October 23, 2015

Staying Alert

Staying Alert

NYPD Officer Randolph Holder was shot and killed on Tuesday, while in pursuit of a bunch of men shooting it out among themselves in East Harlem. By all reports, Officer Holder was a real stand-up guy. In five years on the job, he earned several citations for excellence in police work. The neighbors interviewed by the press literally could not think of a negative thing to say about him. He was well known for how devoted he was to his family and the pride he took in being a police officer. He sat for the detective’s exam recently and was planning on a long career in public service, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, who were both police officers in their native Guyana. Whatever your position on the drug diversion program that allowed Officer Holder’s killer to return to the street after 28 arrests, we all have to acknowledge that his death is a tragedy on every level. May his family somehow gain closure, and may the rest of us figure out a way to get guns off our streets once and for all.


On a much less somber note: the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times both had lengthy articles on the same day this week (suspicious coincidence?) about a subject near and dear to my heart – sleep, something I just don’t get enough of. The Journal focused on sleep deprivation studies being done at the University of Pennsylvania, to see what happens in our bodies and brains when we don’t get enough shut eye. Their subjects are captive at the sleep lab, where they have no contact with their families or anyone else in the outside world and are restricted to four hours of sleep per night for two weeks. It sounds like sleep or lack thereof may be the least of their problems for the two weeks. Those people are obviously made of steel. I would cave on Day Three, if I even lasted that long.

The Times article was about a study of three tribes of modern-day hunter-gatherers in Africa and South America, to learn about human sleep patterns. By comparing what they found among these free-roamers to what they know about technology-tethered Americans, the researchers concluded that, contrary to evolutionary theories about sleeping when the sun sets and getting up when it rises, human sleep may actually be driven by air temperature. It appears that people may have evolved to sleep when the temperature drops at night and wake up when things start to warm up in the morning, possibly as a way to conserve energy during the coldest hours of the day. One can only wonder if we turned the temperature down enough in our mostly air conditioned environments during the day and turned the heat up at night could we reverse our sleep patterns?

How this all translates into something practical, I have no idea. But I can tell you that I personally could have been a subject in either of these tests (Ok, maybe not the nomad study) this month. October has been a pretty hectic month for me, with sleep time suffering. I spent close to a week in London, where the time change and jet lag played havoc with my sleep pattern. In addition, we have our annual Partner Retreat, which started Wednesday and ends at noon today, which is three days of non-stop meetings and workshops, all of which I need to make sure comes off flawlessly, not to mention the week or so of preparation in advance.  Next week starts our annual State of the Firm presentations, which we take on the road to every Marcum region around the country, beginning in South Florida on Tuesday. Then, of course, there is the constant pull of regular business. And don’t forget my three small children at home, any one of whom gets up at some point in the middle of the night several nights a week.

The deleterious effects of prolonged sleep deprivation can include weight gain, hypertension, heart disease and stroke, among others. Sounds like a real picnic.  But it turns out that sleep deprivation is a very individualized experience. Some people can thrive on the four hours per night that the University of Pennsylvania is giving their subjects. Not me. I’m looking forward to November.

Sweet dreams, everybody. Have a great weekend.