🗣 sleep

This is an account of a talk I gave at my local Toastmasters club last night. The intention of the talk was to incorporate facts and research.

Thank you Mr Toastmaster. Good evening Toastmasters and special guests.

I’d like to you raise your hand if typically sleep less than 6 hours per night (a few people raise their hand). Raise your hand if you sleep six to less than eight hours per night (almost all of the audience raises their hand), finally if you sleep eight or more hours per night (one person raises their hand sheepishly – there are a few giggles and looks).

Sleep deprivation is defined as anything less than seven hours of sleep per night1.

Research by the WHO has shown typically sleeping less than 7 hours per night is as bad as smoking2.

The AAA has found that driving a car on less than 4 hours of sleep means you’re eleven and a half times more likely to have a crash. 3

An adult sleeping only six hours and forty-five minutes a night would only be predicted to live to their early sixties without medical intervention. 1

It wasn’t until I had kids that I realised the importance of sleep. Suddenly I became fascinated with it.

Both from the kids point of view: they don’t sleep and they’re so grumpy. And from the parent’s point of view: they don’t sleep and we’re so grumpy.

Why are we grumpy when we don’t sleep? Brain scans have shown a 60% amplification in the reactivity of the amygdala1 which is the part of your brain which causes the fight or flight response. So we’re more angry, anxious and stressed when we don’t sleep.

But why don’t we respect sleep? Kids are so cute when they’re sleepy. You can’t not smile looking at a cute little sleeping child. But if an adult is sleepy, or sleeps a lot, we look at them like they’re a sloth. They’re lazy. Hero’s don’t sleep. The CEOs of multinational organisations are applauded as heroes who survive on a few hours of sleep a night.

And we don’t sleep. In 1942, less than 8% of the US population survived on 6 or less hours of sleep per night, now it’s one in two. 1

It’s a huge economic problem too. Sleep Scientist Matthew Walker at the University of California has showed sleep deprivation costs the UK economy alone 30 billion pounds per annum, 2% of the GDP of the United Kingdom.1

So why don’t we sleep like we used to. There’s a number of reasons. The most obvious is electrification of the night: 24×7 electricity has made the world less dark, and we need darkness to sleep well. Also work. The grey lines between work and home, for example, I work at home, mean we’re working more and working more in our homes: checking emails on our phones all night. Not only that, we desire larger more expensive houses with longer commutes which means we have less hours to do other things. And we all suffer the modern phenomenon known as FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out. We’d rather miss out on sleep than anything else.

This talk has been pretty bleak and depressing so far. So what can you do?

The first thing you can do to improve your sleep is sleep more. Try to stick to regular sleeping hours every night. We set alarms to wake up: why not set one to go to bed so you know you can sleep for eight hours that night? Every iPhone in the world has this feature built in.

Avoid sleeping pills, they delete your memory.1 Limit alcohol and caffeine – they are enemies of sleep, much like light. And do things like reading (paper) books at bedtime, or take a hot bath which helps you get to sleep1.

On sleep, Heroclitus said “Even a soul submerged in sleep is hard at work and helps make something of the world.”

President Donald Trump proudly declares he has 3 hours of sleep a night4, which raises the question: do you really want to be like Donald Trump?

Mr Toastmaster.

audience erupts in loud and sustained 👏

[1]: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/sep/24/why-lack-of-sleep-health-worst-enemy-matthew-walker-why-we-sleep
[2]: https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/584425/Smoking-sleep-stroke-heart-attack-risk-unhealthy-tired
[3]: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/12/06/driving-5-hours-sleep-like-driving-drunk/94992718/
[4]: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/243275

🎶 pictures in my head

I can’t get enough of this track right now, a killer combo of lyrics and beats.

“We ain’t playing hide and seek
Got a different game instead
Building cities out of sheets
I’m reminiscing about when
You told me you only want to wake up in my arms
Wake up in my arms
Building cities out of sheets
Seeing pictures in my head”


mount cooroora

During our recent long weekend in Noosa I took the opportunity to hike up Mount Cooroora which has been on my mountain bucket list for some time now. Each July, the nearby township of Pomona hosts a 4.2km “King of the Mountain” race up and back down from the local pub, with the record being held by Neil Labinsky, 4th year consecutive winner, with a recorded a time of 22 minutes 43 seconds.

I loved the 360 degree views at the top and had the full length of the summit to myself.

Distance: 3km return
Time up: 25min
Time down: 25min
Elevation: 439m
Elevation Gain: 300m


bookshelves arranged by colour (for conference calls)

Quite often I will be on a conference call and one of the participants will have bookshelves arranged neatly by colour behind them as they participate. This inevitably gets favourable comments: it’s a good way to impress your colleagues and acquaintances!

I thought about doing this, but I have a few issues:

  1. I don’t own enough physical books to fill a bookshelf: Marie Kondo says I shouldn’t own a single thing that doesn’t spark joy and there aren’t enough physical books in the world that will continually spark me joy to justify a dedicated bookshelf.
  2. Even if I did own enough physical books to fill a bookshelf I’d probably not have enough colour diversity in the spine of the books to be able to neatly separate them into colours – so I’d definitely be buying books I didn’t need, or even want.
  3. Even if I did have enough colour diversity in my books I would be hesitant to actually sort my books by their colour as that would mean prioritising form (colour) over function (subject matter): I find it much easier to find a book amongst a section of ‘business’ books than to find a book by remembering what colour spine it has.

