Polyphasic Sleep – Introduction

This is one of a series of reports on old Barcamp sessions.

As adults we tend to do monophasic sleep, once in every 24 hours. Some cultures follow the siesta pattern, and babies everywhere sleep when they feel like it. Polyphasic sleep comes naturally to some!

I usually observe monophasic sleep except when things become excessively busy with work or with study. As a student I learnt to “get more hours in the day” by adjusting my sleep. Completely unguided, I discovered strategic naps helped me through University. I didn’t sleep in lectures, but occasionally (especially in exam season) I would have days where I would return to my room for a one hour sleep.

Years later I stumbled on a (now defunct) web site which explained not all humans are a natural fit for a 24 hour day, and the author had discovered he could work, rest and play perfectly if he adopted a 26 hour day. He researched polyphasic sleep and blogged about it.

Experiment and find what’s right for you. For me that’s monophasic sleep unless I’m under pressure. When needed, I can quickly transition through siesta (2 days) and then use Everyman3. After the pressure is off, I take a further 2 days to transition through siesta back to monophasic sleep. I’ve never succeeded with Everyman2, and have never felt the need to progress to Everyman4 or beyond. Everyman3 is right for me, in short bursts, and never for more than seven weeks.

I have no intention of trying Uberman, though apparently it was a regular habit of Leonardo da Vinci. When the pattern is more intense the intervals and lengths are more critical. Getting Uberman wrong leads to fractious bouts of anxiety!

• Monophasic – one core sleep of 8+ hrs
• Siesta – one nap of about 1 hr and a “short” night time sleep
• Everyman2 – 5hrs and 2x 20min power naps
• Everyman3 – 4hrs and 3x 20min power naps
• Everyman4 – 3hrs and 4x 20min power naps
• Everyman5 – 2hrs and 5x 20min power naps
• Uberman – no core sleep – 6x 20min power naps, spaced out perfectly

slider graphic showing different sleeping patterns - not to scale
Not to scale

My advice? We’re all different, listen to your body!

Everyman3 works for me because I space the power naps evenly throughout the day. I also allocate 30 mins, in order to fall asleep and secure that valuable 20+ mins. Once I’m in the zone, I can be asleep within 2 or 3 mins. Transitioning in sometimes means 30 mins of no sleep, but just rest. I don’t get worked up about it, 30 mins of relaxation is great, and I know that within 2 or 3 days my body will be in tune with the idea of going to sleep on demand. Transitioning in and out of Everyman3 is key. And if that takes a little time, I just chill.

Once, on a radio show, several guests complained that Uberman was wrecking their lives. I was the only guest who advocated polyphasic sleep. I stressed that it works for me because I take care with transitioning at both ends. I only use Everyman3 when I need to (usually once per year, and usually for a 4 week period) and when I adopt that pattern I have a strict rule to nap at precisely the right times each day.

Your mileage may vary!

The Weedkiller Letter

This is a story which I regularly tell clients, and occasionally I have had the chance to present it to an audience during  some meetings of the Tech Community.

The story can be variously referred to as:

• The weedkiller letter
• The 80 20 rule (the Pareto law)
• Ditching the D clients
• The Soho film production company

It used to be on AudioBoom (formerly AudioBoo) until they changed their business model a few years ago. Originally I posted it (during the festive season) on Monday 20 Dec 2010 and the audio track is here for anybody who prefers a 4 minute podcast.

And if you want the quick version in plain text, this is it:

There was a small Soho film production company, with 2 directors, a total staff of about 10, and a client base of around 40, which offered services to people who wanted 30 second TV adverts, 30 minute training videos, and 3 hour blockbuster movies to rival Hollywood. They didn’t get many of the latter, but they did get a lot of the other two.Every year, on the day of the office Christmas party, the full team would gather in the main production room, sitting on the few chairs, on the tables, and wherever they could, and listen to the directors give an informal annual review. These were the days before the internet and digital systems, so everybody worked in the same place. As part of the “what’s been good” and “what’s been bad” discussion, the staff were allowed to speak freely. Each year, something like this would happen:

• Staff A: “Remember Tom, and the perfume advert, he was a nightmare.”
• (The other staff all make confirmatory noises.)
• Staff B: “And Dick’s training video! He was trouble!”
• Staff C: “So was Harry, with his documentary!”

The two director’s, sensing the sentiment in the room, agreed. “Tom, Dick and Harry . . . OK, we’ll send them the weedkiller letter.”

And the staff knew exactly what that meant. On the 31st of December, a Special Delivery letter would be sent to each of these separate customers. At its core the letter had this basic message “Dear Tom, it’s been lovely working with you this year. We can see that your approach is a bit different to ours, and we think that you would be better served by a different sort of film production company next year. We wish you all the best for the future.”

Nothing derogatory. Simple facts, simple dialogue, and a clear message that we do not want your business.

This happened every year, on the day of the office Christmas party, and every year the staff go out and have the most marvellous Christmas party ever because they know that next year they won’t have to work with Tom, Dick and Harry.

It is said that you get 80% of your satisfaction from the top 20% of your clients. And you get 80% of your aggro from the bottom 20%. If you could slice off the bottom 20% of your client base you would lose 80% of your aggro. Perhaps 20% is a bit drastic, but as with the Soho film production company, maybe you could dispense with 5% or 10%?

