The Sleep-Retardant Properties of My Ex-Girlfriend
The importance of a good nights sleep can not be overestimated. Getting
more than 7 hours of sleep a night helps in retention and deep encoding
of information, which is essential in graduate school. Also, getting
sufficient amounts of sleep results in a better mood and a greater level
Given this, I decided to conduct a study on those factors which influenced
the amount of sleep I was getting, in order to determine how to get more
One factor which I predicted would have especially large effects was my
girlfriend at the time, Hermina. I have induced that several of my acquaintances
believe that Hermina would have significant positive effects on sleep --
in the words of one such acquaintance, Tom, "Man, shes hot. Id
really like to sleep with her." Other acquaintances have also expressed
an interest in her sleep-inducing properties.[4,5]
There are many reasons why one might postulate that Hermina would increase sleep -- the quote above points to an important one, that she is quite hot, being a mammal with a body temperature of around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. A warm blanket has been identified as a source of good sleep, and it is quite possible that Hermina performs a similar function.
Over the course of 28 consecutive nights, I collected data on the number
of hours of sleep I obtained, and on a number of factors that might potentially
affect the amount of sleep obtained.
These variables included:
whether or not I had read in bed that night
whether it was a weeknight or weekend night
whether I had gone drinking
whether I had attended a social event
whether I had been feeling ill the previous day
whether I had an academic deadline
whether I was returning a graded homework assignment in the class I TA the next day
how late in the day my first meeting or class was
how much sleep I had gotten the night before
how much sleep I had gotten the previous two nights
whether or not I had slept at Herminas apartment or my own
I used these variables in order to develop a regression model to explain
the amount I slept.
The first step towards developing a regression model of how much sleep
I got was to transform all the binary variables (such as whether or not
I had slept at Herminas apartment) into 0 and 1 so that I could treat
them as quantitative variables.
I then conducted a forward-inclusion search for candidate variables in
the model as such:
Using a statistical package, I computed Cp, BIC, AIC, RSS, and adjusted
r-square metrics for models composed of each of the variables.
The clear best model by each of this metrics was the one composed of where
I had slept. It explained 22.3% of the data (adjusted R2=0.223) and the
term was significantly different than zero. (ESS=27.79, Edf=1, s2=3.07,
Next, I examined whether a second variable explained more than the effects
which were explained by where I slept.
The best model by each metric was one where I added in as a variable whether
or not I had gone on a social outing (including drinking) the night before.
However, this term was not significantly different than zero. (ESS=6.5,
Edf=1, s2=2.94, F=2.21, p>0.10)
No other term was significant, in further investigations, either when added
to the model including where I slept, or in a model by itself.
The final regression model was
S = -2.018 H + 7.47
In essence, what this model means is that I got an average of two hours
and one minute less sleep when I slept at Herminas apartment rather
than my own. The exact amounts of sleep I got in each condition are shown
in Figure 1. This is clear evidence for Herminas sleep-retardant properties.
After obtaining these results, the appropriate course of action became
clear. I spoke to Hermina and explained my study and its results, as well
as the importance of getting sufficient sleep, as illustrated in  and
. I concluded by explaining that, due to her sleep-retardant properties,
I could not continue to sleep with her, an act she termed "breaking
I should mention that Hermina suggested that my data, being from an observational
study rather than an experimental study, only shows correlations rather
than causation, and that it was quite possible that I had only chosen to
sleep at her apartment on nights when I was less tired, or that I had actually
chosen to get less sleep on nights when I had come to her apartment. She
proposed that, instead of taking hasty action, we conduct an experimental
study where we flip a coin each night to determine whether I would sleep
at her apartment or my own, in order to prove a causative effect.
Obviously, I rejected this suggestion. Although this study is insufficient
to conclusively prove Herminas causative role, this strong a correlation,
and the importance of getting enough sleep, are sufficient together to suggest
that action needs to be taken expeditiously.
When Tom, whom I mentioned earlier in the paper, discovered that Hermina and I had broken up, he expressed interest anew in sleeping with her. I attempted to warn him about Herminas sleep-retardant properties. In response, he referred to me as an "idiot." This clearly demonstrates his lack of understanding of the value of sleep.[1,2] (Although it would be fair to point out that since I only sampled from my own amount of sleep, my results may not generalize to Tom. Nonetheless.)
I would like to conclude by encouraging others to embark on this sort of
data-collection activity in their own lives. By helping me identify and
eliminate the foremost factor reducing the amount of sleep I get, it has
enriched my life. I believe it will enrich your life as well.
1. Are You Getting
Enough Sleep? [pamphlet], University of Iowa Student Health, 2001.
2. Wellness: A Lifetime Commitment, Patricia A. Floyd, et al., Hunter Textbooks, 1991.
3. Personal communication, Tom. October 19, 2001.
4. Personal communication, Dick. October 24, 2001.
5. Personal communication, Harry. October 24, 2001.
6. Yahoo! Health: Body Temperature Normals. 2001. http://health.yahoo.com/health/Diseases_and_Conditions/Disease_Feed_Data/Body_temperature_normals/
7. "To Be Alive," Seth Schachne. Poem written for Ms. Teifelds 8th grade class. Temple Habonim Religious School, Barrington, Rhode Island, 2001.
8. Uncoupling: Turning Points in Intimate Relationships, Diane Vaughan, Vintage Books, 1990.
© Copyright 2002 Annals of Improbable Research (AIR)