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"Trust me, I’m a doctor"

While catching up on TV (i.e. The Great British Bake-Off), I ran into BBC2’s Trust me, I’m a doctor. I quite like Michael Mosley, so thought I would give it a whirl.

The programme does a useful deconstruction of some of the various measures of health, questioning BMI and body fat percentages as sole or primary indicators of health. There is a general turn from looking at fat to looking at fitness, so the programme is a useful demystifier for those who haven’t yet caught up!

Amongst other fascinating subjects (like hand-washing and CPR), the programme explores the impact of sleep on weight, diabetes and general wellness.  This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently, as I have moved towards sleeping far more than I routinely have in the past, trying to sleep between eight and nine hours wherever I can, and I have been feeling better: fewer body niggles (excepting this post!), and happier.

I use the Sleep Cycle app, which gives some mildly interesting information about sleep patterns, but more generally is a useful way to gauge how long you’ve actually slept each night. I knew about booze interrupting REM sleep, but what I found interesting and didn‘t know was that the brain does most of the memory-consolidation work in the second half of the night. I’m going to keep this in mind in future, as I do still often find myself wanting to snooze a fair bit when the alarm wakes me up (there is often no ‘good’ time during the 30 minute window, so it wakes me at the set time).

We can link this programme (and Mosley’s others, like The truth about exercise) to the quantified self (QS) movement. @weboesel has recently been tweeting about #qs13 (the annual QS conference), and I’ve found her timeline absolutely fascinating. Beyond the Sleep Cycle app, I’ve been mildly tempted by things like FitBit and used food trackers like MyFitnessPal, pedometers like Pacer, as well as mood trackers, but I have struggled with the dedication required to do all of the tracking.

I think self-knowledge is absolutely key, though, and have a general distrust of doctors simply because most do not engage with patients’ self-knowledge or do not trust it when it’s presented to them. Programmes like this one can be useful in encouraging patients to engage their own self-awareness and move away from reliance on ‘one-size-fits-all’ medical advice (be it from doctors, womens’ mags, or the news).

What sorts of apps/self-tracking do you do? How do you make it a part of your routine? And how do you find your doctors respond to your attempts for self-knowledge?

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