I want the end goal of impressing my colleagues with my colour arranged bookshelf without the hard work and struggle of owning and organising a collection of books by colour.

So what I thought about doing is starting a Kickstarter campaign for a large photo-printed canvas blind with colour arranged bookshelves on it that you arrange behind your desk so each conference call people can see all your fancy colour books arranged so lovingly.

Or I could just stop caring what people think of me; that’s a much easier option.

(image via Fuck Your Noguchi Coffee Table)

the three a’s of apple support

the 3 A’s of Apple Customer Support:

A – Acknowledge that their concerns are valid.

A – Align with the customer, agreeing that you would feel the same were you in their shoes.

A – Assure the customer that you will be able to solve their problem to their satisfaction.

via John Saddington


“These digital alerts continuously disrupt our activities through instant calls for attention,” said researcher Dr Eiman Kanjo.

“While notifications enhance the convenience of our life, we need to better-understand the impact their obsessive use has on our well-being.

“It is clear that social notifications make people happy, but when they receive lots of work-related and or non-human notifications, the opposite effect occurs.”

So that’s why turning off all work notifications on my phone was such a good idea: a study has shown that one third of the notifications on our phone cause a downturn in our mood – particularly work and non-human ones.

november’s tea challenge

Lastly, tea — unless one is drinking it in the Russian style — should be drunk without sugar. I know very well that I am in a minority here. But still, how can you call yourself a true tealover if you destroy the flavour of your tea by putting sugar in it? It would be equally reasonable to put in pepper or salt. Tea is meant to be bitter, just as beer is meant to be bitter. If you sweeten it, you are no longer tasting the tea, you are merely tasting the sugar; you could make a very similar drink by dissolving sugar in plain hot water.

George Orwell from 1943-1945

I want to try no sugar in my tea but want to try it long enough that I can get past the initial taste difference and see whether it’s something I’ll enjoy long term.

So for November I am not having sugar in my black leaf tea that I drink (I don’t have sugar in any other type of tea).

I’ll report back in December and see whether it’s something I’ll be sticking with long term.

land of the remembered

Growing up I went to church every Sunday with my family including ‘Sunday School’ which included learning about what happens when you die. I found our religion was good at defining what happens when someone dies—as children we learnt about how according to our religion that good people would go to heaven when they die and bad people would go to hell (you should be good!) But we had a traumatic event associated with the church so our family disassociated ourselves from the church and we haven’t been to church or consider ourselves religious since.

Fast forward to today we have three young kids we are raising in a non-religious household where we didn’t (until recently) discuss what happens when you die.

During the period where Kitty was hospitalised earlier this year we were encouraged by people providing support to our family to have a clear story/shared belief about what happens when someone dies and discuss this with our children.

But we didn’t really have a clear story or belief about what happens when someone dies! As a non-religious person I thought death was just a finish – a lights out – end of the show – when your life just becomes nothing. But that’s just depressing – especially to a kid. We realised you don’t need to be religious to believe in the afterlife.

So we borrowed an idea – it comes from a great film about Day of the Dead called The Book of Life.

When someone dies their spirit lives on in one of two worlds: the land of the remembered, or the land of the forgotten. By focussing on helping people and human connection you’ll be remembered past your death and your spirit will live on in the endless fiesta that is the land of the remembered.

The Land of the Remembered in The Book of Life film

We like this idea as it’s not only easy to explain to our children but it aligns well with our family values and mission statement.

We have created a yearly ritual which is to watch the film as a family on Day of the Dead (2 November) and discuss our beliefs about the afterlife.

What do you believe happens when you die? What do you tell your kids?

Happy Halloween!

→ the importance of sleep

Why, exactly, are we so sleep-deprived? What has happened over the course of the last 75 years? In 1942, less than 8% of the population was trying to survive on six hours or less sleep a night; in 2017, almost one in two people is. The reasons are seemingly obvious. “First, we electrified the night,” Walker says. “Light is a profound degrader of our sleep. Second, there is the issue of work: not only the porous borders between when you start and finish, but longer commuter times, too. No one wants to give up time with their family or entertainment, so they give up sleep instead. And anxiety plays a part. We’re a lonelier, more depressed society. Alcohol and caffeine are more widely available. All these are the enemies of sleep.”

A great article on the importance of sleep: an adult sleeping only 6.75 hours a night would be predicted to live only to their early 60s without medical intervention.

📚 the boiling river

I recently finished The Boiling River: Adventure and Discovery in The Amazon—a TED book by Andrés Ruzo. I love the short format and interestingness of these books, this one was no exception.

“At a time when everything seems mapped, measured, and understood, this river challenges what we /think/ we know. It has forced me to question the line between known and unknown, ancient and modern, scientific and spiritual. It is a reminder that there are still great wonders to be discovered. We find them not just in the black void of the unknown but in the white noise of everyday life—in the things we barely notice, the things we almost forget, even in the detail of a story.”

“My headlamp concentrates my focus on the small area it illuminates and makes the darkness beyond seem impenetrable. I contemplate the marvels that must be out there, shrouded in darkness or hidden in the everyday. That is the lesson of the darkness: it is our perspective that draws the line between the known and the unknown, the sacred and the trivial, the things we take for granted and the things we have yet to discover.”