People Named Kovid, What NFL's Wildest Game Can Teach Us and Why You Should Sleep Twice A Night | Non-Obvious Insights #302

Dear Newsletterest,

It felt like my curated feed of stories exploded this month with more than just year opening predictions and near year weight loss stories. The results come through in this week's Non-Obvious Newsletter in the five lead stories as well as the assortment of bonus stories I curated for you. Below you'll read about biphasic sleep, charitable streaming, sarcastic teens, people with problematic names, and a surprising lesson in trust from what might have been the wildest NFL game in history.

As we start a new year, I also wanted to remind you that as a subscriber to this email you're always welcome to send me a reply with your thoughts about any of these stories, feedback or just to get in touch. It's always a delight for me to hear from readers and as you'll see from from my last story about friendship ... I'd love to try and connect personally with more of you. So go ahead and hit reply, and let me know what's on your mind!

The Surprising Forgotten Medieval Habit of "Two Sleeps"

Nearly thirty years ago a historian named Roger Ekirch came across a curious phrase while researching a book on the history of night-time. The phrase, described in this BBC article as "a particularly tantalising detail of life in the 17th Century" was first sleep. It seems that most people at a certain point in human history routinely broke their nightly sleep into two phases. A first and a second sleep. And then at some point in the past 100 years, we forgot how to do this.

The benefit of two sleeps seems hard to believe. Isn't a full night of uninterrupted sleep a scientifically proven necessity? Is it really better or did people just do it because they had to keep watch, or due to some other circumstance of medieval life that doesn't exist anymore? Before you dismiss this as a relic of a time past, consider this ... in 1992 a sleep scientist from the National Institute of Mental Health found that when subjects in an experiment were deprived of artificial light, their sleep patterns eventually reset to what he termed "biphasic sleep" as well - with two roughly equivalent periods of sleep interrupted by an hour or two of time awake.

It turns out biphasic sleep is common among some animals in nature as well - meaning it's not a new or uniquely human concept. So after reading this, I'm starting to think that perhaps I'm sleeping wrong. And maybe you are too. 

Meet the Kovids ... Why More People Today Find Their Names Problematic

The pandemic has sucked for a lot of people, but one underrepresented group of victims are people who happened to be named Kovid, as this Washington Post article spotlights. Kovid Kapoor, a resident in Bangalore, India has been tweeting about the many indignities his name has caused, from teasing at Starbucks to an inability to search his name on Google without autocorrect kicking in. Beyond the pandemic, this idea of a name taking on a larger meaning and significance in culture is likely to be an increasing issue for more people. Alexa, Siri and Cortana are a handful of problematic names that may reinforce gender biases and create problems for those who had those names long before the related technologies came along.

When you add in how we name hurricanes (Katrina!) and how much people report it sucks to share the same name as a celebrity, it is clear we're living in a time where our names can create a minefield of problems. Maybe Prince had the right idea years ago when he decided to change his name to a symbol. Or if that doesn't work, you could always change your name to Leodegar - which tops Parade magazine's 2022 list of unique baby names.

Streamers Are Making Millions For Charity And They’re Just Starting

Imagine a world where a single content creator can launch a day long stream and generate more than $1m in charitable donations single-handedly. Actually, you don't have to ... it's already happening. VentureBeat explores this game-changing development that continues to accelerate as popular streamers shatter their own fundraising records year after year. One charity event hosted on Twitch by streamers Zerator and Dach last year raised over $11 million for Action Against Hunger across three days, breaking a world record in the process. Why are their streams so popular and effective?

As streamer Benjamin “DrLupo” Lupo explains, "This is a modern-day telethon of sorts. In this case, you have the ability to interact with the thing you are watching. That is huge, especially in the world of TikTok and Instagram and Reels… everyone wants their instant gratification. What better way to do it than live on your screen? You are part of what’s going on. I think technology and embracing it is a huge motivator behind people donating."

What The Wildest Game In NFL History Can Teach Us About Trust

Something special happened in the NFL this past Sunday night. The story was relatively simple - the Raiders and Chargers were set to play in the game of the regular season, with the winner making it to the playoffs and the loser going home. If the game ended with an unlikely tie, however, BOTH teams would get into the playoffs. So the speculation started. If the game was close, would both coaches play for a tie to guarantee advancing to the next stage? This conundrum was an example of what social scientists have long described as the "prisoner's dilemma." 

Here's how one article summarized the prisoner's dilemma: "Two people are arrested for a crime both committed and placed in separate rooms. If neither of the two cooperate with police, a lack of evidence will set them free. If one flips on the other, the snitch will be set free and the other will go to jail. If both flip on each other, both go to jail for shorter terms." 

Of course, regulation time ended with the teams tied ... which forced a single 10 minute overtime period, where both teams also scored 3 points, thus keeping the score tied. With four minutes left, would the team with the ball continue to try and score, or basically sit on the ball and run out the clock? What happened next is worth reading in this recap article (spoiler alert - the Raiders won the game). What's most interesting about the story, though, is that all signs after the game point to the fascinating conclusion that the Raider's choice to go for the win might actually have been caused by a decision by the Chargers coach to take an ill-advised timeout near the end of the game ... which indicated to the Raiders coach that the Chargers were not playing for a tie, and made the choice for the Raiders to go for the win easy. 

In other words, the Chargers act of aggression (the timeout) signaled that they could not be trusted to maintain the status quo (the tie) which caused the decision by the Raiders to go for the win instead. On the field, as in life, when you offer a signal that you cannot be trusted, you can expect others to act accordingly.

Why Making Friends After Age 40 In Midlife Is So Hard

Dating has gotten harder. Young adults are struggling with loneliness. Retail interactions will be more automated in the future. Some health journalists even predict people may suffer from "touch starvation." These topics are all often described as challenges for younger or older generations. What about anyone in between? This week, author Katharine Smyth wrote a piece about the challenges of finding new friends after the age of 40. As I head toward a birthday this weekend that takes me into the middle of so-called midlife, the article immediately struck a chord for me.

I'm lucky to live in a place I know, surrounded by family and friends who have known me for longer ... but I also haven't really made many new friends since turning 40. The opportunities to do that are infrequent and I'm not exactly sure how I would go about doing it anyway. As Smyth insightfully observes, "half the struggle is finding someone who wants the same thing you do, and at the exact same time." But the upside of new friends, she writes, is to meet "someone who sees me as I am right now, not as who I used to be [and] to acknowledge the growing that we all have left to do." Bottom line: we all could probably use some advice on how to make more new friends ... at any age. 

Even More Non-Obvious Stories ... 

Every week I always curate more stories than I'm able to explore in detail. Instead of skipping those stories, I started to share them in this section so you can skim the headlines and click on any that spark your interest: 
How are these stories curated?
Every week I spend hours going through hundreds of stories in order to curate this email. Want to discuss how I could bring my best thinking to your next event as a keynote speaker or facilitator? Watch my new 2022 speaking reel on YouTube >>
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