The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time by Arianna Huffington
“Can’t wait for the weekend.” How many times do you repeat this like a mantra during the long week? Catching up on sleep is a global sport. Hence the sleep crisis that engulfed our lives so completely that we don’t really remember ever feeling fully rested.
Arianna Huffington, editor of the Huffington Post and author of The Sleep Revolution, learned the hard way what happens when you become so tired that your body just calls it quits and shuts down.
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Yes, yes, success is achieved by working day in and day out. Or is it? You say now that you’re willing to pay the price. But in a culture that preaches sleep as a commodity when it’s the exact opposite, where do you draw the line?
Are you willing to spend the rest of your days as a zombie – a mindless being – sacrificing your health? If so, then please disclose the last time you were really present at work, not daydreaming, or nodding off every ten seconds.
It’s a sad truth that:
We should understand that sleep represents a crucial element for a sustainable life – being able to reap the rewards of a successful career for a long time to come. If you want focus and creativity, you need between 7 – 9 hours of sleep a night.
HEALTH / THE SLEEP REVOLUTION
“Once I started getting seven or eight hours of sleep, it became easier to meditate and exercise, make wiser decisions.”
Arianna Huffington, sleep evangelist, has a Masters in Economics from Cambridge. She featured twice in TIME’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people. Aside from being a bestselling author– check out our summary of Thrive – Huffington is also a media entrepreneur. In spite of her busy schedule, she prioritizes sleep. As you’ll discover in The Sleep Revolution, the commitment to do so means introducing a new habit in your routine.
The main idea of the book starts with Huffington’s desire to shift our perspective and change our reckless view on success. She describes sleep in the first pages as “this ancient, essential, and mysterious phenomenon”. She also proposes the means to lead our own sleep revolution. There’s no universal recipe, so each one of us must try out different tools and techniques in order to determine which ones are useful. Because the magic formula of falling asleep and getting a restful night is different for everyone.
Keep in mind that:
The Sleep Revolution is divided in two parts: Wake-up Call and The Way Forward. The first section is composed of 6 chapters that have the role of an intervention, going through “Our Current Sleep Crisis,” “The Sleep Industry,” “Sleep Throughout History,” “The Science of Sleep,” “Sleep Disorders,” and “Dreams.” Science and history meet, compelling even the most stubborn skeptic to agree that our society suffers from a sleep crisis.
Huffington starts with her own experience of burnout when she woke up in a pool of blood as a result of her body shutting down. This marked the beginning of her quest of putting sleep first.
Sometimes we have our nightly conversation with our brain to ‘turn off all the noise’ and ‘go to sleep already’.
So, the 2nd part – The Way Forward – helps you with diverse “innovations, reforms, inventions and technology fueling the sleep revolution.” It will spring into action your quest to improve your relationship with sleep. You’ll start “Mastering Sleep” by beginning with your family habits. Examine the pros and cons of having a bed partner in “Sleeping Together.” Onwards you’ll explore the “What To Do, What Not To Do” before putting your head on the pillow, then the effects of naps and travelling in “Catnaps, Jet Lag, and Time Zones.” You’ll see the current changes in “Sleep and the Workplace,” as awareness reaches top-level executives about the importance of rest. Then “From Hollywood and Washington to Hospitals and Hotels” the power of sleep is clearly stated and advocated. As you’ll find out that sleep is also “The Sports World’s Ultimate Performance Enhancer,” you’ll hopefully be “Putting Technology in its Place (Not on Your Night Stand).”
At the end, after a myriad of notes, a “Sleep Quality Questionnaire” awaits you to determine your present status with sleep. Furthermore, in Appendix B, you’ll find guided meditations to help you fall asleep are featured, and then in Appendix C are examples of hotels implementing changes to improve their clients’ experience regarding sleep. Appendix D explores the latest mattress innovations and their importance in the sleep revolution.
