Alcohol, dinner time and sleep

A couple of months back, I presented what I now realise is a piece of bad data analysis. At the outset, there is nothing special about this – I present bad data analysis all the time at work. In fact, I may even argue that as a head of Data Science and BI, I’m entitled to do this. Anyway, this is not about work.

In that piece, I had looked at some of the data I’ve been diligently collecting about myself for over a year, correlated it with the data collected through my Apple Watch, and found a correlation that on days I drank alcohol, my sleeping heart rate average was higher.

And so I had concluded that alcohol is bad for me. Then again, I’m an experimenter so I didn’t let that stop me from having alcohol altogether. In fact, if I look at my data, the frequency of having alcohol actually went up after my previous blog post, though for a very different reason.

However, having written this blog post, every time I drank, I would check my sleeping heart rate the next day. Most days it seemed “normal”. No spike due to the alcohol. I decided it merited more investigation – which I finished yesterday.

First, the anecdotal evidence – what kind of alcohol I have matters. Wine and scotch have very little impact on my sleep or heart rate (last year with my Ultrahuman patch I’d figured that they had very little impact on blood sugar as well). Beer, on the other hand, has a significant (negative) impact on heart rate (I normally don’t drink anything else).

Unfortunately this data point (what kind of alcohol I drank or how much I drank) I don’t capture in my daily log. So it is impossible to analyse it scientifically.

Anecdotally I started noticing another thing – all the big spikes I had reported in my previous blogpost on the topic were on days when I kept drinking (usually with others) and then had dinner very late. Could late dinner be the cause of my elevated heart rate? Again, in the days after my previous blogpost, I would notice that late dinners would lead to elevated sleeping heart rates  (even if I hadn’t had alcohol that day). Looking at my nightly heart rate graph, I could see that the heart rate on these days would be elevated in the early part of my sleep.

The good news is this (dinner time) is a data point I regularly capture. So when I finally got down to revisiting the analysis yesterday, I had a LOT of data to work with. I won’t go into the intricacies of the analysis (and all the negative results) here. But here are the key insights.

If I regress my resting heart rate against the binary of whether I had alcohol the previous day, I get a significant regression, with a R^2 of 6.1% (i.e. whether I had alcohol the previous day or not explains 6.1% of the variance in my sleeping heart rate). If I have had alcohol the previous day, my sleeping heart rate is higher by about 2 beats per minute on average.

Call:
lm(formula = HR ~ Alcohol, data = .)

Residuals:
    Min      1Q  Median      3Q     Max 
-9.6523 -2.6349 -0.3849  2.0314 17.5477 

Coefficients:
            Estimate Std. Error t value Pr(>|t|)    
(Intercept)  69.4849     0.3843 180.793  < 2e-16 ***
AlcoholYes    2.1674     0.6234   3.477 0.000645 ***
---
Signif. codes:  0 ‘***’ 0.001 ‘**’ 0.01 ‘*’ 0.05 ‘.’ 0.1 ‘ ’ 1

Residual standard error: 3.957 on 169 degrees of freedom
Multiple R-squared:  0.06676,   Adjusted R-squared:  0.06123 
F-statistic: 12.09 on 1 and 169 DF,  p-value: 0.000645

Then I regressed my resting heart rate on dinner time (expressed in hours) alone. Again a significant regression but with a much higher R^2 of 9.7%. So what time I have dinner explains a lot more of the variance in my resting heart rate than whether I’ve had alcohol. And each hour later I have my dinner, my sleeping heart rate that night goes up by 0.8 bpm.

Call:
lm(formula = HR ~ Dinner, data = .)

Residuals:
    Min      1Q  Median      3Q     Max 
-7.6047 -2.4551 -0.0042  2.0453 16.7891 

Coefficients:
            Estimate Std. Error t value Pr(>|t|)    
(Intercept)  54.7719     3.5540  15.411  < 2e-16 ***
Dinner        0.8018     0.1828   4.387 2.02e-05 ***
---
Signif. codes:  0 ‘***’ 0.001 ‘**’ 0.01 ‘*’ 0.05 ‘.’ 0.1 ‘ ’ 1

Residual standard error: 3.881 on 169 degrees of freedom
Multiple R-squared:  0.1022,    Adjusted R-squared:  0.09693 
F-statistic: 19.25 on 1 and 169 DF,  p-value: 2.017e-05

Finally, for the sake of completeness, I regressed with both. The interesting thing is the adjusted R^2 pretty much added up – giving me > 16% now (so effectively the two (dinner time and alcohol) are uncorrelated). The coefficients are pretty much the same once again.

