“We have chosen to live in NYC, but we need to take breaks. We need some weekends to sleep in and just chill out.”
Rachael and Hugh invited us to their bedroom in the Lower East Side in Manhattan on a early fall Morning. The lovely creative couple was in high spirits and revealed their day- and nighttime habits to us. They are both running their own companies and we were curious about how they balance work, sleep, and relaxation.
Rachael: “I am an absolute early bird. My best time of day is 7am to around 2pm.“
Hugh: “I love to cook breakfast. My favorite thing to do is open the fridge, and see what I can make with what’s in there. Ray is a sweet-tooth, whereas I’m all about the eggs, so usually we’ll have a yogurt, followed by something savory.“
What are you doing during the day?
Rachael: I have a small creative studio called Human NYC with my technical partner, Michael Ray. We started out as a gallery in Greenpoint and now mainly work on creating content and web experiences for brands. We are currently working on the relaunch of Coming Soon, an awesome shop in the LES [Lower East Side].
Hugh: By day, I’m running Sanctuary Computer, a small product shop upstairs from a kitchen store on the Bowery. We work with established brands, startups & city entities to build really beautiful digital apps and websites. We’ve worked with folks like Dig Inn, Herman Miller and Dame Products.
Are you an early bird?
Rachael: I am an absolute early bird. The best time of day is 7am to around 2pm. I am trying to push myself to get over to Sky Ting’s [yoga studio] 7:30am class for yoga in the mornings.
Hugh: 8:30am or so. Whenever the sun wakes me up naturally!
How does your alarm sound?
Rachael: I set an alarm; it’s chimes. There’s times when I am well rested and I’ll wake up before it goes off. There’s also times when I snooze through and don’t want to get out of bed. This city keeps us so busy that we don’t get as much sleep as I would like. There’s always friends to meet for dinner or drinks and people to catch up with at night.
Hugh: I don’t use one! At Sanctuary, we have a starting time window of 10am to 11am. That’s designed to allow everyone to sleep as much as they want, and start the day right. Starting the day off stressed about getting to the train on time isn’t great for free flowing creativity.
What are the first things you do in the morning?
Rachael: I try to see if I can wake Hugh up, but I generally get out of bed and start getting ready to go to the office if it’s a weekday. Hugh and I were playing tennis for a bit before work at Seward Park nearby; I’m still waiting for us to pick that back up haha. If it’s the weekend, I start reading in bed and wait for Hugh to wake up and then we’ll have a lazy breakfast together.
Hugh: I like to make a coffee and cook some eggs if I have time. For some of the more frantic weeks, I’ll be meditating before leaving the house.
Do you like having breakfast?
Rachael: If we have time I like to have breakfast together, it’s a nice chance to catch up during the week. We’ll have yogurt, granola, berries or bananas with honey. Hugh is really good at cooking crazy breakfast bowls, throwing together eggs and a bunch of stuff from the fridge like leftover Chinese food.
Hugh: Totally! I love to cook breakfast. My favorite thing to do is to open the fridge, and see what I can make with what’s in there. Ray has a sweet-tooth, whereas I’m all about the eggs, so usually we’ll have a yogurt followed by something savory.
Any favorite breakfast / brunch spots?
Rachael: I love to meet my partner Michael at Landmark Diner on Grand Street and chat about the projects that we’re working on and the work we want to be creating. We’ll sit over several cups of coffee and poached eggs from 8:30am to 10am.
Hugh: Cup & Saucer on Orchard & Canal is my favorite place. It’s a hole-in-the-wall Diner in Chinatown - the food is super cheap, with huge portions. They know my order backwards, now!
What time of the day are you most productive?
Rachael: I’ve noticed that I am my sharpest, happiest self during the first part of the day. From the moment I wake up I am full of optimism. I like walking through Chinatown in the mornings when fruit stands are opening up for the day. There’s people in the park are doing tai chi or playing chess while the city slowly wakes up. I always find myself feeling really grateful and centered on that walk.
Hugh: That varies from day-to-day. Now that I’m running Sanctuary, I don’t find as much time to deep dive into code or design as I used to - but in the rare times when I’ve fought back my inbox, and finished all my admin work, I’ll be able to focus on the work itself. That’s usually in the afternoon around 3pm.
Do you think sleep influences your work?
Rachael: There’s times when I realize we’re seriously grinding. We’re getting through a lot of work, so we’re up early, productive all day, and then meeting up with people in the evening. I’ve learned to accept those times for what they are. We have chosen to live in NYC, but we need to take breaks. We need some weekends to sleep in and just chill out. These days, I’m much more aware of when I am well rested and can feel all of my brain operating at 100%.
Hugh: Sleep influences everything for me. I’ve got that 50% extravert / introvert- split personality. So in weeks when I’ve had a ton of meetings and calls, I’m feeling pretty wrecked. Healthy sleep helps keep my brain and wit sharp for more of those interactions, and the work!
