The human venture capital firm is now a thing. What trends we’ve seen in employment generally - self-care, empathy, inclusive design - are now embedded among within financial companies, with Environmental Social Governance being only the most formal end of this. Among the smaller players looking at high-risk investments, strategies are more agile. Active in Europe and on the U.S. East Coast, Northzone VC emphasise the recovery rate of its founders.

On 27th October, Northzone held a webinar with sleep optimiser Chris Surel, hosting over 116 attendees plugging in from timezones on both sides of the Atlantic. Surel has had his own battles in elite sport and, following a career-ending injury, the fast-pace consulting-startup life. The result was total breakdown and lack of sleep, taking the former tennis player to a chilling place, recounted early in his presentation.

Taking sleep recovery seriously has been Surel’s vocation since. He references his vision in two ways - a world with Bright Sparking-eyed people, cycling downhill with a tailwind instead of swimming uphill. There’s a more calculating name to Surel’s model - a Strategic Performance Recovery System.

The gist goes like this: too many people focus on the length of sleep, not the quality of sleep, and specifically ignoring the amount of deep sleep that’s had in a given rest. The goal should be to have 90 minutes of deep sleep per night - a volume that’s front-loaded towards the beginning of the night in your first sleep cycle, decreasing during each subsequent cycle. It’s during deep sleep that Human Growth Hormone is released, your Glymphatic System flushes toxins and Natural Killer (NK) cells return to baseline levels. The World Health Organisation even say that undermining these processes has carcinogenic consequences.

Attendees were asked to poll on how much deep sleep they were getting on average:


Surel’s has clients who sleep for over seven hours and get barely two minutes of deep sleep. Another gets on average 7 hours and 39 minutes but never actually makes it to on minute of deep sleep. Lots of Junk Sleep there.

So what’s causing this drought? A study from Harvard have looked into one of the main reasons why we’ve become so deprived of sleep. The study involved reading a John Grisham book on iPad and paper for four hours over five days. It’s hard to know if the content satisfied all participants in the study, but results showed that those who read on iPad generally went into deep sleep 90 minutes after those that had read on paper. Blue light is the mischievous player here, enough to knock the most determined sleepers off track by the simple reality that melatonin doesn’t get released during blue light exposure.

Fortunately, Surel does having suggestions on how to fix. Forgo aesthetics and get hold of glasses designed to block blue light, and also get hold of a natural-light lamp to raise your serotonin levels even when living in northerly latitudes in dark winters. Other self-managed ideas are to practice binaural breathing before going to bed to relax brain waves at 4-8Hz (at stress levels, brain waves are 15-30Hz.). Surel introduces the term “Social Jetlag” for the ways that we move sleep by an hour here and their - don’t do this, even on weekends, he advises.

If you are going to drink, do it early. That's on the alcohol front. When it comes to hydration, drink water throughout the day so you don't feel like you need to drink a large glass immediately before going to sleep. That way your sleep won't be broken by visits to the bathroom. Sweet dreams.

Find out more about Surel’s work and the slides to the presentation at