Call:
lm(formula = HR ~ Dinner, data = .)

Residuals:
    Min      1Q  Median      3Q     Max 
-7.6047 -2.4551 -0.0042  2.0453 16.7891 

Coefficients:
            Estimate Std. Error t value Pr(>|t|)    
(Intercept)  54.7719     3.5540  15.411  < 2e-16 ***
Dinner        0.8018     0.1828   4.387 2.02e-05 ***
---
Signif. codes:  0 ‘***’ 0.001 ‘**’ 0.01 ‘*’ 0.05 ‘.’ 0.1 ‘ ’ 1

Residual standard error: 3.881 on 169 degrees of freedom
Multiple R-squared:  0.1022,    Adjusted R-squared:  0.09693 
F-statistic: 19.25 on 1 and 169 DF,  p-value: 2.017e-05

So the takeaway is simple – alcohol might be okay, but have dinner at my regular time (~ 6pm). Also – if I’m going out drinking, I better finish my dinner and go. And no – having beer won’t work – it is going to be another dinner in itself. So stick to wine or scotch.

I must mention things I analysed against and didn’t find significant – whether I have coffee, what time I sleep, the time gap between dinner time and sleep time – all of these have no impact on my resting heart rate. All that matters is alcohol and when I have dinner.

And the last one is something I should never compromise on.

 

 

 

Aamir Khan and Alcohol Buddies

Over the weekend I was watching Koffee with Karan, the episode featuring Aamir Khan and Kareena Kapoor. It was one of the better episodes in the season, along with the one featuring Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt (I did not finish watching any of the others, they were damn boring).

The thing with Koffee With Karan is that it is highly dependent on how interesting the guests are, and not all bollywood stars are equally interesting. Even in this episode, Kareena Kapoor came off as a bit of a bore, refusing to answer most questions, but Aamir Khan was great.

In the early part of the episode, both Kareena and Karan accused Aamir of being “boring”. “You come to a party stand alone and just leave; You catch one or two people and just hang out only with them for the full party”, they said. And then a bit later, one of them (I now forget who – possibly Kareena) said “when I meet you in small groups of 5-6 or less you talk a lot and you are such an interesting person, but why is it that you are such a bore at parties?”

Then Aamir went on to talk about a party at Karan’s house where the music was so loud everyone had to shout to be heard. Nobody was dancing to the music. Nothing was happening. “What is the point of such a party?” he asked.

My friend Hari The Kid has this concept of “alcohol buddies”. These are basically people who you can hang out with only if at least one of you is drunk (there are some extreme cases who are so difficult to hang out with that the only way to do it is for BOTH of you to be drunk). The idea is that if both of you are sober there is nothing really to talk about and you will easily get bored. But hey, these are your friends so you need to hang out with them, and the easiest way of doing so is to convert them into alcohol buddies.

Bringing together this concept and Aamir Khan being “boring”, we can classify people into two kinds – those that are fun when drunk, and those that are fun when sober (some, I think, are both). And people who prefer to have fun when drunk consider the sober sorts boring, and people who prefer to have fun sober think the “alcohol buddies” are boring.

Aamir, for example, appears to be a “have fun when sober” guy, who likes to hang out in small groups and make interesting conversation. Most of Bollywood, however, doesn’t seem to operate that way, hanging out in large groups and not really bothering about conversation.

Yesterday, my wife and I were talking, after an event, about how if you are the sort that likes to hang out in small groups and make conversations, large parties can be rather boring. The problem is that you would have just about started making a nice conversation with someone, when someone else will butt in (hey, this is a party, so this is allowed) and change the topic massively or massively bring down the interest level in the conversation. Every conversation ultimately goes down to its lowest common denominator, leaving you rather frustrated.

And if you are the types who likes large parties and alcohol buddies, small conversations will drain you. You struggle to find things to talk about, and there are only so many people to talk to.

PS: Alcohol and good conversations are not mutually exclusive. Some of my best conversations have happened in very small groups, massively fuelled by alcohol. That said, these have largely been with people I can have great conversations with even when everyone is sober.

