Q & A with Ariana Huffington: The Sleep Revolution
Many of us don’t realize it but sleep is needed in order for our bodies to thrive. I got the opportunity to interview Arianna Huffington the Founder and Editor of Huffington Post. She wrote the book “The Sleep Revolution” where she shows how our cultural dismissal of sleep as time wasted not only compromises our health and our decision-making but also undermines our work lives, our personal lives and even our sex lives.
I love to sleep before having my kids I made sure I went to bed by no later than 10 p.m. to get at least 8 hours of sleep. If I slept for less than 8 hours I would feel fatigued. Arianna Huffington says that lack of sleep causes higher risk of heart attack, and we become unable to regulate our weight. I make sure my children get their proper amount of sleep when they don’t get enough sleep they are cranky and irritable.Click To Tweet
I must admit, I don’t get my 8 hours of sleep anymore but Arianna helps me to understand why I need to put this routine back in my life.
Below is my Q & A with Arianna Huffington
What led you to write The Sleep Revolution?
As I went around the world talking about my last book, Thrive, 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. And 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. ” Or, as one young women told me after a talk in San Francisco, “I don’t remember the last time I wasn’t tired.” By the end of an evening, no matter where I am in the world or what the theme of the event is, I’ll have had that same conversation with any number of people int eh room. And what everyone wants to know is, “What should I do to get more and better sleep?” So I decided I wanted to take a fuller look at the subject because its clear that if we’re going to truly thrive, we must begin with sleep. It’s the gateway thorough which a life of well-being must travel. From the moment we’re born until the moment we die, we’re in a relationship with sleep. I wrote The Sleep Revolution to examine this ancient, essential and mysterious phenomenon from all angles, and to explore the ways we can use sleep to help regain control over our out-of-kilter lives.
You say that sleep deprivation is the “new smoking.” How so?
It’s a long list. To name just a few things we lose, there’s creativity, memory consolidation, our ability to learn and solve problems, our ability to manage stress, and a well-functioning immune system. Yet the myth persists that we can do our jobs just as well on four or five or six hours of sleep as we can on seven or eight. It’s a delusion that affects not only our personal health but our productivity and decision-making. In other words, we may not have as many good ideas as we would have otherwise had, we may not be as able to come up with creative solutions to problems we’re trying to address, or we may be short-tempered or waster a day( or day after day, or year after year) going through the motions. And in some occupations-in our hospitals, on our highways, or in the air-lack of sleep can be a life-or-death matter. An Australian study found that after being awake for seventeen to nineteen hours (a normal day for many of us!), we can experience levels of cognitive impairment equal to having a blood alcohol level of .05 percent (just under the legal limit in many US states). And if we’re awake just a few hours more, we’re up to the equivalent of 0.1 percent-legally drunk.
Sleep deprivation affects our health in a big way. The incidence of death from all causes goes up by 15 percent when we sleep five hours or less per night. A 2015 article based on the latest findings by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, provocatively titled “Sleep or Die,” discussed the connection between lack of sleep and an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and obesity. In other words, getting enough sleep really is a matter of life and death.
Not only that-we hear our lack of sleep on our faces. An experiment in the UK tested the effects of sleep deprivation on a group of thirty women. Their skin was analyzed and photographed after they slept for eight hours and then again after sleeping six hours for five night in a row. Fine lines and wrinkles increased by 45 percent, blemished went up by 13 percent and redness increased by 8 percent.
What role does technology play in the sleep crisis? How can our nightly routines, and taking our phones our of our bedrooms at night, help us sleep better?
The ubiquity of technology and its addictive nature have made it much harder for us to disconnect and go to sleep. With technology, we can now carry our work with us-in our pockets and purses in the form of our phones-wherever we go. The problem is that our relationship with our devices is still in that honeymoon phase where we just can’t get enough of each other we’re not yet at the stage where we’re comfortable being apart for a few hours or taking separate vacations. In face, a 2015 survey showed that 71 percent of Americans sleep with or next to their smartphones.
But the blue light emitted by our phones is alike an anti-sleeping drug or stimulant something few of us would willingly give ourselves each night before bed, especially when so many of us are using sleeping pills or other sleeping aids in a desperate effort to get some sleep.
Our houses, our bedrooms-even our beds-are littered with beeping, vibrating, flashing screens, It’s the never-ending possibility of connecting-with friends, with strangers, with the entire world, with every TV show or movie ever made-with just the press of a button that is, not surprisingly, addictive. Human are social creatures we’re hard-wired to connect. Even when we’re not actually connecting digitally, we’re in a constant state of heightened anticipation. And always being in this state doesn’t exactly put us in the right frame of mind to wind down when it’s time to sleep.
How can we go about making sleep a priority-even when we’re busy or traveling?
I get asked all the time, what do you do when, for whatever reason-a sick toddler, a bad cold, jet lag, a project deadline or a late night out-you just can’t get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep? Fortunately, in those instances in which you really can’t get enough sleep at night, there’s a great remedy to that problem: the nap. Naps are a cheap and readily available way to enjoy what the National Sleep Foundation calls “a pleasant luxury, a mini-vacation.”
In fact, as it turns out, naps are great for us even when we are getting good sleep at night. According to David Randall, the author of Dreamland, even a short nap primes our braids to function at a higher level and more easily come up with solutions. While chronic poor sleep can have long-lasting effects on our health, naps can help mitigate some of those effects. Short of time travel, a next-day nap may be the closest we can get to a second chance at a good night’s sleep.
