We are in the midst of a sleep deprivation crisis, writes Arianna Huffington, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post. And this has profound consequences—on our health, our job performance, our relationships, and our happiness. What is needed, she boldly asserts, is nothing short of a sleep revolution.
In today’s fast-paced, always connected, and perpetually harried world, a good night’s sleep is more important—and elusive—than ever. Arianna Huffington’s new book, The Sleep Revolution, both sounds the alarm on our worldwide sleep crisis and provides a detailed road map to the great sleep awakening that can help transform our lives.
When 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 tough it is to wind down, and 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.” Or, as one young woman 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 in the 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 closer look at the subject because it’s clear that if we’re going to truly thrive, we must begin with sleep. It’s the gateway through 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.
Why Sleep Is So Important to Overall Well-Being
For one thing, sleep is something we all have in common—it’s one of humanity’s great unifiers. It binds us to one another, to our ancestors, to our past, and to the future. No matter who we are or where we are in the world and in our lives, we share a common need for sleep. And right now, we’re in a sleep crisis.
At the same time, in the last four decades, science has validated much of the ancient wisdom about the importance of sleep. We’ve made incredible discoveries about all the things going on in our brains and our bodies while we’re sleeping, and these findings have fueled a sleep renaissance, in which the power of sleep to profoundly affect virtually every aspect of our lives is beginning to be recognized.
I call sleep deprivation “the new smoking.” Unfortunately, the comparison is apt, both in terms of the dangers and our attitude. Everywhere you turn, sleep deprivation is glamorized and celebrated, from “You snooze, you lose” to highly burned-out people boasting, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” The combination of a deeply misguided definition of what it means to be successful in today’s world—that it can come only through burnout and stress—along with the distractions and temptations of a 24/7 wired world, has imperiled our sleep as never before.
How to Get Better Sleep, Starting Tonight
Here are 12 tips I recommend for better sleep:
1. Create a bedroom environment that’s dark, quiet, and cool (between 60 and 67 degrees).
2. Turn off electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
3. Don’t charge your phone next to your bed. Even better: Gently escort all devices completely out of your room.
4. Stop drinking caffeine after 2 p.m.
5. Use your bed for sleep and sex only—no work!
6. Keep pets off the bed (sorry, Mr. Snuffles).
7. Take a hot bath with Epsom salts in the evening to help calm your mind and body.
8. Wear pajamas, nightdresses, or even a special T-shirt—it’ll send a sleep-friendly message to your body. If you wore it to the gym, don’t wear it to bed.
9. Do some light stretching, deep breathing, yoga, or meditation to help your body and your mind transition to sleep.
10. Choose a real book or an e-reader that does not emit blue light, if you like to read in bed. And make sure it’s not work-related: novels, poetry, philosophy—anything but work.
11. Sip camomile or lavender tea to ease yourself into sleep mode.
12. Write down a list of what you’re grateful for before bed. It’s a great way to make sure your blessings get the closing scene of the night.
April 6, 2016