Alcohol and sleep

A few months back we’d seen this documentary on Netflix (I THINK) on the effects of alcohol on health. Like you would expect from a well-made documentary (rather than a polemic), the results were inconclusive. There were a few mildly positive effects, some negative effects, some indicators on how alcohol can harm your health, etc.

However, the one thing I remember from that documentary is about alcohol’s effect on sleep – that drinking makes you sleep worse (contrary to popular imagination where you can easily pass out if you drink a lot). And I have now managed to validate that for myself using data.

The more perceptive of you might know that I log my life. I have a spreadsheet where every day I record some vital statistics (sleep and meal times, anxiety, quality of work, etc. etc.). For the last three months I’ve also had an Apple Watch, which makes its own recordings of its vital statistics.

Until this morning these two data sets had been disjoint – until I noticed an interesting pattern in my average sleeping heart rate. And then I decided to join them and do some analysis. A time series to start:

Notice the three big spikes in recent times. And they only seem to be getting higher (I’ll come to that in a bit).

And then sometimes a time series doesn’t do justice to patterns – absent the three recent big spikes it’s hard to see from this graph if alcohol has an impact on sleep heart rate. This is where a boxplot can help.

The difference is evident here – when I have alcohol, my heart rate during sleep is much higher, which means I don’t rest as well.

That said, like everything else in the world, it is not binary. Go back to the time series and see – I’ve had alcohol fairly often in this time period but my heart rate hasn’t spiked as much on all days. This is where quantity of alcohol comes in.

Most days when I drink, it’s largely by myself at home. A glass or two of either single malt or wine. And the impact on sleep is only marginal. So far so good.

On 26th, a few colleagues had come home. We all drank Talisker. I had far more than I normally have. And so my heart rate spiked (79). And then on June 1st, I took my team out to Arbor. Pretty much for the first time in 2022 I was drinking beer. I drank a fair bit. 84.

And then on Saturday I went for a colleague’s birthday party. There were only cocktails. I drank lots of rum and coke (I almost never drink rum). 89.

My usual drinking, if you see, doesn’t impact my health that much. But big drinking is big problem, especially if it’s a kind of alcohol I don’t normally drink.

Now, in the interest of experimentation, one of these days I need to have lots of wine and see how I sleep!

PS: FWIW Sleeping heart rate is uncorrelated with how much coffee I have

PS2: Another time I wrote about alcohol

PS3: Maybe in my daily log I need to convert the alcohol column from binary to numeric (and record the number of units of alcohol I drink)

 

Children’s birthday parties and alcohol

A long time ago, well before I had even planned to have children, I had decided that children’s birthday parties were decidedly boring affairs, especially for adults. Activities are all kid-centric. Food is kid centric (not often that you get chocolate cake at children’s birthday parties). Adults (at least those without kids) won’t be able to relate to most of the songs. It’s especially hard if you as an adult is incapable of getting silly.

One of my friends had once told me that his trick to dealing with kids’ birthday parties (he has lots of kids himself) is to carry along a hip flask, and get buzzed to the appropriate amount (remember you primary task, especially if you have kids of your own, is to chaperone). Since then, I’ve come to believe that alcohol is the best way for an adult to deal with a children’s birthday party.

However, so far I haven’t come across too many children’s birthday parties (maybe not even one) where alcohol is served. In a lot of cases the reason is regulatory – people like to do their children’s birthday parties outside of home, in a sort of party venue. And onerous liquor regulations in Bangalore mean that it is next to impossible to serve liquor there (unless the venue already has a liquor license).

And I must sheepishly raise my hand as a guilty party here, but I’ve found that so far house parties celebrating children’s birthdays also don’t serve liquor. And thinking about it, one big reason comes to mind.

As mentioned earlier, the role of most adults at children’s birthday parties is chaperoning. Which means that they need to be in a state that they can effectively take care of kids. And so some hosts might (maybe legitimately) feel paternalistic about not letting these guest chaperones take full care of the true guests (the other kids at the party).

Added to that is that in Bangalore at least, a part of the job of chaperoning involves driving the child to the party and back, and there alcohol can be a really legitimate barrier. And so that further reduces the demand for alcohol at the party, perhaps below a point where the host feels compelled to serve it.