The Key concepts of The Sleep Revolution are:
- Sleep deprivation translates into “higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol the next day”. This represents the ‘new normal’ for many of us. But it should warn us of the bigger danger lying ahead: burnout.
- Dreams have the infinite power to carry us to other worlds. Scientific research backs up their relevance in our existence, a connection that our ancestors encouraged. Moreover lots of ideas, revelations, and introspection derive from dreaming.
- Technologies are friend and foe. The blue light emanated by electronic devices acts as an alarm bell, putting our brains on high alert which impedes the quieting of our minds. But it can also help us rest by using various apps that track sleep patterns or “sleep centric hardware like noise-blocking headphones.”
Technology that can help us live healthier lives is good, but there are no shortcuts to sleep.
Here are five actionable things you can do starting today from Arianna Huffington’s book:
- Spend your discretionary time wisely. Even if we think we don’t have it, we actually do. The thing is, for example, to put sleep above watching the latest episode of your favorite series. Getting your priorities straight and valuing your shut-eye time is adamant in your quest for a healthy lifestyle.
- Be your own cheerleader. Changing your sleep habit can be challenging. Still you need to commit, to take it day by day, cheer yourself for every victory and be indulgent when you fall off the wagon. It will take time to redesign your sleeping patterns through a trial and error process. Our lives are unique so it’s understandable if our sleeping habits need to be custom made.
- Eliminate sleep as a punishment. Children are told off by being sent to bed early. So it’s no wonder that from a young age sleep is associated with something we don’t want to ‘engage’ with. It becomes the enemy of fun and games. But while we sleep, our brain and body washes away the toxins accumulated during the day. Kids need to understand that they gather lots of energy to play with and also assimilate information much easier afterwards. Moreover, teaching healthy rituals on how to fall asleep and the importance of naps are vital to create a sleep deprivation-free adult.
- No alarms. When the alarm starts blaring in the morning you wake up with your body inundated with cortisone causing the flight or fight response. So your feet didn’t even touch the floor and you’re already stressed. You can begin by forsaking the snooze button, and then in time you’ll wake up on your own. It’s recommended to pause for a couple of seconds, to find your bearings before getting out of bed.
- No electronic devices before bed. Take your iPhone, laptop, and iPad out of the bedroom at least half an hour before you put your head on the pillow. The blue light that these indispensable devices emit are causing alertness in your brain, translating into waking up in the middle of the night or staring tens of minutes at the ceiling.
Moreover here are some of the theories from The Sleep Revolution that you can apply in your daily life:
- Dreams as guidance. Never underestimate the power of dreams. Waking up in the middle of the night from one is not ideal. So why not develop a habit of having a notebook and pen on your nightstand to write them down? Don’t turn on the lights. It’ll be easier to recall the details. If you don’t wake up during the night, then in the morning you can describe what you dreamt about, be it the entire sequence, a tumult of emotions, or just an image that’s stuck with you. Restrain from checking your phone until you lay down the words on paper. Or if you don’t recall a thing then mention that: “This morning I remember nothing.” You’ll discover, as time passes, patterns, secret meanings or just a way to listen to your inner self more.
- Naps instead of sugar or caffeine. When you’re suffering from a poor night of sleep you go after sweets, doughnuts with all the various toppings, or that precious mug of coffee (you don’t even care that’s meant to be in a little fancy cup, you need your fix in triple dose right now) and maybe a double latte later. And there’s also the 3rd option of combining the two: sugar and caffeine, which can be found in enormous dosages in energy drinks. Why not take a 20 – 30 minute nap instead?
To conclude our journey: once you’ll read 400 pages of research studies, tools and techniques, history, and at times traumatic life experiences, I have faith that you’ll reconsider viewing sleep as the enemy. As I see it The Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington promises a new dawn for our culture, with clearer minds and rested faces – a comeback to the times when sleep was seen as ally.
I’ll leave you with this little nugget from the author:
I love that we’re living in a time when people seem open once again to the power of sleep on our waking lives.
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