Collective Wisdom for a Good Night’s Sleep

by guest@zeo on july 28, 2010 · 2 comments

Image courtesy of @accarmichael

This guest post is by Alexandra Carmichael of CureTogether, a web community devoted to the idea that people can help each other live better by sharing data and experiences.

Last night I couldn’t sleep.

I lay awake, trying to relax my muscles, feeling my heart beat echo through my body.

It feels like a car that won’t start, and it happens quite often. Maybe that’s not surprising, since I’m homeschooling two kids and running two startups at the same time.

Still, sleep deprivation is not fun. I’m always looking for new ideas to help me get a better night’s sleep. I drink chamomile tea and avoid caffeine. I try to get lots of fresh air and daily walks. I read fiction before bed. I study the science of sleep. I’ve even tried Seth Roberts’ theory that standing on one leg to exhaustion can help you sleep better (I think it works).

But sometimes I still can’t sleep. And I know I’m not alone. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 40 million Americans suffer from insomnia.

It’s also the 5th largest condition community at CureTogether, where over 1100 people are sharing their experiences with different treatments. Below is an infographic we put together showing the most popular and effective insomnia treatments as reported by CureTogether members; an interactive version of this, with up-to-the-minute data, is here.

Results as of July 23, 2010

The most popular and most effective treatments are shown in the top right part of the graph. Treatments in the top left part are reported as more effective than average, but not many people have tried them, so presumably if more people tried these, they could be helped. Treatments in the bottom right part are very popular, but reported as less effective than average, so they may not be as helpful as you might think. And treatments in the bottom left are neither effective nor popular.

The numbers are constantly changing as more people add their ratings, but the point of charts like this is to give us new ideas.

For example, I’m not personally a fan of taking drugs, but I hadn’t considered white noise as an effective way to block out the basketball court outside my window or the neighbor’s TV. And if quitting caffeine is more effective than taking Tylenol PM, then eliminating these two drugs in favor of a restful sleep may be a lifestyle change worth considering.

So whether you settle down with your favorite book, curl up with your Zeo, or snuggle with a loved one, sharing ideas can help us all sleep better. I hope I can quiet myself enough to sleep well tonight, and I hope you can too.

Alexandra Carmichael is co-founder of CureTogether, Director of The Quantified Self, a Research Affiliate at Institute for the Future, and advisor to a number of startups. She tweets on topics of health and chronic conditions @accarmichael. Alexandra lives with a chronic condition herself, and tries to make the world a better place by helping 10 people every day.

Original article at