Sleep books compared

Why we sleep by Matthew Walker

I noticed there has been a lot of hype and discussion around the book why we sleep by Matthew Walker.

Neuroscientist and sleep expert Matthew Walker provides a revolutionary exploration of sleep, examining how it affects every aspect of our physical and mental well-being. Charting the most cutting-edge scientific breakthroughs, and marshalling his decades of research and clinical practice, Walker explains how we can harness sleep to improve learning, mood and energy levels, regulate hormones, prevent cancer, Alzheimer’s and diabetes, slow the effects of aging, and increase longevity. He also provides actionable steps towards getting a better night’s sleep every night

Its a good book but I didn’t find it as in-depth and as interesting as

The Nocturnal Brain: Nightmares, Neuroscience by Dr. Guy Leschziner

The Nocturnal Brain: Nightmares, Neuroscience, and the Secret world of sleep by Guy Leschziner.

Dr. Guy Leschziner’s patients, there is no rest for the weary in mind and body. Insomnia, narcolepsy, night terrors, sleep apnea, and sleepwalking are just a sampling of conditions afflicting sufferers who cannot sleep–and their experiences in trying are the stuff of nightmares. Demoniac hallucinations frighten people into paralysis. Restless legs rock both the sleepless and their sleeping partners with unpredictable and uncontrollable kicking. Out-of-sync circadian rhythms confuse the natural body clock’s days and nights.

Then there are the extreme cases. A woman in a state of deep sleep who gets dressed, unlocks her car, and drives for several miles before returning to bed. The man who has spent decades cleaning out kitchens while “sleep-eating.” The teenager prone to the serious, yet unfortunately nicknamed “Sleeping Beauty Syndrome” stuck in a cycle of excessive unconsciousness, binge eating, and uncharacteristic displays of aggression and hyper-sexuality while awake.

With compassionate stories of his patients and their conditions, Dr. Leschziner illustrates the neuroscience behind our sleeping minds, revealing the many biological and psychological factors necessary in getting the rest that will not only maintain our physical and mental health, but improve our cognitive abilities and overall happiness.

I’m sure many will disagree, but I’d recommend The Nocturnal Brain over Why we sleep. Although I will admit it is a harder read, due to some of the experiences explained in some detail.

Adaptive bedtime lullabies

Oura  lullabies

I gave Oura’s sleep story a try the other night. It was pretty good, I was pretty much a sleep in under 10mins. I say 10mins because I couldn’t help but think how this could be so much better as a adaptive narrative or even a adaptive podcast?

Especially with the subject being around the moon.

I get the bedtime/sleep story is meant to be something to fall sleep to, but imagine it fitting/adapting slightly to the moon phase, how your day has been, etc. Oura is sitting on a ton of personal data and their system keeps that secure to the user.

Perfect for personalised adaptive narratives.

Working with my night owl self

Over the last 9 months I changed by work hours from 1000-1800 to 1100-1900. I use to get up out of bed at 0800, giving myself 2 hours to wake up, shower, have  breakfast and get to work on the bike. Generally I would be a sleep about 0100 meaning 6.5-7 hours of sleep.

If you feel like you heard this stuff before, you most likely have, here and here and even here.

Now with the change in work time, I’m sleeping by 0200 and awake just after 1000. Meaning 8 hours of sleep.

I can’t tell you how much better I feel!

Some have asked what if I slept 8 hours but shifted your hours towards the morning?

They misunderstand what it means to be a night owl vs a morning lark. As explained in this business insider. There are big differences.

Staying awake well into the night and having to wake up early for work can be problematic for people who identify as night owls. As the AsapSCIENCE team points out, most societal activities occur between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., putting night owls at risk of sleep deprivation.

Its not something you can not just simply switch. Even more importantly is the direct effect of the time.

At the very beginning of a workday, the difference between morning and night people can be obvious; morning people seem to be getting everything done, while night owls are slow to get going. But that difference may not last.

One hour after waking, early birds and night owls perform equally well in reaction time tests, AsapSCIENCE reports. Ten hours after waking, however, night owls perform significantly better than morning people in similar tests.

I mentioned to colleagues I was recording and editing podcasts at midnight without too much of a problem. Heck I’m writing this blog at midnight right now.I scheduling blogs, microblogs, emails and texts (before I switched back to Google Messages) has been a great way to going unnoticed. Not that I really need to but people always worry when there is a email sent at 0100.

Simple as this, 8 hours of sleep starting at 0130, for me is better quality sleep than going to bed earlier at 000 and waking up earlier at 0800. I have 5 years of sleep data which also points in the same direction.

I’m a night owl and theres little at this stage which is going to change. The pandemic has been good to me on this front.

