Arianna Huffington Is Tirelessly Leading a Sleep Revolution
Prevention & Treatment The latest numbers tell us sleep deprivation has become a serious problem. But the founder of The Huffington Post isn't taking the news lying down.
It's been almost a decade since author and media mogul Arianna Huffington sank to the floor in her home office. She woke up in a pool of blood. “On my way down, my head had hit the corner of my desk, cutting my eye and breaking my cheekbone,” she recalls. “I had collapsed from exhaustion and lack of sleep.”
Huffington underwent multiple tests to rule out any underlying medical problem: “There wasn’t, but doctors’ waiting rooms, it turns out, were good places for me to ask myself a lot of questions about the kind of life I was living.”
Getting your forty winks
Huffington, who detailed her experience in the book, “Thrive,” has traveled the globe talking with people about their struggles in getting the proper amount of slumber.
“I found that the subject people wanted to discuss most, by far, was sleep—how difficult it is to get enough, how there are simply not enough hours in the day, how tough it is to wind down, how hard it is to fall asleep and stay asleep, even when we set aside enough time.
“Since my own transformation into a sleep evangelist, everywhere I go, someone will pull me aside and, often in hushed and conspiratorial tones, confess, ‘I’m just not getting enough sleep. I’m exhausted all the time.’”
“‘One of the fundamental truths of well-being is that the better we are at taking care of ourselves, the more effective we’ll be in taking care of others...’”
Sleep on this
According to a recent Gallup poll, 40 percent of all American adults are sleep-deprived, getting significantly less than the recommended minimum seven hours each night.
Dr. Judith Owens, director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Boston Children’s Hospital, says getting enough rest is just as crucial as eating well, being physically active, or wearing a seat belt. Dr. Michael Roizen, the chief wellness officer of the Cleveland Clinic, remarks, “Sleep is our most underrated health habit.” A National Sleep Foundation report also finds two-thirds of us aren't getting enough shut-eye on weeknights.
Snooze, don't lose
Huffington, who describes her former self as “sleep-deprived, drained and depleted,” explains, “Something had to radically change. I could not go on that way. Now, 95 percent of the time, I get eight hours of sleep a night. Once I started giving sleep the respect it deserves, my life improved in pretty much every way. Now, instead of waking up to the sense that I have to trudge through activities, the “new me” wakes up feeling joyful about the day’s possibilities. And I’m also better able to recognize red flags and rebound from setbacks. It’s like being dialed into a different channel that has less static.
“We are truly living in a golden age of sleep science—revealing all the ways in which sleep and dreams play a vital role in our decision making, emotional intelligence, cognitive function and creativity,” sums Huffington. “I went into ‘The Sleep Revolution’ with a very healthy respect for sleep. But in the course of my research, I learned just how important sleep is, how deeply and profoundly it is intertwined with every aspect of our physical well-being, our mental health, our job performance, our relationships and our happiness.
Advice to others
Huffington cautions, "Our sense of being indispensable is central to the sleep crisis we’re facing, so we need to dispense with that as soon as possible.”
She adds, “Remember what we’re told on airplanes: to 'secure your own mask first, before helping others,' even your own child. One of the fundamental truths of well-being is that the better we are at taking care of ourselves, the more effective we’ll be in taking care of others, including our families, our coworkers, our communities and our fellow citizens.”