Do you think you get enough sleep?
Rachael: I do. I try to be in bed by midnight and I am really sound sleeper so the hours that I get count.
Hugh: In hours, yeah I do. That said, NYC isn’t great for getting healthy sleep. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become far more susceptible to sleep issues like insomnia, and my sleep is just far lighter in general.
Where do you sleep best?
Rachael: Next to Hugh!
Hugh: As soon as I’m out of the city. In a small town or nature, I sleep like a baby. I wish I could find more of that balance. The city really messes with my brain.
Any rituals before going to bed?
Rachael: I am really low maintenance; I crawl into bed and I am out. When I have time I like to do a sheet mask and lay in bed for a bit or read before falling asleep. I check my calendar before I go to bed to double check what I have on my plate for the next day.
Hugh: It’s not necessarily a ritual, but in my ongoing struggle with insomnia, I’ve needed to become more and more conscious about winding my mind down before getting into bed. I think of it like a flight descent - I need to start that process at least a couple hours before landing in the sheets.
Do you go to bed and get up at the same time?
Rachael: Yes. In recent years I would stay up a lot later working on things or trying to get emails out, but now I’m pretty consistent from 11pm to 7am.
Hugh: Yeah, more or less. Midnight to 8am.
Do seasonal changes affect your sleeping habits?
Rachael: I love sleeping in the rain! It is my favorite, along with thunderstorms and snowstorms! I love being cozy. I love when it’s cold out and I’ve been skiing or outside by a fire in the fall and then I come in for bedtime.
Do you remember your dreams?
Rachael: I used to have nightmares often, but I very rarely have them now. Sometimes I’ll wake up and remember something funny or I feel happy that a person was in my dream that has passed away, a nice way to see them.
Hugh: Not as much as I used to. When I was in university, I was really big into lucid dreaming. It’s kinda like “waking up” inside of a dream, and having total control over what you do, and the world around you. It takes a lot of practice, and a big part of that practise is training your brain to remember dreams - you need to journal everything you can remember when you wake up. It’s amazing. When I first started - I was writing one or two sentences. After about six weeks, I was writing three or four pages about every dream. And then - you can flip back through that journal, and dreams from weeks ago will flood back into your memory. It really is a magical world up there.
Did you ever have an idea in a dream that you brought to real life?
Hugh: When I was into making sound art back home in Australia, I would try and stay awake for as long as I possibly could, while my body become more and more tired. There’s this amazing space between waking and sleeping, called hypnagogia. The brain spins through random images and sounds in the subconscious as it finds sleep. It’s said to be the most creative state that the brain occupies.
There’s a legendary story about how Salvador Dali would sit in a chair, with his arm hanging - holding a heavy key in one hand over an upside-down plate. When he fell asleep, his arm would drop the key, waking him from this state. He’s known for saying that in that moment, one walked “in equilibrium on the taut and invisible wire that separates sleep from waking.”
For some time, I was doing the same thing. I’d hear the clang of the key dropping onto the plate, and I’d jump up and go back to my work. It was a really interesting time. Some of my weirdest ideas came out of that process!
Do you care about what you wear for sleeping? What do you wear?
Rachael: I have an old pair of long johns that belonged to my dad. So, if it’s cold in the winter time, I like to sleep in those with an old Syracuse t-shirt of my Grampee’s. He’s a huge Syracuse Orange basketball fan, so I will wear it and hope that they’re winning for him. I have a couple of Rudas pieces that I like to lounge in.
What do you keep on your nightstand?
Rachael: Hugh always has to have water by our bed and I keep a photo of my dad and I when I was little, and a bunch of books!
Hugh: I don’t have one! Our bed is on the ground, so it’s mostly just a few stacks of books.
Describe your bed in 3 words.
Rachael: On the floor.
What is the most special place you’ve ever slept in or fallen asleep.
Hugh: A couple friends and I were driving a flatbed truck in Nevada, and we needed to stay somewhere for the night. We opened the back of the truck on the shore of Lake Tahoe, and woke up on the flatbed in a pile of blankets to the sunrise over the water.
What do you think happens when we sleep?
Rachael: I think that we hibernate and reset ourselves.
Hugh: I think dreaming is mostly for committing memories to the subconscious, and resting the mind. It’s amazing how slow my thinking becomes if I’ve missed a few hours.
How many sheep do you count?
Hugh: Like, 40?
Do you use a digital product / app to track your sleep?
Hugh: No, I don’t. I try not to use my phone anywhere near the bed.
If you could choose, what do you want to dream about tonight?
Rachael: Scuba diving and the ocean.
Hugh: Every night, I hope for more lucid dreams. That way, I can decide in the moment…!
“If we have time I like to have breakfast together, it’s a nice chance to catch up during the week.“
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