19 March 2013

Counting Sheep 數綿羊

It is said that the best things in life are free. Children’s smiles, glorious sunsets and the soothing sounds of ocean waves. Of all the simple pleasures in life, sleeping is the most beneficial to our bodies and minds. It is also the most underrated. When alpha cities like Hong Kong, Tokyo and New York fall over each other vying for the dubious title of The City that Doesn’t Sleep, it is the citizens who pay the price. Our mounting workload, overdeveloped social life and that black hole called the Internet all contribute to our sleep deficit. Every now and then when we get to stay in bed for a couple of extra hours on a lazy Sunday morning, we are reminded what a real treat those forty winks are.

The city that never sleeps

An average person in Hong Kong sleeps 6.6 hours a day. That means for every one of us who gets the recommended eight hours of z’s, there is a poor soul scraping by with just five. While some blame it on the Asian work culture, others point to runaway property prices that are sending ever more urban exiles to remote neighborhoods...


Read the rest of this article in No City for Slow Men, published by Blacksmith Books, available at major bookstores in in Hong Kong and at Blacksmith Books.


  1. 湊巧,昨天在報章上,看了篇關於「等」的故事 - 談到人的一生,要等的事多,要等的心情也更複雜!等收工、等出糧、等放大假去旅行、等約會、等人請食飯.....哈!其中一種最惱人、最苦悶的等,睇怕非「等入睡」莫屬?!原來等周公子來探訪是件難事,輾轉反側,等來等去也睡不着,時間過得慢,精神來得快,躺在牀上等天明,真的很不好受!



  2. "The Inner Canon of the Emperor", one can sleep only four hours each day but the time of FALLEN asleep must be 2300-0100 AND 1100-1300 regularly each day for years !!! That will take 6 months to one year to build up the discipline, which is quite difficult if one don't have a foundation practice of Buddhism ,Taoism or Confucianism.

    Btw, keep calm and count sheep is quite humorous.


  3. Hi Jason,

    Enjoyed your writing, always.


  4. Jason, there is a typo in the third paragraph, ater--> after

    I agree with what you said here. Many Hongkongers do not have enough sleep because of their long working hours...As a teacher in Hong Kong, I need to be at school at around 7:40am and leave at around 9:00pm every day. And I don't want to go straight to bed after work as I want to have some time to do something I like or my life will be very dull...It turns out that I only have a few hours to sleep. Alas...I know it's bad for my health and I am trying my best to get more sleep. BUT it's really HARD for me to give up my own little time for leisure~~~

  5. I hear you, Anonymous. School teachers keep very long hours in Hong Kong, late nights and weekends. You guys should be paid as well as your counterparts in countries like Finland!!


  6. Thank you for an important article! This city definitely needs more people like you who understand the importance of sleep. More often I meet people who just brag about their panda eyes and lifestyle of busy-busy.


  7. "We often think that sleep equals rest, but sleep really equals the body healing "- Jason Barter / thks for a great article, been a topic of discussion these past long winter weeks


  8. Thank you Jason for another piece on such a commonly neglected area of our life.

    I'm in my mid 20s, and I've always enjoyed sleeping. As I grow older, it suddenly dawned on me that sleeping 9 hours or more on a weekend is no longer enjoyable - I wake up with sores and end up more tired than when I sleep just 7.5 hours on a weekday.

    I agree though, that we should all invest on better mattresses and pillows, given the amount of time we spend on our beds.


  9. Sheep counting is not a problem, but keep calm is too hard to comply.


  10. Hey Jason,

    Just found this blog and really enjoy reading it. I can definitely relate to this as a Capital Markets lawyer in NYC (similar to your previous job here).


  11. Thanks, Ray. Do keep reading! Feel free to add me on Facebook to commiserate the plight of a capital markets lawyer!!


  12. Totally agree with your first paragraph, it is as if we pride ourselves on a career or a social like that takes up all 24 hours of our day. The longer one works, the more one socializes, is almost a symbol of envy to others. I am thinking of those who, like the partner in my ex-law firm, lives in Shenzhen and work in Hong Kong and it takes them hours to get to and from work each day. And obviously they work more than just from 9am to 5pm.

    I am not sure about the local cafes and cha chaan tengs opening till later and later though, at least not all of them. I have come across some who are counting the pennies on OT pay and increased utilities bill and other overheads so they don’t necessarily stay open till much later than before, except on Fridays and Saturdays maybe. I still recall the days when we stopped all our work at the office at past 11pm at night and made frantic phone calls to Tsui Wah for them to do the last round of takeaways to our office before they closed for the night. And all other cha chaan tengs are closed already. It wasn’t funny burning the midnight oil with an empty stomach!!!

    So according to studies, practically all modern day common or lethal illnesses can be attributed to our sleep-deficient lifestyle. In that case, remember I want people to bring me champagne coloured roses when I am pushing up the daisies! (Not that I would know what they are bringing anyhow).

    [To be cont'd]


  13. As for the art of sleeping, I remember the pictures of your home. It is a designer’s dream! I have blinds to block out the light in the morning, but sometimes there are crevices or just a slight crack in between where the rays pierced through in the morning and draw back the curtain of my eyelids. And that is annoying because I can’t get back to sleep them, depending on the angle of the morning rays. But is the eye mask comfortable when you are sleeping? And can the built-in thermometer actually adjust the temperature in your room? It is not connected to the ventilation system, is it? Never knew such goodies exist before. My electronic devices will be in my bedroom but out of reach on my desk usually. I don’t have the luxury of having a separate study / library. But I do read in bed and I have books and magazines next to my bed. Do you? Or is that something else that the UK Sleep Council would advise against?

    What you mentioned about your college days is so hilarious, how can you sleep through fire alarms? Though I was known for dropping off during Anita Mui’s concert many years ago when I was accompanying my friend to watch that. Gosh, dousing water into your face to wake you for class, so that means you have to change lots of your wet pillow cases then! Can’t imagine you in that school-boy guile tip-toeing down the corridor to your room at the office, considering your position there. With all the bosses I have seen, they are either very early or very late, and none of them ever get lashed at.