How the rest of us sleep

Sleeping person
Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

In the previous post I mentioned sleep… Its something which is so important and since I’ve been tracking my sleep for many years. I have noticed how much better my sleep has been in relative times compared to before Covid19. Its strange but I’m getting about 8-9hrs a night and its good quality sleep.

Except when I eat silly things, my sleep quality is up by half a point across the board in the last 90 days.

I was reminded of Matthew Walker on rethinking sleep a part of BBC’s Rethink series. Matthew proposes a radical rediscovery of how, when and why we sleep during the pandemic of covid19.

Our sleep does seem to have changed during the pandemic there’s some emerging data from some sleep tracking companies that suggests people are going to bed at different times than they were before but also typically on average waking up a little bit later. Now for some people overall that means that they are getting actually more sleep. I think what we’ll find is that when we look at the data that’s probably at least two clouds of results. There are some people during the pandemic who will have been struggling with sleep and being getting less and it’s more difficult. Then others who are actually getting more, but I think what we’re really seeing in this data is that people are starting to sleep more in harmony with what we call your chronotype. In other words, are you an evening person are you a morning person or are you somewhere in between?

I’m certainly a evening person, I say typing this at 2am. I am also getting more sleep than I use to generally. I know its massively unfair but its what it is. The other night I took part in 3 podcasts and the last one ended at 1230am BST, and I felt great. Went to sleep a hour later and woke up 7.5 hrs later no problem.

The moon
Photo by 🇻🇪 Jose G. Ortega Castro 🇲🇽 on Unsplash

It turns out that you don’t really get a choice in that as it’s largely genetically determined, so it’s hardwired but what does this mean for the future then or what could it mean for the future in terms of sleeping well. Perhaps when people return to work, what if we asked everyone to fill out a very brief set of questions and we asked them about their preferred sleep times. When they would prefer to wake up when they prefer to go to bed. Companies can then start to try and accommodate as much as they can people’s individual work schedules?

I think this would be a fantastic idea. No harm in asking, you don’t have to fill it in but for evening people this could be a massive change. I’m currently working 11-7pm.

The notion of working 9-5pm fills me with fear to be honest, but I also know people who are doing 7-3pm and 8-4pm. Hence it would be useful in the other direction too.

That way they allow the employee to start sleeping in a much more compatible way with their biology rather than in conflict which is what many of us seem to do in this modern world society is really designed to bias and favor these morning types, but there’s a great big range and as a consequence we could have better rested employees and better rested leaders. We know that more sleep does equal more productivity. It’s not true that less sleep makes us more productive.

I think thats the main point, its biology not lazyness or all the other things people say. If you want the best out of employees, now is a perfect time understand what naturally works for them. Larks or owls its worth understanding from a business point of view.

Sleep on a clift
Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

I’d love to get an idea of the percentages of the population would naturally go for later (owl) and would go for earlier (larks), if they were not on mass socially engineered into the 9-5pm?

Google takeout to the rescue?

My Motiv ring on my hand

So recently I’ve gone into Quantified Self overload with my new Motiv Ring, added to my Pebble smartwatch for sleep tracking.

The ring is very good, but the app isn’t the best, its seems to work but isn’t very clear when its not syncing with the ring. Also I knew the 2 day battery was going to be a pain but to date I’ve been charging it every 2 days and never got to the point where its gotten below 44%.

As the app is pretty rubbish, I have sent everything to Google fit. I pretty much have everything synced with Google fit now.

The first time I noticed it was all working, was when I looked at sleep as android which I use with my pebble smartwatch and noticed my heart rate over the top of my sleep data.

Sleep data with heart rate
I warn you the sleep is a mess due to my flu I currently have… also why I’ve not blogged those great conferences I’ve been to recently.

Likewise I recently hooked up my Withings/Nokia iot scale to Google fit. The scale has its own app which isn’t bad but frankly its not great. It suffers from the similar problems as most of the quantified apps attached to a device or service; they want to be the centre of the world. Reminds me of my Fitbit which import everything but export little.

I understand Google fit is mining the heck out of my quantified data but with Google takeout, I can get the raw numbers in one place. Everyone wants to sync with Google fit and the dashboard view is far better than what everyone else right now.

I’ve also set it up to send me an update every 2 months. Now that’s pretty neat. Would I pay for a service to do this? Yes I would, how much is the question…

What does your circadian rhythm say?

It’s always been clear that sleep is a big deal and more and more research is coming out to show the massive effect sleep can have in our lives. Especially at critical times of our development.

I have been tracking (quantifying) my sleeping solidly for about 3-5 years and its surprising to see the effect of the things like different alcohol drink, cheese, coffee, milk and chocolate. I also been to many events, with the last one being Cafe Sci: Myth and Science of Sleep. I generally track my dreams now, which is quite different from previously when I use to track them with a lot more detail.