Finally, there is the sexist reason – at a party I had chaperoned the daughter to yesterday, I was the only dad (among the section of the crowd I knew, at least). All the other kids had been accompanied by their mothers. Maybe the fact that most adults at most children’s birthday parties are women makes the hosts go full on paternalist and refuse to serve liquor?

Alcohol and Shit

I started drinking when I was 21, after I had graduated from IIT. To most, that might sound surprising, but it’s a fact. It wasn’t supposed to be that way – I had initially planned to make my alcohol debut in my last week at IIT, just before the final exams. However, I ended up falling sick and missed the occasion. It would be another two months and entry into another institute of national importance before I finally broke my duck.

There are several reasons that could possibly explain my delay in experimentation with alcohol (you read that right – despite ample opportunity I never even considered experimenting with alcohol at IIT). But thinking back at those days the most compelling one is shit. Yeah, you read that right. I delayed my experimentation with alcohol because I was afraid of what shit it would lead to. Literally.

In the middle of my first night at IIT, I ended up in hospital. Yes, you read that right. The first day had gone alright. My father had accompanied me and helped me set up my third of the room. I had opened a bank account, registered myself at the mess, and after my father left in the evening, went about exploring campus and venturing into other hostels to meet people I know (a cardinal mistake by an IIT “freshie” but somehow I escaped getting caught).

And then in the middle of the night it started. A few trips to the loo later I figured it was time to seek help (it’s not that I wasn’t prepared – my belongings included a sheet of Andial – reputed to put an instant stop to the toughest of shit. But I ended up puking it out that day). I woke up Paddy the Pradeep, who was the only person in my hostel I knew well. He called the institute hospital, which sent an ambulance, and I spent the rest of the night in the hospital, with some shots and on drips. The next morning I was fit enough to be attending the orientation ceremony.

As if this wasn’t enough, shit problems struck again a month down the line, this time during the first round of exams. To make matters worse, the hostel had water problems (always an issue in Chennai). And the institute hospital’s medications wouldn’t seem to help. It was a nightmare.

It was around then that my classmates had settled down in the institute and started experimenting in life. As they began their experimentation I began to notice, and be told stories of, some side effects. If you drank too much you would puke. If you drank too much, the next morning you would have a hangover. And it was only after you shat that the hangover would pass, i was told. It all sounded like so much of a nightmare to me, who was already scarred about any potential stomach problems. There was no way I was going to try something that would give me more shit.

It was after I moved to an institute with reasonably assured water supply that I started my experimentation. Experiments were mostly successful (except for occasional infringements like this and this and this ). Shit wasn’t so much of a problem at all, I realized. The experimentation, though delayed, had ultimately been successful.

It’s of late – perhaps in the last one year – that I’ve noticed a peculiar problem. Whenever I have a few rounds (few can be as few as one) of Vodka or Beer, it results in terrible shit the following day. You get the normal dump right in the morning. But the real bad shit comes out in two installments, usually one after breakfast and one after lunch. It’s really foul-smelling (normally you shouldn’t mind the smell of your own shit or fart, but this is exceptionally bad). It causes great pressure (which means you better stay not far from a toilet). And when it comes out it results in insane pleasure.

One interesting thing is that this happens only when i consume beer or vodka. It never happens with whisky (the kind of alcohol I most often imbibe) – not even with cheap IMFL whisky. With whisky I can drink copious amounts, get drunk, and carry on the next morning like I had fruit juice the previous night. But not with beer or vodka – does anyone have an explanation for this?

You might have guessed that the gritter for this post was certain events last night and this morning. That’s right. At a party last night I didn’t realize that they were serving whisky, too, and went for beer (UB Export Strong – also known as “Yaake Cool Drink”). Having started I had more rounds of it. And after breakfast this morning it’s started acting! If only I’d gone for the whisky!

Pot and cocaine

Methylphenidate, the drug I take to contain my ADHD, is supposed to be similar to cocaine. Overdosing on Methylphenidate, I’m told, produces the same effects on the mind that snorting cocaine would, because of which it is a tightly controlled drug. It is available only in two pharmacies in Bangalore, and they stamp your prescription with a “drugs issued” stamp before giving you the drugs.