The best gardeners in the world do not keep a patch for the weeds. In business, should we?

a nice garden

Fish & Chips

There are only three things I can tell you about the great British institution that is Fish & Chips. This is what I learnt when I attended the Kings College London inaugural Impact Reception on 14 Jun 2023. It was a unique evening highlighting six specialisations, and featured three presentations by leading academics. The focus was on “doing some good in the world” and we explored:

Global Affairs
Education for Displaced Persons
Women’s Leadership

And three niche areas of medicine where KCL excels:

Simulation and Interactive Learning
Virtual Reality Research Lab
Surgical & Interventional Engineering Lab

I have never been in a room so full of intelligent people doing good! Later in the evening, when I was chatting with Professor Richard Trembath (Health & Life Sciences) the discussion naturally turned to Fish & Chips.

traditional fish and chips in a takeaway container

Fact One

Until the advent of the Chinese Takeaway (at some point in the 1970s) the only enduring fast food outlet was the local Fish & Chip Shop. McDonalds did not arrive in my corner of the UK until 1980, and I do not recall ever having a pizza until one day in London in 1982 when I discovered that there are Pizza Restaurants in London. The same thing goes for kebabs. In London, in 1982, I found a kebab shop (a kebab van to be more accurate). I had never seen one before! Hence the humble Fish & Chip Shop was the standard which all UK kids encountered if they grew up before 1980.

Fact Two

Fish & chips are generally doused in vinegar and smothered in salt. That was standard practice in the 1970s before the government was pressured to legislate about salt and sugar intake. I spent most of my childhood in the Sixties and Seventies eating anything I felt like, regardless of the salt and the sugar content. And I was slim! We were all slim (except for, roughly speaking, one kid in every class). So what happened? Why is the population now so overweight and why is Type 2 Diabetes so prevalent?

Fact Three

In 1970 the overweight/obese proportion of the UK population was about 15%. It is now 64%. Type 2 diabetes more than doubled in British men between the 1970s and the 1990s and it continues to increase. There is a reason for this and it’s not caused by fish & chips. Fish is a natural food, it turns up in your traditional Fish & Chip Shop in its natural, raw state. So do the potatoes. With a focus on “being a miser with time, and being a miser with money” your local chippie will do the minimum preparation necessary to make some batter, slice some chips, fry it all and quickly get it into your hands in exchange for payment. A minimum of fuss and processing. That’s not the case with modern fast food.

Consider . . .

How many calories and additives are there in your traditional fish & chips? And in your Big Mac and large fries?

Moreover, having a take away meal was a rare treat in the 1970s, and the choice was simply between fish & chips and Chinese. Nowadays, vast swathes of the population will gorge processed food as often as they like . . . several times per week! Processed food is the culprit, that’s why the nation is so overweight. Legislation on sugar and salt content does not address the root cause of the problem . . .  it’s processed food! And Giles Yeo will tell you more if you care to read his book Why Calories don’t Count.

Nowadays fast food outlets are everywhere, and cycle couriers will do the leg work for you so that you can just sit there and sloth. Poorer people tend to spend a disproportionate amount of their income on cheap fast food. According to Tedstone one third of the country’s fast food outlets are in the most deprived areas of our towns and cities. If you’re in London go and walk around Chelsea, and then walk around Lewisham. Try it in your own home town, walk around the upmarket neighbourhood, and the downmarket one. How common are the cheap fast food places?

What are you doing to ensure that you get some authentic real food on a daily basis, and avoid the gloop?

Where is the emphasis on values in Healthcare?

Aspiring students of medicine, trying to get into the UK’s best universities, will tell you that the main message they need to emphasise (and highlight in their application) is a genuine desire to care for people.

Healthcare is such an important issue, that we might imagine that all healthcare providers place a great deal on emphasis on worthy values. Selling your healthcare data to big corporations is probably not one of them. Honesty, fairness, and compassion probably rate highly on anybody’s list of values.

This subject came to the fore at a HealthTech meetup run by Palta on 6 Jun 2023. Lina Zakarauskaite from Stride VC stressed that values are the key to any HealthTech Start Up and that they need not be “written in stone” on day one. The founders will want to adapt their own values and the values of their fledgling business, so that (with input from others) a statement of values can be established soon after the founding date. By starting with a white board and an open mind, the key is to consider all inputs and achieve a reasonable consensus on what the business values should be. It’s not a unanimous vote, nor really a majority vote, it’s a team effort where the team agrees a set of values that they call all subscribe to. Google learnt this in the early days when their executive coach emphasised that you agree what is good for team, and you do what is good for the team, even if that was not your personal first choice.

Kit Logan from Avie (an exercise app which is now a part of the Holland & Barrett empire) added that early adopters are just as important as the founders’ team in shaping what the company values should be. Instead of having a fitness app which chastises you for missing a week of exercise (because you were ill or on holiday), the app needs to understand that users often have good reason for not following a regular routine. In discussion with early adopters of Avie, the founders, Kit and Charlie discovered from the users that their app was “understandable” and that this was a value which they needed to add to the Avie mission statement. They also learnt that exercise routines have to fit around other activities, notably “hair washing”. A significant percentage of users stressed that the competitor apps neglected the importance of fitting schedules around the more important activity of “washing your hair”.

Finding your niche was also important. Moving on from working as the CEO of a dating agency, Michelle Kennedy (the founder of Peanut) discovered an opening for a social network for would-be mums, expectant mums, young mums, and later mums with medical issues. Even ladies without children, who wanted to share concerns with like minded people, on issues like HRT and the menopause.

The discussion of values in Healthcare was central to the HealthTech meetup, and it ought to be equally important in any business. Even to employees, and certainly to candidates looking for a job. What values do you have? What values does the organisation have? Are they aligned? Working relationships can be very short lived when values are mismatched. Try writing down your top 5 values. What are they? Use the list here if you’re really struggling.

Anyone, in any position, in any organisation, should examine the values and then ask themselves “do I want to work on these challenges, with this team, within this organisation?”