Tracking sleep can seem a but of nonsense; I mean leaving your phone on your bed while you sleep or using a wristband device to collect data can seem poor for data collection. However with some calibration and a few months data, it becomes clear through the patterns whats good quality and bad quality sleep; oppose to the length of sleep. The key being the cycles of sleep… Light sleep into REM into deep sleep into light sleep and over again.

Sleep as Android data

Here is me sleeping in a hotel for 5hrs 49mins after drinking cocktails in London during the week of Mozfest. You can see the alcohol puts me into deep sleep quickly but it takes a while for my body to get back into its normal sleep pattern. I also had a done a lot of walking that day.

graph_detail_20171019_1.11

This clearly shows although I had 7hrs 21mins of sleep when I woke up, I felt like crap. To be fair I had red wine, and was on cold meds to get rid of my long lingering cold. Once again I was in a hotel, this time in Sarajevo. No coffee this time.

graph_detail_20171119_1.30

This is from todays sleep, even with a few scoops of ice cream and coffee, I slept extremely well and woke up feeling pretty fresh and ready to take on the world.

I use Sleep as Android with my Pebble watch. I do sync everything to Google Fit, Google Drive and Dropbox to make a personal back up for myself.

Ultimately I would clearly say I have learned so much by looking at the patterns, especially over a longer period of time.

The smartwatch trap

The Pebble iOS Smartwatch

Ade tweeted this blog and I had a quick read.

I found this interesting and so true in the respects of what I think about smartwatches…

Once watch makers accept that we don’t want/need a tiny smartphone on our wrists, they’ll start making much more compelling watches. The only smartwatch maker that gets this right now is Pebble.

Just as phones serve a fundamentally different use case than tablets, watches serve a fundamentally different use case than phones. Watches are primarily for knowing things, not doing things.

Many of my friends who have the apple watch have given them up as the battery and consistent charging makes it a burden.

Funny enough theres also another older blog which I always think/talk about when people asking me about my pebble watch.

  1. The more you have to charge a watch, the more you have to take it off.

  2. The more you take a watch off, the less useful it is.

  3. The less useful the watch is, the less likely you are to put it back on.

Sleep tracking is a big deal for me and that means the only time my watch gets any charge is every once in a while, as I’m in the shower. Of course this isn’t every day because most of the time I’m in the shower wearing it.

Manchester Quantified Self, rebooted on 1st June

Fitbit stats

Its been a while since the last Quantified Self Manchester meetup. Mainly because I was away in Tokyo over April, then in May there was the May bank holiday. Its meant to happen every first Monday of the month.

The meetup is always interesting but lacks repeated members, so I rebooted it with themes thanks to Vimla.

The theme for June 1st is Sleep and Wellness and we welcome talks around this including

  • How you do sleep tracking?
  • What are the benefits of sleep tracking?
  • What you do with your data?

We normally start at 7pm with actually talks at 7:20pm, giving you time to meet other people and settle in. This part lasts till about 8.30pm.

If you have been interested in the Quantified Self to understand what self tracking is about or just nosy about what people are doing to improve their wellness. This might be a good time to come along learn more and contribute your experiences.

Sleeping on the weekends

I’ve been doing lots of research into dreams and sleeping and I just wanted to share this nugget of information.

Why is it So Hard to Wake Up in the Morning?

Your clock is controlled by the suprachiasmatic nucleus, a part of the brain that controls the body’s biological rhythms. But, says Jean Matheson, a sleep-disorders specialist at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, these preset natural rhythms often don’t align with daily realities—work or school start times cannot be adjusted to fit a person’s sleep schedule. People who have trouble crawling out of bed probably have an inner clock set to late wake-up and sleep times, a condition known as phase delay.

It is possible to adjust your phase-delayed body clock, Matheson says, but at a price: No sleeping in on the weekends. “When people sleep late on weekends, they revert to their natural phase-delayed rhythm,” she explains. This makes it harder to wake up early on weekdays. You can train yourself to wake up earlier, Matheson says, by setting your alarm 15 minutes earlier each day (and heeding its call).

When I was younger, I use to be able to cycle my body clock on the weekend. So I would sleep in late on the weekends but wake up early on weekdays. Now I’m older, I’ve finally come to the realisation that I can’t do it no longer.

Burning the midnight hour

Doc Searls writes about intelligence on his blog. But he talks about sleep too…

Smart people SLEEP LATE yells the headline of this opinion piece in the Winnipeg Free Press. It begins,

Sleep is a fundamental component of animal biology. New evidence confirms that, in humans, its timing reflects intelligence. People with higher IQs (intelligence quotients) tend to be more active nocturnally, going to bed later, whereas those with lower IQs usually retire to bed sooner after nightfall.