Extrapolating, and referring to the model in my post on pot and ADHD, snorting cocaine increases the probability that two consecutive thoughts are connected, and that there is more coherence in your thought. However, going back to the same post, which was written in a pot-induced state of mind, pot actually pushes you in the other direction, and makes your thoughts less connected.

So essentially, pot and cocaine are extremely dissimilar drugs in the sense that they act in opposite directions! One increases the connectedness in your train of thought, while the other decreases it!

I’ve never imbibed cocaine, so this is not first-hand info, but I’ve noticed that alcohol when taken in heavy doses (which I never reach since I’m the designated driver most of the time) acts in the same direction of cocaine/methylphenidate – it increases the coherence in your thoughts. Now you know why junkies in your college would claim that the kind of “high” that pot gives is very different from the kind of high that alcohol gives.

The City Lacks Bars

Yeah you might think I’m crazy to be cribbing like this about Bangalore, supposed to be India’s pub city and all that jazz. But I stick to my statements. Yeah we might have lots of good pubs and lounges but we don’t have lots of good bars.

I was on my way to dinner at Fava at UB City this evening when I noticed the City Bar, and it struck me as to how few such bars there are in the city. Like places where you just go to the bar, get yourself a drink and literally hang around (around random small darshini-style tables) talking to people. I was reminded of my trips abroad, of places like London or New York which are so full of places like this one – where one just goes, buys a drink and hangs around.

My hypothesis of the shortage of such bars got some weight on our way out of Fava when we noticed how full the city bar was. It was like BTS bus 201 in peak hour – there wasn’t even any standing room!

Which makes me wonder why the culture of mid-to-high end standing bars hasn’t taken off in the city, especially considering our glorious tradition of darshinis and of standing bars at the lower segments (I hope you’ve noticed this – every “wine shop” literally doubles up as a standing bar, where people get stuff from the shop in a dirty glass, stand around and quickly gulp down. I must confess I’ve never drank at this kind of a bar).

Is it because the notion of a quick drink isn’t very well defined at the higher segments of our society? Is it because a “quick drink” is associated with the lower end of the spectrum and so the richer people don’t want to indulge in it? Could it be because of the exorbitant price of liquor licenses that makes it uneconomical to serve liquor cheaply enough to get enough crowds to sustain a standing bar? (most shady standing bars don’t have a bar licence; they run on wine shop licenses)

I must admit I’m a bit of a novice at this one (in terms of total quantity of alcohol consumed during my lifetime) but this really intrigues me. Why hasn’t the concept of higher end standing bars taken off in Bangalore? Has it taken off anywhere else in India at least? Again shady bars don’t count.

Booze and volatility

Another of those things I’ve been intending to write for a really long time. Occasionally when I’m not feeling too good mentally, people ask me to go have a drink telling me that everything will be alright. However, given my limited experience in this I’m not too confident it will work. In fact, the only one time I tried drowning my sorrows in alcohol (this was over four years ago) I ended up feeling significantly worse, worse enough to have not tried it since.

The thing with booze is that it increases the volatility of your state of mind. This means that it will flatten out the curve according to which your mental state moves. So after you’ve had a drink or few, you are unlikely to remain in the same state that you were in that you started off at. You end up feeling either significantly better or significantly worse – and the chances of both these go up tremendously when you drink.

I know I have been so far acting based on one data point that went adversely, but I don’t know what causes the selection bias in people who have been through both sides significantly! Of feeling much worse and feeling much better after having some drinks. Why is it that even though all of them would’ve been through significantly worse after drinking at some point of time or the other, they tend to forget about it and only think of the times when they’ve felt better?

Is it that whether you feel good or not is some kind of a binary payoff depending upon the level of the state of mind (basically state of mind < cutoff => “bad”; state of mind >= cutoff implies “good”)? If this is true, then whenever you are “out of the money” (feeling bad), you dont’ really care if you go even more out of the money – your overall feeling doesn’t change by much. And so you don’t really mind the cases when the alcohol starts making you feel significantly worse. But then the barrier is ahead of you so by increasing volatility, you are giving yourself a better chance of surmounting the barrier so drinking makes sense! But then under this condition it doesn’t make sense to drink at all when you’re already feeling good!

Are there any other reasons you can think of for this selection bias? Why do people give more benefits to positive movement in state of mind as a function of drinking than to negative movement in state of mind? Or is it that volatility is a non-intuitive concept and “there’s a better chance you’ll feel better if you drink” is a simple way of communicating it? And let me know your experience about drink making you feel worse..

