Hello! My name is Daniel Gartenberg, but you can call me Dr. Dan. I’m originally from New Jersey, and have lived in Wisconsin (go Badgers!), Virginia, Washington, D.C., and my new home base of New York City. I’ve been invested in sleep research for the past ten years, ever since I heard about an alarm clock that can track your sleep. That alarm clock turned out to be a total dud, but it set me on the path of clinical sleep research. To me, studying sleep is fascinating because it’s so interdisciplinary. It bridges psychology, neuroscience, and computer science, while remaining a critical part of people’s health. Sleep is also mysterious. Scientists have made great strides in understanding sleep, but there is still a ton we don’t know about when we close our eyes for the night.
Taken together, sleep, diet, and exercise are the “Big Three” that keep us healthy. A great deal of attention is given to diet and exercise, but less importance is placed on sleep. I want to change this conception, since sleep is quite possibly the most important component of overall wellbeing. Sleep impacts our productivity, our mood, and our ability to make healthy choices. Think of it this way: are you likely to exercise or eat well when you’re exhausted? When I’m tired, I reach for the nearest soda and bag of chips. It’s much easier to push yourself to eat right and work out when you’ve had a rejuvenating night’s sleep, which is why it’s so important to get quality sleep.
As I began to study sleep, I became increasingly interested in how sleep affects cognition. I decided to pursue a PhD focusing on the theories behind fatigue and alertness. My doctoral studies led me to create a test for the U.S. Navy that assesses pilots’ vigilance levels to determine whether they are fit to fly. Through my PhD program I learned valuable skills like the scientific method and software development. Perhaps more importantly, I figured out exactly how I can best help people achieve their optimal sleep.
Helping people sleep has been my main goal since before my PhD, but I haven’t always succeeded in doing so. When I was still in college, I developed an App called Proactive Sleep, which was meant to wake you up during the lightest part of your sleep cycle, so you wouldn’t be groggy in the morning. This App didn’t work quite right – I realized that people are busy, and no one wants to enter detail after detail about ourselves every day. This realization led me to investigate how I could get the necessary data about a person’s sleep habits in the most minimally invasive way possible. Around this time, wearable technology first started to hit the market. Wearable tech, like Fitbits and smart watches, are useful because they provide accurate information about the wearer’s sleep. But these technologies don’t help people sleep better. After all, even if your Fitbit tells you that you wake up ten times during the night, it’s difficult to figure out what’s going wrong and how to fix the issue. As more and more wearable tech options kept hitting the market, I realized that combining the information that these products provide with expert sleep coaching is the most effective and accurate way to address sleep problems.
I decided that I could use my background in psychology, cognitive science, and software engineering to create a science-backed coaching service that is completely customized to each individual client. But before I could start accepting clients, I still needed more precise ways to analyze sleep patterns. To accomplish this, I applied for and received a grant from the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Health to develop an algorithm that ascertains sleep stages based on easily accessible data – i.e., information from wearable technology.
With my PhD and grant research behind me, I’m thrilled to launch my professional sleep coaching service. I hope that my coaching finds the root of your sleep issues and provides you with clear, customized approaches that fit into your life. If you have any questions, shoot me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dan Gartenberg, PhD