The NYC Hibernation Issue NOT!
The sleep habits of rats, startup guys, pigeons, street buskers and more!
Happy MLK Day, and welcome to Issue #57 of CAFÉ ANNE!
The holidays were a little nutty. So at the start of the year, I thought I’d cut back a bit on the activity and burrow in for a while. Which I have! But looking around, it seems like my fellow New Yorkers are busier than ever. Even the squirrels seem extra frantic!
Does anyone in NYC take the opportunity to hibernate? Curious how my winter sleep habits compare with others, I spent last week surveying a range of New Yorkers, both animal and human.
Here, a snapshot of the city that never sleeps, except when it does. Please enjoy.
Sleepless in NYC
The Startup Guy!
David Menaged, a native New Yorker, founded his own commercial brokerage. And when things slowed down too much during the pandemic for his comfort, he launched a startup, TROT, for short-term office space rentals (which I recently profiled for a business publication). He’s also got a family and a demanding religious practice. We met at coffee shop in Midtown Manhattan.
How much sleep are you getting these days?
I get on average, let’s call it five to six hours a night. I’m up at 5 a.m. I’m an observant Jew, so I go to temple every morning at 5:30 and do my share of reading manuscripts, morning prayers. I got a lot to do before everyone’s up! And then I get to sleep anywhere between ten and midnight.
How’s that going for you?
It’s fine! I’ve been doing it for years.
You’re not tired?
You want to accomplish something, you’re gonna be tired! What are you going to do? Life’s for work! Life is not for sitting on your ass doing nothing.
Do you ever take a nap?
Saturday afternoon. A two-hour nap, from two-to-four. It’s the best. I’m a grouch without it.
Are your sleep habits different in the summer?
In the summer, I actually get up a little bit earlier because the sun rises earlier. I like to beat the sunrise.
Do you think you’d feel different if you got the eight hours we’re supposed to get?
I think I’d feel less accomplished.
What’s your advice for those who are actually looking to sleep less and accomplish more?
Find things that interest you, that you’re dedicated to, and commit to them. You want you have more that you want to accomplish then is conceivably, physically possible. So then you’re always feeling under pressure! If your list is never all checked off, you’ll always have something to do.
This flies directly in the face of all the self-help advice out there these days.
I don’t go for that. My self-help is hard work. In everything! Socially, professionally—you get out what you put in!
The Eastern Grey Squirrel!
Average hours of sleep/day: 14.9
Do they hibernate? No. Grey squirrels are one of the few squirrel types that refuse to snooze.
Sleep routine: Grey squirrels are tree squirrels as opposed to ground squirrels, such as groundhogs. That means they sleep in trees. They live in nests made from twigs, grass, leaves and moss. They are crepuscular, which sounds super sleazy, but it just means they’re typically up and around at dawn and at dusk.
Last August, the city went bananas after the Parks Department tweeted photos of squirrels splayed out on the sidewalk as if they’d been day-drinking. Officials noted that this is actually a common summertime practice known as “splooting,” which squirrels employ to cool off in the heat.
The Naked Cowboy!
Last winter, I interviewed the Naked Cowboy—the world’s most famous street busker—about his remarkable morning routine which enables him to perform in his underwear, out in Times Square, nearly every day of the year—rain, sun or blizzard. But I never asked about his sleep habits. Last week, I texted him to ask about his winter sleep schedule.
Zoiks! I asked if this horrific routine was any different in the summer.
So the next time you find yourself tossing and turning late at night remember—you are in the very best company! The Naked Cowboy shares your pain.
Average hours of sleep/day: 12.6
Do they hibernate? Fugettabout it! Hahahahaha!
Sleep routine: Rats typically sleep on and off during the day—about four hours at a stretch—and then stay up all night, partying on the subway tracks. But they can adapt! A rat living in a nightclub, for instance, will typically sleep at night and dance all day when no one is around. Also, they like to sleep in piles.
The NYC Sleep Doctor!
Dr. Janet Kennedy is a Manhattan sleep psychologist, so she should be model sleeper, right? I interviewed her by telephone. Turns out, she’s got the sleep thing down—averaging eight hours a night, from midnight to 8 am. Her strategy? A cup of herbal tea before bed, and then a book. “I just read until the book stops making sense,” she said.
That’s my exact routine! I felt so vindicated. As Dr. Kennedy noted, sleep experts often say you should not read in bed, or if you do, make it something boring. But she prefers a good novel.
“You can’t go from the business of the day to unconsciousness,” she said. “Particularly reading fiction or something other than personal or professional development gives your mind a chance to quiet. Flexing that fantasy muscle allows the business muscle to relax.”
She also has the power nap thing down, often taking a 30-minute mid-afternoon snooze. She sets the alarm for 45 minutes. “The alarm is key because trust that you’ll wake up is what allows you to fall sleep and not miss your mark,” she said.
While researching this story, I found several studies claiming that NYC has the highest percentage of residents who don’t get much sleep. (The most sleep-deprived borough? Staten Island. Weird!) Dr. Kennedy says there are plenty of factors that contribute. There’s a lot of stimulation here, a lot of noise, and a lot of light. Not to mention a heavy concentration of industries that demand long work hours.
