areas; My journal review tends to cover personal events I may need to refer to in posterity, while the group diary post concentrates on specific interventions I've been trying. I also have monthly reviews in my journals. Neither of these are particularly good at capturing the patterns I've been attempting to set up with the different columns shenanigans.
Fast forward to last weekend. I am at a reunion for the CFAR workshops I went to two years back, and am suddenly surrounded by people who strive to be competent in intelligent ways. This attitude is very contagious.

I look at my journal and realize that a.) I completely fail to fill it out when I am very depressed or very busy and b.) I am not actually getting what I wanted out of the myriad improvements I'd taken on. When someone asked what I like to do, or what I've done, my mind drew a blank the same as it always has. This is despite the fact that I do weekly reviews like clockwork, where I literally go back and read about the things I've done over the past week to summarize the interesting bits. If you asked me what the effects of diet or melatonin have been on my days, I would wind up giving you a wishy-washy "well, it kinda feels like it's done this......" answer that is only marginally better than what if I'd had a normal person's memory and were making no attempt to objectively examine the problem at all.

Most importantly, I got the feeling that substantially more was possible.

So, I'm doing a trial.  I will take a small dose of melatonin nightly for a week, and take nothing for a week after. I am recording bed time, waking time, how I feel when I wake up, and length of naps. I intend to graph the data a couple of ways to get a better feel for what's going on.
  • time slept box plots comparing groups.
  • waking up feeling box plots comparing groups.
  • Time slept vs. waking up feeling for both groups
  • Time slept vs. waking up feeling for both groups including naps
  • nap lengths themselves vs. waking up feeling
  • nap times vs. time slept.
Depending on how these look, I will put together a linear regression model and see what pops out. I think it will be fairly interesting. I have strong doubts these will come out statistically significant, but I'm curious what will come out. And statistically significant or not, it's not ZERO evidence. I'm pretty confident already that melatonin makes me wake sooner, what I don't know is how it affects my morning mood or subsequent naps.

We'll see how the variance looks, and I can get a better idea of what N I'll need to do other self-trials. I would like to try this with reading affirmations in the morning. I could do a placebo that's just lorem ipsum text.