After that Doc Searls launches into a discussion about what is IQ and how silly the whole notion of a IQ really is… But what got me was the idea of sleeping late and waking up late.

Since #mybrushwithdeath, back in May/June I’ve been changing my lifestyle around. One of those changes is to do with my time I go to bed. Before I would generally go to bed about 2-3am and wake up about 10am on a week day and on a weekend sometimes go to bed about 9am and wake up about 2pm. Yeah quite shocking… But now I’m going to bed about 12am and getting up about 9am everyday (even weekends).

However things are starting slip, not purposely. Although I’m sticking to the new routine, I’m finding once again that I’m much more productive late evening and at night. I don’t know why, I just am.

I got a feeling I’m fighting nature/biology on this one.

Wake up to light in the mornings

Philips Wake up light

I heard about these light alarms which wake you up using daylight from a large bulb instead of a nasty buzzing noise like traditional alarms. So in an aid to improve my wake up routine I invested in a Philips Wake-up Light HF3463. Of course I never paid 100 pounds for it, actually I picked it up for 20 pounds because I knocked the retailer down again and again due to the bad state of the box, paint on the power lead and that it was a return product.

So far I got to say its working pretty well, I do feel better waking up to the bright light and I tend to wake up about a minute or two before the set time or the noise of blips (which I have mine set to). It all sounds like marketing crap but there is something about the bright light which does work even in my room with lots of glowing leds from machines and mobiles.

Will this be a path to a more healthy lifestyle of waking up early and feeling full of energy? I doubt it, I still feel very rough in the mornings and feel so much more alive at night but anything which gets me up without that jolt has got to be pretty good.

Comments [Comments]
Trackbacks [0]

The benefits to sleeping late

Manchester at Night

This one comes from Wired magazine via Imran Ali again. 3 Smart Things About Sleeping Late. I have to agree with every single one of the points. It still kills me getting up early in the morning but whats worst is when i'm in the creative zone at 1:30am and then have to start heading to bed, knowing theres a bunch of things I could get done if I stayed up a little longer.

1 // You may need more sleep than you think.
Research by Henry Ford Hospital Sleep Disorders Center found that people who slept eight hours and then claimed they were “well rested” actually performed better and were more alert if they slept another two hours. That figures. Until the invention of the lightbulb (damn you, Edison!), the average person slumbered 10 hours a night.

2 // Night owls are more creative.
Artists, writers, and coders typically fire on all cylinders by crashing near dawn and awakening at the crack of noon. In one study, “evening people” almost universally slam-dunked a standardized creativity test. Their early-bird brethren struggled for passing scores.

3 // Rising early is stressful.
The stress hormone cortisol peaks in your blood around 7 am. So if you get up then, you may experience tension. Grab some extra Zs! You'll wake up feeling less like Bert, more like Ernie.

Comments [Comments]
Trackbacks [0]

Another late night rant…

Open times

Ben pretty much sums up what I've been thinking and ranted about many times.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m a “night person”. Having been on vacation for two weeks now, I’ve been able to set my own sleeping rhythm (well, more on that in a moment). I settled into a pattern of going to bed around 4am and getting up around mid-day, although some nights I haven’t turned into until 7am.

Yes, getting up at mid-day sounds pretty lazy. But I get so much work done between about 10pm and 4am that it more than makes up for it. It’s been like my old hacker-days when I was at school — I would come home from school and just learn programming, build websites, that kind of thing. I learnt so much by working late at night.

My mind just focuses to another level and I loose track of time as I churn out code, designs, specs, blog posts and goodness knows what else.

When I’m at work, I often will stay at the office until 7pm. Around 4pm, after the meetings and telephone calls have died down I get into that buzz, which continues until home-time.

I'm actually quite lucky because in the past I've worked for a few Cinemas which requires working till 3am on Fridays and Saturdays. Then working for Tesco latenight till 6am on Thursdays and Fridays got me into the habit of changing my sleep patterns on a pence. So although I prefer to work through the night and am actually more productive at night. I can change to going back to 10-6pm with no problems. I think it can all be learned too. Sarah can never work out how i'm able to stay up really late through-out the weekend and then go to work the next day for 5 days. I'm also able to fall a sleep within 5mins of putting my head down – a skill which can be learned too.

But that aside, what happened to the 24 hour culture? Why do tech conferences start at 9am? and why on earth does the London tube shut down at 12:30am on a weekend? I remember one of the neat things about working over night was the odd but interesting things Channel4 use to put on. I could never work with headphones on all the time at night so having the radio or tv on in the background at low volume was ideal. Nowadays I can just put on some podcasts. Geez I would have been so much smarter if timeshifted media was around when I was stacking the shelfs in Tesco.

Comments [Comments]
Trackbacks [0]