Is it possible, I asked, that there’s more short sleepers here because the city attracts people who hate sleeping?
“It’s possible for sure,” she said, “But there are also a lot of people who are born here. It’s not just Midwestern expats like me!”
Average hours of sleep/day: 7
Do they hibernate? Sort of. According to Terminex (yes, the pest control company), some raccoons store up body fat so they can sleep for weeks at a time in cold weather.
Sleep routine: Unless food is scarce, raccoons like to sleep all day and emerge at dusk to hit the nearest trash can. They sleep in hollowed out trees, dumpsters, in storm sewers or in your apartment.
PS: I asked my friend Aharon in Brooklyn, who cares way more about raccoons than is sane, if he had any additional raccoon sleep info. His response:
Though there are many misconceptions ("miscoonceptions") about how it's bad or evil to see a raccoon in the daytime. Maybe if you're in Petoskey, Michigan! But New York is the capital of reinvention, which includes nocturnal creatures becoming diurnal and maybe, if the opportunity presents itself, committing a little light securities fraud. So if you see a raccoon in mid-day, it's FINE, he is probably just going for a powwow with the Series B investors.
Also this is the time of the season for RACCOON TORPOR, which is what they do instead of hibernation, and it is TOTALLY NORMAL for them to:
1) Sleep 20 hours a day
2) Make an appearance at the pizza place's dumpster at noon
I have evidence:
Go on! Feed the Central Park raccoons! Pet them! They are totally fine!
Might have gone a little off-topic here.
The Caffeine King!
Jonathan Rubinstein is the co-founder and CEO of NYC mini-chain Joe Coffee. He launched it in 2003 in the West Village and now there’s 21 locations all over town. He knows a LOT about New Yorkers and caffeine. I interviewed him via email.
What is your sleep and nap routine this time of year?
I am an excellent sleeper, although not a great napper. I’m also a morning person and I love to go to sleep early. After I walk my two dogs, and put my tween to sleep, I usually get into bed with some sort of a trashy gossip magazine and browse it for about 15 minutes. I am almost always fast asleep by 10 PM and I wake up somewhere around 6:30 AM. The waking up has been much harder lately because it’s pitch black outside.
I don’t typically nap, although I love the feeling of a 20-minute catnap. Once in a while, on the weekend, I will do this mid-afternoon, but it’s a real luxury.
Do you think New Yorkers need more or less caffeine this time of year?
More! Definitely more. When we look at data from our POS system, we see food and pastry consumption go down, but the average customer is buying more/larger coffee beverages this time of year. One interesting change is in peoples hot/cold habits. In the old days, we maybe sold five iced coffees a day per café. Now, even in January, iced coffee beverages make up at least half of our sales.
What is your daily coffee routine?
A cup of pour-over coffee, which I start making the moment I roll out of bed and then drink on the couch while everyone is asleep. And then one espresso drink later in the day when I visit any of our cafés.
Any advice for New Yorkers trying to get more rest or hibernate?
Force yourself to find time to do it, love the place you live, light a candle.
Average hours of sleep/day: 12.6
Do they hibernate? Hello! Birds in general do not hibernate, and pigeons don’t even migrate. They’re A-OK in the cold. They know how to hustle.
Sleep routine: Pigeons use their nests exclusively for raising kids, not for sleeping. They sleep pretty much wherever they can roost, like a ledge. They sleep at night and take power naps during the day, tucking their head into their neck and wing feathers. When they nap, they employ a very cool, special trick—one half of their brain can shut down and sleep while the other half stays awake. So they can sleep with one eye open and watch for predators!!!!
The Sleepiness Addict!
I thought to chat with my friend Dan Kilian, a Queens singer-songwriter and playwright, after he posted an original tune on Facebook, “I Could Sleep All Day.”
When I asked for an interview, he suggested I first watch his recent TikTok post for context. Which I did. The short video features Mr. Kilian talking into the camera, looking extremely sleepy. Here is the complete transcript:
“I am very tired and very sleepy a lot of the time. And I’m thinking I could maybe monetize this. If I could be paid to be sleepy. Maybe as inspiration for hyperactive children. Just send me money and I will be sleepy. I will continue to be sleepy. I will film it. So send me money. And set up a Go Fund Me. I know how to do it, but I’m also very lazy, and I’d like to be paid for that as well.”
We talked on the phone later that day.
I thought it was very New York of you, trying to monetize being sleepy.
It hasn’t worked out financially, but conceptually, it’s resonating. More than one person liked it. I’m like, “Hey! It’s blowing up!”
Have you been tired for a while?
Yes, I’ve been very sleepy. I don’t drink as much at all these days, and I don’t do drugs as much at all, so my new drug is being sleepy. I try to use it as a buzz. You get very fuzzy, you know, very dislocated. Sometimes it’s hard to go to bed, you’re so sleepy. It’s hard to get off the couch or get off the floor. I do a lot of floor lying.
