My bozzom buddy Tom has written a couple posts lately about Seth Roberts (here and earlier here), who recently gained some plum NYT freakonomics attention for the various experiments he conducted on himself regarding his sleep, his mood, and his weight. But, as a strange coincidence, the original Roberts article in Chance was assigned as part of a causal inference course I'll be sitting in on for at least part of this semester. I began reading it with the thought that this was going to be a quirky-fun but mostly unconvincing article--for the economist, there is the saying that if you are so smart, why aren't you rich; I think the equivalent for the self-experimenter would be that if you are so right, why isn't there a funded clinical trial?
But much of the article, as it turns out, is about Roberts's efforts against his problem with early awakening--that subspecies of sleep disorder where a person wakes up earlier than they should and can't fall back asleep for at least an hour. As someone with a rather profound tendency toward early awakening himself, it's a matter that gains my attention and found the article fascinating (it also has the virtues of being short and charmingly written).
More importantly, one of Roberts discoveries jibes oddly with something that I have observed over the last four months: he found that he needed less sleep overall either if he lost weight or if he ate a diet high in water content (namely, high in fruit and salad). Me, I have lost a bunch of weight in the last four months and have vastly increased my fruit and salad consumption. Entirely independently, I've also observed (and I'm absolutely convinced of this) that I have needed less sleep. I can't assert that it is due either to the weight loss or the fruit-salad-ascendance or both. If I had the discipline and motivation to be a Serious Self-Experimenter, I would start keeping detailed sleep records and start cycling through gains and losses in weights and increases and decreases in my weight. I am not actually going to do this.
Another of Roberts's self-discoveries is that he lost a marked amount of weight by a diet that consisted of taking in a lot of his calories via drinking fructified water (you'll have to read the article for an explanation of his taste-and-set-point theory of why this works). I am tempted to re-enact The Great Weight Gain of 2003, just so I can see if I can lose weight through this tricky-body-overclocking method as opposed to the conventional way that I have. Again, though, I am not actually going to do this.
For that matter, given how slow I am to get going in the morning, I am also tempted to try Roberts method of waking up to talking-head television as a way of improving his morning energy and mood (he has an evolutionary theory to explain this, which is nonsensical on its surface but contains a less nonsensical element as well). Given how slow I am at getting going in the morning, I though that this is something that might actually be worth a try. Still, I presume I am not actually going to do this, although any self-experiments I conduct will be dutifully reported here on JFW.