IDEA Box #5, August 2020, Rest and Recovery

Rest and Recovery

Welcome to our August 2020 IDEA Box blog where we are discussing ‘Rest and Recovery’. We have reviewed books – Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, The Body by Bill Bryson and Peak Performance by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness.

This month’s article, which is from the Harvard Business Review, explains why we shouldn’t work on holiday.  Our podcast looks at the science behind sleep and high performance while the video suggests that stress can be good …… because we do like these blogs to be balanced. We’d love to hear from you so please keep sending in your suggestions. If you enjoy reading this blog, please follow us on Twitter where we post additional nuggets of inspiration from the content we have reviewed each week.


Why We Sleep; Matthew Walker

I was given this book by my mother who thinks I don’t get enough sleep. She means well so I didn’t point out that if she really wanted to make a positive impact on my sleep, she would take my kids for the bank holiday weekend. Here are four takeaways:

1. Sleep more:
 According to the WHO there is a global sleep loss epidemic which is causing a myriad of health and psychiatric issues, particularly in developed nations. We never fully recoup the benefits of lost sleep.

2. Morning larks and night owls: Genetics determines whether we prefer to wake and work early or sleep late and work into the night. The problem for owls is that the modern world has been designed for larks. So, the next time you’re late for an early morning meeting blame your genetically predetermined chronotype.

3. Sleep deprivation: Allowing or dosage the impact of sleep deprivation on concentration and motor skills can be akin to alcohol.

4. Tips for a better night’s sleep: Walker believes that sticking to a sleep schedule is the most important change we can make to get a better night’s sleep. Limiting caffeine, alcohol and large meals before bed, getting more exercise and leaving your phone out of the bedroom also help.

This book proves that I should listen to my mother, which is probably why she gave it to me in the first place. It’s available in paperback, eBook and audiobook.

The Body: A Guide for Occupants, Bill Bryson

In his latest book Bill Bryson tours the human body showing that many unanswered physiological questions remain. Here are four takeaways:

1. The impact of lifestyle: We are now more likely to die from conditions connected to lifestyle than from communicable diseases.

2. Evolutionary mismatch: This might be in part due to an evolutionary mismatch from out hunter gatherer roots. We eat too much and exercise too little, which may be the result of evolving in a world of scarcity while now living in one of plenty.

3. Sleep is probably important: Bryson says that sleep; “consolidates memories, restores hormonal balance and resets the immune system” and that “If sleep does not serve an absolutely vital function, then it is the biggest mistake the evolutionary process has ever made.”

4. The role of modern medicine: Bryson believes that the empathy and common sense of medical professionals can be just as important as technologically sophisticated equipment.

Fuelled by Bryson’s endless curiosity this book is both interesting and accessible. It is available in all formats.

Peak Performance, Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness

The authors believe that improving performance isn’t simply a matter of working hard. To be truly productive and to avoid burnout you also need rest, routine and purpose. Here are four takeaways:

1. Stress is good but mindset is key: Consider the weight lifter or university student who toil with physical and mental challenges before achieving growth. If you view stress as a positive experience you will be much better equipped to manage it.

2. Rest is essential: Why do we get some of our best ideas when walking, showering or sleeping? When we stop trying our subconscious mind kicks in allowing our brains to pull random information out of storage. This is where creativity is born.

3. The power of routine: A great performer will not merely hope to be on top of her game. She will actively cultivate an environment and routine that will help her to do her best.

4. Purpose: Having a sense of purpose can help you transcend self-imposed limitations

This book, which is grounded in research, has lots of ideas for improving performance. It is available in paperback eBook and audio formats.


Don’t Work on Vacation. Seriously, Laura M. Giurge and Kaitlin Woolley, Harvard Business Review 22nd July, 2020

The authors argue that working over holidays can lead to disillusionment and reduce productivity. This particularly pertinent given post-covid work/life balance disruption. Here are two takeaways:

  1. Intrinsic motivation is important: According to the authors; “spending weekends or holidays working undermines one of the most important factors that determines whether people persist in their work: intrinsic motivation. When they engage in work during time that they think of as leisure time, such as the weekend, they experience conflict between their expectations and reality, and as a result, they find their work less engaging and less meaningful.”
  2. Have time away from work: We should aim to build a wall between our free time and work time. “Whether we enjoy the work we do is shaped not only by the type of activities we engage in, but also by when we engage in these activities.”

This A

HBR Ideacast: The Science Behind Sleep and High Performance

Marc Effron looks at the impact of sleep, exercise and nutrition on high performance. Here are two takeaways:

1. Lack of sleep leads to a fundamental skills deterioration: Inadequate sleep leads to the deterioration of fundamental skills like remembering names or where your car keys are.

2. Everyone has an ideal level of sleep which can’t be changed: The default position of a high performer is to do whatever he can to gain an edge. There are always shortcuts such as reducing sleep and “borrowing” these hours for work. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to work like that!

This podcast is well worth a listen. Here’s the link.

For Your

How to Make Stress Your Friend, Kelly McGonigal, Ted Talk, June 2013

Stanford psychologist Kelly McGonigal discusses how stress can make us stronger, smarter and happier – if we learn how to change our perception of it. Here are two takeaways:

1. Harness the energy from stress: Stress causes your body to bring more glucose to your muscles and more oxygen to your brain. This reaction makes you more energetic and helps you think clearer if you can mentally shift your perception of stress.

2. It’s all about communication: Your body pumps out the hormone Oxytocin (also known as the cuddle hormone) when under stress which is a natural anti-inflammatory and helps protect your cardiovascular system. McGonigal claims; “Oxytocin is enhanced by social contact and social support. So when you reach out to others under stress, either to seek support or to help someone else, you release more of this hormone, your stress response becomes healthier, and you actually recover faster from stress”.

I think I’ll send this video to my mother. You can view the Ted Talk here.

And Finally…
For Something

Staycation: A clean getaway

So if you’re looking for somewhere to unwind here’s a list of the most unusual places you can stay in Ireland.

This staycation playlist might help you switch off as you travel to your destination.

Now ….. to try and offload my children on an unsuspecting family member for the weekend.

Thank you for reading our blog. Next month we will be discussing Thinking.