I’ve been conscious of it a long time. I don’t think it’s a post-Covid thing. I don’t know if it’s a prevailing trend, or something happening just to me.
I think New York goes to sleep pretty early these days. I notice when I’m out late—more often I’m the only one walking down the street. Besides being sleepy, I have to publicly urinate a lot, so that comes in handy.
What’s your sleep schedule?
I rush home after work so I can get my disco nap. And I don’t just disco nap when I’m going out later. I disco nap every night when I get home. Either 20 minutes or four hours. But usually I’m 20-minute guy.
If I’m being good, I get to bed around 11 pm, but I’m often up late making music until 1 or 2 am, or watching YouTubes.
What’s your average sleep per night?
About 45 minutes. That’s not true, but there’s multiple wake-ups. Sometimes I wake up and work on music on the computer or come up with a new card game. It’s better to do something than lie there thinking.
In the winter, we’re supposed to be sleeping more, but I can’t find anyone who is sleeping a lot.
I don’t think a lot of people in the city sleep. The lights are always on.
The Last Word….
“There is something in the New York air that makes sleep useless.”
— Simone de Beauvoir
CAFÉ ANNE is a free weekly newsletter created by Brooklyn journalist Anne Kadet. Subscribe to get the latest issue every Monday!
Anne, you outdid yourself! The best newsletter EVER!! (I just read this, and it is WAYYYYY too long!) Be forewarned:
Five-alarm Comment: “You want you have more that you want to accomplish then is conceivably, physically possible. So then you’re always feeling under pressure! If your list is never all checked off, you’ll always have something to do.” That statement is above the entrance to the prison camps in the gulags across Russia!! NO THANK YOU! I agree 100% with Abraham Lincoln: “My father taught me to work, but not to love it. I never did like to work, and I don't deny it. I'd rather read, tell stories, crack jokes, talk, laugh -- anything but work.”
*Disclosure: 23&Me says that I’m majority Italian (but also a tinge of Jewish). David’s attitude might be cultural: “There’s a famous scene in Eat Pray Love where Julia Roberts’s character berates herself that all she has done during her three weeks in Rome is eat and learn a few words of Italian. ‘You don’t know how to enjoy yourself,” retort her Italian companions. They go on to describe the concept of dolce far niente – the sweetness of doing nothing. Italians, they proclaim, ‘are masters of it’.” THAT’S ME!
Best EXPERT Sentence Regarding Sleep: “You can’t go from the business of the day to unconsciousness,” EXACTLY!
1ST Runner-up: “Flexing that fantasy muscle allows the business muscle to relax.” I’m 69, retired from EVERYTHING, and my “fantasy muscles” are in the best shape of my life!!
Winner Miss Congeniality: “So if you see a raccoon in mid-day, it's FINE, he is probably just going for a powwow with the Series B investors.” Just hilarious!!!
Winner BEST CAREER ADVICE EVER: “And I’m thinking I could maybe monetize this. If I could be paid to be sleepy.”
Best Entrepreneurial Tip: “It’s hard to get off the couch or get off the floor. I do a lot of floor lying.” That’s even worse when you have to go upstairs to sleep! Every night my wife and I joke that one of those stair-lift chairs, that are on every commercial these days (along with the come-ons for “Medicare Part C” with Joe Namath and Jimmy JJ. Walker) are not enough! You have to get off the couch to get to the lift-chair to go upstairs. People need a couch that has a button on the side that you push, even in a stupor, and the couch magically moves over to and up the stairs, depositing you into your bed, osrt of like a front-loader dumping detritus. You might have to sleep a while in your clothes and on top of the covers, but the worst part of the job is taken care of!
That information about the sleep-habits of animals, squirrels, pigeons, raccoons and rats is the best! Now I know! We have squirrels active all year long and they behave EXACTLY as described! I doubt I would pet a raccoon, but I’m sure it could be done safely by anyone who has already, sadly and unfortunately, lost their fingers.
For the last 10 years of my career, I worked 3rd-shift, from 10:00 pm to 8:00 a.am., 7 shifts on / 7 shifts off (typical of hospital workers.) I don’t think your circadian rhythm ever resets. Mine hasn’t in the almost 3 years I’ve been privileged to be removed from the mart of competitive commerce. I sleep like the rat: “Rats typically sleep on and off during the day—about four hours at a stretch—and then stay up all night, partying on the subway tracks.”
***Suggestion: Anne, interview 3rd-shift workers on their sleep habits and the challenges of 3rd shift. 3rd-shift workers, especially in hospitals, are like Ginger Rogers: They do everything that Fred did, but backwards, and in high heels. Patients never realize that for half of their daily stay, they are being protected from Death by Zombies, on 3rd-shift. My motto was, “There’s no cryin’ and no dyin’ on my shift. You’ll live to see another sunrise. Sunset is someone else’s problem.”
My favorite issue to date! But I feel that with every one I read. My take home messages: 1) start taking a “disco nap” and 2) I resonate more than I imagined with the Naked Cowboy