Sweetie

I wrote this post last evening. Since I didn’t have broadband access then, I’m posting it only now. This was written on my blackberry, so excuse the typos. Also, blackberry meant that I was typing much slower than usual so this post will probably lack the sudden rush of thought that can be noticed in my other posts.

For the first time in my life I really ezperienced and enjoyed a sugar high today. I must say it was almost like being drunk, except for that it’s unlikely to scr3w my health and that I managed to drive fairly peacefully. It was a really wonderful feeling and though it’s unlikely to last as long as an alcohol high, I think it’s really worth it.

Now I was wondering about the reasons for my high today since the quantity of sweet I consumed today was nowhere close to peak consumption. Thinking about it, however, I realized it had everything to do with relative value and by that metric I’d eaten a lot today.

For the last three month, for health reasons, I’ve been competely off sweets. I don’t take sugar in my coffee. No sugar in fruit juice. Diet coke. No tea, since I can’t stomach it without sugar. Hardly any biscuits. Strictly no desserts, etc

Biologically speaking, the human body is favourably disposed towards sweets since sweets are extremely high in energy and in times when food was scarce (till 200 yrs back) it was a mechanism to make sure of getting the maximum possible energy. It can be argued that our instinctive love for sweets is a darwinian advantage. Since 200 yrs is too short for natural selection to act for humans, we still like sweets despite them not being good for us.

So the whole point of eating sweets on special occasions, I guess, is to give you that sugar high. And in times of less abundance when calorie consumption was low, eating the sweet would’ve been worth it for the sugar high alone, with taste being incidental.

So when you’re normally not used to consuming too muxh energy, as was the case with most people until 200 yrs ago, eating a sweet results in a sudden rush of energy to the brain. And this sudden extra rush, which is usually not accounted for by the body, gives the brain extra energy to do stuff. And hence you get what is called as ‘sugar high’. You suddenly become high energy. All the ned goes away. You want to do something to spend the energy stimulus. You get sudden enthu. You get high.

Unfortunately, given our high energy lifestyles, normal quantities of sweets are hardly enough to provide any sort of spike in energy flow to the brain, and hence don’t cause any high.  And thus the only thing we can enjoy from the sweets is the taste. The main advantage of sweets seems to have been lost, maybe forever.

I’m glad I’m on this diet. Apart from helping me in terms of general fitness and causing significant weight loss, it has also helped me appreciate sweets better. And experience the real high.

Here’s wishing all my blog readers a happy and prosperous deepAvaLi.

Three is a company, or Difficulty in maintaining bilateral conversation

How easy do you find it to reconnect with an old friend in a one-on-one meeting? How easy do you find it to sustain conversation beyond the first half an hour or so when you catch up on the lives of each other? Especially when you don’t have an external “stimulus” such as alcohol or sport or a movie?

It is incredible that it happens so frequently, and even with so-called really close friends. In fact, closeness of friendship may not even matter so much, as I’ve seen this happen with a large variety of people. You meet after a long time assuming you’ll talk the night away, and half an hour and pfff. Both of you run out of ideas, stare vaguely into your coffee cups, and make meaningless conversation about who has moved to which job.

The number of possible conversations grows quadratically with the number of people meeting up (or even at a higher order if you consider that strictly more than two people can stimulate conversation in a certain topic), which is why it is highly unlikely that in a group of three, you run out of ideas to talk about. And it gets better as the size of the group increases (though if it grows too large, it will split into sub-groups which maintain their own conversatiosn).

So where does louvvu fit into all this? After all, louvvu happens between a couple, and  a “catalyst” (a third person or a “woh”) is undesirable. Actually I suppose sustainability of conversation is one base case necessary (but not sufficient condition) to determine if louvvu are there. After all, if you can’t sustain conversation without a stimulus for half an hour, fat chance that you’ll be able to peacefully live in the same house for the rest of your lives.

The interesting thing in all this is that there are several people with whom I can sustain online conversation (GTalk etc.) for hours together but our conversation fizzles out when either on the phone or when we actually meet up. I think the deal is that in the former case you are multitasking so not all your energies are spent in the conversation. Also the other tasks that you are doing can give you ideas to further conversation.