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One last wrap-up of the #sleepup

July 23, 2010

Huge thanks to everyone who helped make the Sleep-Up a success. A lot of people have asked me similar questions, so rather than sit here ruminating on my thoughts, I’ll let them come naturally as answers.

We got some great media coverage and it may be illuminating to check out the following links:

On to some of the more common questions I’ve received:

Wasn’t it weird having a bunch of people watch you sleep?

I’ve yet to come up with an answer to this that I think has satisfied anyone. The truth is, it just never really occurred to me to think of it as a big deal. I wouldn’t want to do this night after night, on a regular basis, but one go-round didn’t bother me. I don’t know how many people realized this, but when you go in for a sleep study, there are people watching you sleep anyway—in other words, that little infrared camera wasn’t specially installed or anything; it’s there all the time. I’m the type of guy who is just as comfortable speaking in front of one person as I would be in front of three thousand, so maybe it’s a personality trait or something like that.

In a sense, it was almost more comfortable having a bunch of people watch. If there’s only one person watching, which is generally the case with most sleep studies, your night’s sleep remains this private, intimate thing, only you’ve shared it with one other human being who you barely know. When you open up that experience to the whole world, you basically shatter the intimacy aspect and disarm the situation. (Note: This is not intended as any knock of any kind toward the sleep techs at Swedish who were very personable, professional and friendly every time I met them. I would’ve had no problem sleeping for an audience of one or two and in fact, if you’re thinking of having a sleep test in the Seattle area, I would highly recommend Swedish’s Cherry Hill clinic.)

How did you sleep with all those wires attached to your head?

The wires weren’t that distracting or uncomfortable. I think it helped a lot that I didn’t have a lot of hair on my head to get in the way of all the adhesive and whatnot, but even if I had a full head of hair, I don’t think it would’ve been too bothersome. The wires aren’t stuck down with regular medical tape, either; first they put down a sort of anti-adhesive (to make it hurt less when they ripped the tape off the morning after) and then they applied this paste that I think (a) helped hold the electrodes in place and (b) helped conduct an electric current.

There were a few points—mostly when I first lied down to go to bed—where I was really itchy (I suffer from psoriasis) and the wires kind of got in the way of me trying to scratch my face, but other than that, they weren’t a problem.

How well did you sleep?

I was in bed for 6.4 hours and technically asleep for 5.2 hours, which I would characterize as a pretty average night for me. I did wake up a bit and had several spans of light sleep where I was conscious of being in a bed, in a room—that’s not every-night average for me, but it does happen about once every two weeks. Given the circumstances, though, I’d count it as a successful night.

What was your goal—personally—with regard to this project?

I think going into it and still now, my personal goals were more focused more toward the social media end of this project. To sit here and pretend that going around proselytizing about sleep apnea is some ambition of mine would be inauthentic. I’ve done some research, I’ve met with some doctors and I know that it’s a serious condition for some people, but I can’t honestly say that, if I were celebrity for instance, it would be my crusade.

Social media on the other hand, is an emerging form of communication technology that I’m quite passionate about. As a journalist, I’ve often been tasked with what we always heroically refer to in the industry as “giving a voice to the voiceless.” Fact is, though, even if a journalist gives a voice to one person who may not otherwise have one, there are still tons more out there. Social media doesn’t completely level that field, but it goes quite a long way. Our Sleep-Up harnessed the two-way conversation that is social media: I Tweeted/commented on my experience and people who were maybe a little interested (either in the sleep study or in the slightly voyeuristic novelty of a guy broadcasting himself on the internet) perked up and started asking questions with the implication that Oh, crap, I think I might want to go get tested. (Note: Yes, someone (almost) literally said that, which to me made the whole thing a success before it even happened.)

(My question) How could the Sleep-Up apply to journalism?

This blog is, after all, focused on applying new media to the journalism industry, so I thought I’d jump in with this quick observation.

We like to think of ourselves very heroically in the journalism industry and if you listen in, you’ll often hear the phrase that we “give a voice to the voiceless.” To me, that was the old way. Social media has given a voice to the voiceless: their voice. There’s probably a fair bit of luck involved with, say, making a video go viral, but the fact is, people are much more empowered today to get their thoughts/complaints/fears/aspirations/etc. out into the public forum than they were 20 years ago (or even 10 years ago). There’s no longer this middle-man that people are forced to filter their message though (re: I can blog for as long as I want, whereas I’ll have to first pitch my story to a journalist, convince him it’s worthy of being told and then distill it down into maybe a dozen paragraphs and quotes, not all of which are mine).

That isn’t to say journalism doesn’t have an important role. For all our heroic talk of journalism, there’s one aspect we don’t talk about enough: being an advocate for one’s community. This is an arena a lot of us have shied away from, probably because of a (perceived or real) partisan split among news consumers and a genuine fear by the journalism community of being called biased (journalists fear that label as much as a normal person would fear “racist”). It’s sad because where journalists and news organizations have failed to passionately embrace the issues within their communities, regular citizens have taken to blogs and filled in the cracks. Despite that, news organizations still hold a great deal of visibility, for the time being at least—possibly the only chip they have left. Whereas we generated visibility for the Sleep-Up with a unique idea (and some damn hard PR work by my colleagues), many news organizations are already a step ahead because they already have an audience. We reached out to the sleep-deprived community by dancing a jig to make people look and then saying There is no ambiguity here; this is a legitimate medical issue. Again, news organizations are terrified of bias, but even the most militant centrist would have to agree that on several issues, there is no moral ambiguity. Some things are simply the right thing to do and some things are simply wrong. Harnessing those issues, putting a unique spin on them and then inviting people into the learning process (this is where tech/social media comes into play) is a path to true community engagement and could endear news organizations to their home town communities once again.

Are you still taking questions about this?

The Sleep-Up’s over and things have kind of tapered off, but I’m happy to answer anything else you might want to know. Drop a comment here or contact me on Twitter and we’ll keep the conversation going.

Till then, have a good night :)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Darcie permalink
    December 23, 2010 9:54 am

    I’m sorry Paul. I am talking about the sleepup app. I may have been mistaken but while reading about your sleep tests I thought you had mentioned the app as well. But I was reading a few different things on sleep and this sleepup app for iphones. With various tones to listen to for 15 minutes (I think). Anyway, I’m glad I stumbled onto your site! I like your writing.

    Do you know anything about the app or did they have you listen to any sounds during the sleepup?

  2. December 23, 2010 12:54 pm

    Oh, I think I know what you mean. The Sleep-Up itself doesn’t have an actual app, but I think I might have mentioned aSleep, which does allow you to set tones for certain amounts of time (it also does some other cool stuff).

    I didn’t listen to any sounds while I was doing the sleep study, nor did they ask me to.

    aSleep is a pretty solid app, but I’ve actually found Koi Pond much more to my liking. It’s not branded as a sleep app or anything, but it does feature nature sounds, which, to me, are much more soothing and preferable to the ones contained on aSleep. Both apps are cheap ($0.99), so maybe check them both out and decide which one you like better.

    Thanks for visiting my site, by the way! Glad you like it.

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