Interview with Arianna Huffington on ‘The Sleep Revolution’: Part 2

May 6, 2016

11:44 am

Sleep is as much a part of your health and wellness as food or exercise. That said, society as a whole doesn’t look at sleep the same as these activities; however, some people and companies are starting to look at sleep differently to get an edge on their competition and ultimately be more successful. Huffington Post cofounder Arianna Huffington’s recently released book, The Sleep Revolution, where she examines this more closely.

We asked Huffington to share some of her thoughts and findings on sleep and a little about her new book in the following Q&A interview.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Time is money.” Do you think Ben Franklin is to blame for our current sleep deprived workforce?

Arianna Huffington: “While I wouldn’t lay all the blame on Benjamin Franklin, statements like that certainly didn’t help the cause. These mantras added up into something far greater and more dangerous than the sum of its parts: a cultural delusion that sleep is simply time lost to other pursuits.Perhaps the worst offender was Thomas Edison, who went so far as to call sleep “an absurdity, a bad habit” and declared that “there really is no reason why men should go to bed at all.”

You collapsed from exhaustion in 2007, if that did not happen, where do you think you would be today? Do you think you would have been as successful? Do you think you would still be sleep deprived?

Arianna Huffington: “As unpleasant as my collapse was, I don’t even like thinking about where I’d be – and how sleep deprived I’d be — if it never happened. That experience put me on the path to making sleep a priority, and to rediscovering what my mother, with no formal education, and certainly no background in health or science, knew instinctively: that sleep is a fundamental human need that must be respected.

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.”

Being sleep deprived can result in equivalent behavior to driving drunk with over 300,000 accidents per year in the US. Do you think sleep deprived driving should be illegal nationally (as it already is in Arkansas & New Jersey)?

Arianna Huffington: “The latest research suggests that tired drivers are responsible for as many as 1.2 million crashes a year which tragically kill 8,000 people. Those numbers are sobering, but hardly surprising given that one study found that being awake for 17 to 19 hours (a normal day for many of us!) causes cognitive impairment equal to having a blood alcohol level of .05 percent (just under the legal limit in many US states). Stay up just a few hours more, and it’s equivalent to 0.1 percent — legally drunk.

In order to make drowsy driving a thing of the past, we need to make it as socially unacceptable as drunk driving is today. As Dr. Mark Rosekind, Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, put it: ‘Not everyone drinks and drives or texts while driving. But everyone gets tired, and far too often drivers are putting themselves and others at risk by getting behind the wheel without the sleep they need.'”

You state in the book and title of your book, that we’re in a “sleep revolution,” can you share what you mean by this statement?

Arianna Huffington: “We are in the midst of a massive, global culture shift, with people finally recognizing the incredible power of sleep. From pro athletes like Golden State Warriors player Andre Iguodala bringing in sleep trainers to improve their game, to companies like Aetna literally paying their employees to sleep more, society is restoring sleep to its rightful place in our lives.

I use the word ‘revolution’ for two reasons. First, the scale and scope of the crisis. Even though we now know more about sleep than at any other time in history, and how important it is to every aspect of our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing, actually getting enough sleep is harder and harder to do. The evidence is all around us. For instance, do you know what happens if you type the words ‘why am I’ into Google? Before you can type the next word, Google’s autocomplete function— based on the most common searches-helpfully offers to finish your thought. The first suggestion: ‘why am I so tired?’ The global zeitgeist perfectly captured in five words. The existential cry of the modern age. And that’s not just in New York but also in Toronto, Paris, Seoul, Madrid, New Delhi, Berlin, Cape Town, and London. Sleep deprivation is the new lingua franca.

And second, the incredible and wide-ranging push for solutions. We have a growing number of leaders in every field realizing that well-rested employees are better employees. In sports, in schools, in medicine, and in the workplace, sleep is finally beginning to claw its way back to the place of respect and reverence it deserves.”

Is there anything else you’d like to share with the Tech.Co entrepreneurial-minded readers about sleep, running a business, or your new book?

Arianna Huffington: “There is this founder myth that if you are starting a company you can’t afford to get enough sleep. But in reality three-quarters of startups fail, and perhaps if these founders were getting the sleep they need they’d have a higher likelihood of succeeding. Sleep is nonnegotiable, and it will improve every aspect of your health, productivity, and your chances of having a successful startup.”

Editor’s Note: This interview is part of a two-part series with Arianna Huffington, the first part was released here. For more, check out Huffington’s new book, The Sleep Revolution.

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Frank Gruber is the cofounder, CEO and Executive Editor of Tech.Co (formerly Tech Cocktail). He is the author of the book, Startup Mixology, Tech Cocktail’s Guide to Building, Growing, and Celebrating Startup Success. He is also a startup advisor and investor to startups. Find Frank Gruber online and follow him on Twitter at @FrankGruber.