Why we must sleep eight hours a night, how to build a brand, and bulletproof coffee
I collect more books than I can read. Currently, I have a backlog of 70 books. The above picture is from my desk, where I have collected the books that I wish to read over the summer. I usually read multiple books across various topics. As you can possibly see, the books are a haphazard mix of business (Extreme Revenue Growth, Finance for Managers, This is Marketing), personal development/learning (Deep Work, Atomic Habits, which I am re-reading), finance and economics (Invested, Naked Economics), history (Early Indians), physics (Schrödinger’s Cat), writing (Story Genius, Bird by Bird), memoirs (Michael Ovitz), and fiction (reading Neil Gaiman for the first time, and wondering what took me so long to get to him…).
I am yet to figure out whether it’s a good strategy or a recipe for disaster to spread myself thin across so many topics. I have noticed one, not surprising, preference though: to read non-fiction in the mornings, and evenings are reserved for memoirs and fiction. I read for both fun and learning, and over summer I hope to figure out if reading on whim is actually a good strategy. I also hope to share summaries of some of these books in the upcoming newsletters.
Enough said. Here’s three interesting discovering from last week (w28):
1. On top of Atomic Habits, there is one book that has fundamentally rewired my life. It’s Matt Walker’s Why We Sleep. Interestingly I learnt about this while attending a meditation workshop in Chandigarh in the beginning of the year. I was intrigued, for my sleep machismo was at peak around that time, i.e., I took pride in claiming that I rarely sleep for more than five hours. The years I’d worked in Denmark, while living in Sweden, thoroughly destroyed my sleep pattern for I had to travel one-and-half hours, sometime two, while commuting each way. Those years I slept little, and a certain brain-fogginess was constant. It’s only after reading Why We Sleep that I realised how much we ignore this very essential element of our daily routine. Walker says that wakefulness is a low-level brain damage.
There are several key learnings spread liberally in the book, but here are a couple of absolute takeaways:
If you are working out regularly and not seeing the results, check if you are getting enough sleep (which for most is between seven to nine hours a night). More than 70% of weight loss happens from muscles, if you are not getting sufficient sleep.
Alcohol fragments sleep and blocks REM. You may feel you are feeling drowsy after a glass of wine, but it’s actually sedation and not sleep.
Taking warm shower for few minutes before bed is a good idea, even in summer. The warm water brings blood to the surface, radiating out heat, and that brings the core body temperature down by one-to-three degrees, which promotes good sleep.
Sleeping pills are a strict no-no, for they also sedate and we don’t yet fully know the extent of damage they cause.
Regularity is key. Walker suggests that if there is one key takeaway from his years of research it’s this that one should aim to sleep and wake up on time, irrespective of whether it’s a weekday or weekend.
After reading the book, I am in the process of making several changes to promote better sleep. These include: creating an unwinding schedule in the evenings, where I take hot water shower, dim lights and settle over a cup of chamomile tea roughly an hour before sleeping. I am also experimenting with writing a gratitude journal, and following that I specify and schedule key tasks for the next day — the idea of de-loading the tasks/worries on to paper is assuaging.
Once again, I highly recommend Walker’s book. If you are not into reading, then you can listen to Matt Walker’s interview with (yes, again) Brian Rose here. People in India have yet another, even better option: it’s the sleep workshops organised by Dinesh and Bawa. I was searching for links that lead directly to the workshop page, but couldn’t find any. Instead here is a link to their book Happiness Express that also has an excellent chapter on sleep.
2. There is one food company that I am super excited about, even though I do not consume their products. It’s Oatly. Oatly is based in Malmö, Sweden (where I live) but that’s not the reason why I am in love with them. Oatly has taken humble oats and transformed them into a premium priced milk substitute. Some of its products, including chocolate ‘milk’, is popular with lactose tolerant folks also. Today, Oatly’s products are so popular that they have a production backlog, i.e., even if they produce to the full capacity, it will not meet the market demand. I suspect that in addition to the quality of the products, Oatly’s fun marketing campaigns — bright imaginative packaging, funny placement ads in literary magazines, such as The New Yorker — also had a significant role in making it a vogue brand. Check out their webpage to get an idea of what I mean. Here is an interesting story in NYTimes about Oatly and the ascent of oat milk.
3. Finally, one things that I discovered a while back but have started to experiment with last week is bulletproof coffee. It’s a body hack conceptualised by Dave Asprey, who got inspiration behind this while hiking in the Himalayas, and coming across yak butter tea. When I was in Seattle a month back, I frequented his bulletproof cafe in South Lake Union every morning. Given that I don’t usually drink coffee (you’ll figure out why after reading Why We Sleep), I created my own variation of bulletproof coffee, where I use ecologically produced cacao (which I found tastes better than the usual stuff. I use this brand.) and blend it with coconut oil and ghee, as in the original recipe. I haven’t found this recipe anywhere else. However, if you are into coffee and searching for a keto-promoting, breakfast replacement than bulletproof coffee can be an option. You can read more about it in this old, but still relevant, piece in NYTimes that takes a balanced view on the topic busting some myths as well.
Longer than I intended this newsletter to be, hope you still find it a useful read. To end, here is a quote that I came across last week:
Every hour wounds, last one kills
— An old saying