With the trend towards “wearables” — technology like FitBit and Nike Fuel that people can wear to learn more about their habits — people have become more and more interested in collecting in-depth data about themselves.
It was this social movement, in part, that prompted me to seek funding to purchase a fleet of ActiGraphs, which I like to call “FitBits on steroids.” ActiGraphs, like FitBits, track a person’s movement, which helps our software calculate calories burned, time spent sedentary and active, time spent outside (there’s a light sensor!) and steps taken. ActiGraphs are special, though, because can look at something unique: sleep. By wearing an ActiGraph while sleeping, we can collect data on how long it takes to fall asleep, sleep length and sleep efficiency. Understanding the quality and duration of one’s own sleep is very important because sleep is essential to one’s ability to perform at work and school, to drive safely, to live a long life, to regulate one’s own emotions and to maintain social bonds. As a psychology researcher, I am especially interested in observing the possible connections among emotion, cognition, behavior — the things we have some degree of volitional control over — and sleep quality. My Actigraphs will allow me to do just that.
This year, the Center for Literature and Medicine funded the purchase of 10 ActiGraphs, giving me a total of 20. This is enough to help a class of students learn about the impacts of their habits on their physical health, enough to run a research study (which I am about to begin!) and enough to allow students, faculty and staff who are interested in self-exploration to come and try one out. One of Hiram’s goals in the coming years is to move towards a culture of health and wellness; the first step to being healthier is to understand how healthy you are to begin with. Data collection, especially the kind of objective data we can do with “wearables” like an ActiGraph, helps us to do just that.