Why do you strongly believe that sleeping pills aren’t a long-term answer?
There are, of course, times on our lives-a traumatic experience, the death of a loved one-when we might need some temporary help getting to sleep. But it’s important to make a distinction between turning to sleep aids at such moments and turning them as an everyday cure for sleeplessness.
Sleep difficulties can turn into serious medical problems. For the vast majority of us, however, sleep difficulties are a lifestyle problem. Yet we tend to treat all our sleep-related woes the same way; with a pill. This is hubris on the scale of Greek mythology. We expect, as if by magic; to wrestle sleep into submission. This isn’t accidental. Combine the marketing power of the modern pharmaceutical industry with a client market that includes, potentially, every fatigued and burned out worker which is to say nearly every worker and you’ve got the makings of the juggernaut that is the modern sleep-aid industry.
The potential dangers of sleeping pills don’t stop at your being turned into a mindless zombie. There are also longer-term hazards to go along with the Night of the Living Dead-like misadventures. Researchers have discovered that the use of benzodiazepines (such as Xanax and Restoril), usually taken for anxiety or as a sleep aid, increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by 32 percent after being used for three to six months. Taking these drugs for more than six hours raises the risk by 84 percent.
“In twenty years, people will look back on the sleeping pill era as we now look back on the acceptance of cigarette smoking,” UCLA’s Jerome Siegel told me. Movies and TV glamorize smoking. Advertisements, often with doctors or actors posing as doctors, were used to sell cigarettes.” Only after many years and many studies linking cigarettes to lung cancer and other diseases did the government step in to regulate tobacco advertising. So we mat have moved beyond the era of Joe Camel and advertisements proclaiming “More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette!” and “Give your throat a vacation….Smoking a fresh cigarette,” but as Siegel put it, “history appears to be repeating itself. The chronic use of sleeping pills is an ongoing public health disaster.”
The Sleep Revolution isn’t just a book; it’s also a movement. Talk about the #SleepRevolution college tour, the drowsy driving awareness campaign, and the other ways in which you’re working to spread this message.
This spring, we are launching the #SleepRevolution College Tour at 50 campuses-including Harvard, Georgetown, USC, UCLA, Ohio State, University of Georgia-to spark a national conversation about the importance of sleep and the dangers of sleep deprivation based on the latest science.
To help students embrace sleep as a performance enhancer rather than something to be avoided, we’ve partnered with major brands-including Sleep Number, Jawbone, Jetblue, Marriot, Spotify and MetroNaps-to host “sleep fairs” to give students tangible tools to make changes in their lives and embrace better sleep habits. And we’ll also be providing them with plenty of sleep-related products-including pajamas, slipper, eye-masks, candles, dream journals, alarm clocks and white noise machines-donated by those same brands. The tour will feature panels and conversations with the leading sleep experts, and we well be featuring sleep-themed blog posts and videos from students and professor on The Huffington Post.
And we’re also working with Uber on a major campaign against drowsy driving. We’re creating content to educate drivers. giving “sleep kits” to drivers and passengers, and working with companies to offer subsidized rides home to employees who work late. Arianna will also be doing ride-alongs in which she will talk with Uber passengers and answer questions about their sleep.
Now that we know that sleep has the potential to transform our lives, how can we put this knowledge into action?
I’m often asked a question that goes something like this: “Arianna, it’s great that you get all this sleep now, but would you have had the same career if you had done this earlier in your life? And my answer isn’t just a categorical yes-I also believe that not only would I have achieved whatever I’ve achieved, but I would have done it with more joy, more aliveness, and less of a cost to my health and my relationships
But if we’re going to truly restore sleep to its proper role in our lives, we have to look beyond all the tools and techniques, the lavender pouches, the blackout shades, the space-age mattresses, the rules about caffeine and screens, At the end of the day (literally), being able to do something as natural as going to sleep shouldn’t require chronically medicating ourselves or putting ourselves on a nightly war footing against all the screens, foods, and activities that stand between us and a good night’s sleep. Rather, it starts with something as simple as it is profound: asking ourselves what kind of life we want to lead, what we value, what gives our lives meaning.
To be able to leave the outside world behind each night when we go to sleep, we need to first recognize that we are more than our struggles and more than our victories and failure. We are not defined by our jobs and our titles, and we are vastly more than our resumes. By helping us keep the world in perspective, sleep gives us a chance to refocus on the essence of who we are. And in that place of connection, it is easier for the fears and concerns of the world to drop away.
For many of us, thinking this way is a big change. It certainly has been for me. After all, we live in a world that celebrates getting things done above all else. So who are we when we are not getting things done? If we stop emailing or texting or planning or doing, will we cease to exist? (It’s not hard to imagine a modern-day Descartes declaring, “I tweet, therefore I am.”)
To be sure, we can strive to get more sleep without asking these existential questions. But making the most of the third of our lives that we should be spending asleep and reaping all the benefits sleep offers in terms of our health, our clarity of thinking, our decision-making, and our engagement in our lives reflecting on what matters most to us and then re-prioritizing our days-and our nights-accordingly. As our days become more and more consumed by doing, by distractions and urgency, sleep, waiting for us every night, offers a surrender.
You can purchase her book at ariannahuffington.com
Transform your life one night at a time, join the #sleeprevolution