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Proactive Sleep

Dan Gartenberg's Mental Portrait


At best a picture is a window into someone's true character and at worst it is a passing snapshot of appearances. The mental portrait goes deeper, providing a more accurate and meaningful representation of the subject. In my first attempt at a mental portrait I will track my habits, behaviors, and feelings every day for one year. I hope to gain improved self awareness, a healthier routine, and to communicate a more transparent portrait of myself to friends and family. A second goal is to identify additional measures that can improve my self portrait.


I am using the Proactive Sleep iPhone app for my self portrait. Using this application I will track my sleep amount, sleep efficiency, bedtime, alertness (using the vigilance task), exercise, mood, diet, relaxation, productivity, caffeine use, alcohol use, and nicotine use. Every night when going to bed I will track my bedtime by pressing a button that tags bedtime. Then when I wake up I will press a button that tracks my wakeup time. Following this I will play the PVT vigilance task in order to measure my alertness. Then I will input my estimates of how long it took me to fall asleep, my awakening, and how long it took me to get out of bed. Lastly, I will input my habits that occurred on the previous day. This will include: exercise, mood (on a 2 dimensional scale), diet, relaxation, productivity, caffeine use, alcohol use, and nicotine use.


As of September 1st 2011, I am a healthy 25 year old male. I am 5'11'' and weight 180 pounds and I am about 15 pounds overweight. I do not take any medications. I exercise rarely. I have a stable mood from day to day that I characterize as above average energy level and a mediocre level of happiness. I believe my mood to be affected by positive/negative social interactions and my productivity for the day. I usually relax by watching TV. I know that I need about 7.5 hours of sleep a night to feel fully rested the next day. I suffer from acute insomnia when I am stressed. I am addicted to caffeine. I drink alcohol and consume nicotine socially.


- Lose 15 pounds in order to weight 165 pounds
- Exercise 5 times a week
- Do not consume any nicotine
- Improve my baseline mood
- Increase my productivity
- Replace my relaxation with more productive forms of relaxation

Research Questions

- Does the act of tracking improve my behaviors?
- What are the factors that influence my mood?
- What are the factors that influence my productivity?
- What are the factors that influence my exercise?
- What are the factors that influence my diet?
- What are the factors that influence my sleep?


I improved my health this month but I still have a long way to go. The act of tracking myself helped motivate me to exercise more. I also found that I need to sleep a bit more and that stressors have a unique impact on me in that they can trigger acute insomnia. Alcohol was shown to impact me in more ways than I had previously thought, impacting my bedtime, sleep amount, and productivity. I found that I need to improve on my relaxation behaviors and that my mood is affected by both my productivity level and my social interactions (perhaps we should add social interaction tracking to the app).

Sleep Amount

I did not get enough sleep this month. I had a lot of binge sleeping due to either work related stress (see Sept 14) or social activities (see Sept 22 - Sept 27). I took a tripe to Las Vegas for a conference in late September and my time was taken up by both work and socializing with lab mates.

Sleep Efficiency

This clearly demonstrates my acute insomnia. On the night of September 14th school had just started and I couldn't stop thinking about work related responsibilities before falling to sleep. It took me about 4 hours to fall asleep, which was reflected in my sleep efficiency of 40%.


I usually hardly exercise, but this month I exercised about 40% of days out of the month. Very good! This lends support to my research question related to how the act of tracking can make me more accountable to myself, therby helping me behave in healthier ways.


What surprised me most when tracking myself was the effect that alcohol had on many of my behaviors. This graph depicts that I usually drink socially (on weekends) where there were also spikes in drinking when I went to a wedding (Sept 7-9) and when I went to Las Vegas (Sept 19-26).


My mood fluctuates from contentment to periodic episodes of negative affect. I found two things to play a role in my mood: my productivity level and social interactions. The recent dip in mood was due to a string of negative social interactions.


My productivity comes in bursts, with very high levels of productivity occurring when I am feeling pressure to complete tasks. This is not the ideal way to be productive, so next month I'll try to work a bit more every day instead of in bursts.


Clearly, I am addicted to caffeine. However, I slowed down a bit when I went to Las Vegas.

Bedtime and Sleep Amount

The later I went to bed the less I slept. I averaged a bedtime of about 1:30, with periods of going to bed much later. It makes sense that going to bed later than my normal time resulted in less sleep due to the circadian component of sleep.

Alcohol and Bedtime

The more I drink the later my bedtime - which makes quite a bit of sense and doesn't need much explanation. Again, this shows how alcohol affects a lot of behaviors.

Alcohol and Productivity

It is pretty easy to come to the conclusion that alcohol reduces productivity. Though it could also be that I usually drink alcohol on days that I work less.

Sleep Amount and Productivity

Somewhat interesting is that the more I sleep the more productive I am. Though there is an outlier where one night I hardly slept and was very productive. This was due to work pressures where I had to work instead of sleep.

Relaxation and Mood

This illustrates that my relaxation behavior (watching TV) has a negative impact on my mood. As previously mentioned, I think that I need to exchange this relaxation activity for one that is more rewarding.


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