I guess I didn’t need The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time, an engaging and highly readable book from Arianna Huffington, to understand the importance of sleep in my life; however, it was a good slap in the face to recognize what sleep deprivation does to the body and the mind.
In a CNN interview Huffington describes what brought her to write the book. In a moment of exhaustion she collapsed, hitting her face on the edge of a desk and breaking her cheekbone. This literally was a wakeup call as she went to doctors thinking that she had a heart attack or cancer, only to discover that she was not getting enough sleep.
Thus the book is born from personal experience for the founder of The Huffington Post, one in which she learned the hard way that 18 hour work days and good health do not necessarily go together. In the first part of the book, “The Wakeup Call,” she makes it clear that the very thing that has made her so successful – the 24/7 Internet world that never goes to sleep – is what knocked her out and thus brought her to a stunning conclusion: “Our cultural assumption that overwork and burnout are the price we pay in order to succeed is at the heart of our sleep crisis.”
You may question if there is a sleep crisis, but I have witnessed it firsthand as an educator. Kids who are staying up too late playing video games or texting one another are falling asleep in class and hitting their heads on desks. Teachers who are burning the candle at both ends – many of them grading papers for hours before doing grad school work online into the wee hours – are barely getting through the day on cups of coffee and cans of Red Bull. You can look at this as a microcosm of what is happening in all different work environments all across America.
If you commute to work or school it is possible that you see the unmistakable signs of sleep deprivation as I have. There are many subway riders who have trained themselves to get a few minutes of sleep in any position, including standing in a corner or against a pole in a crowded subway car. If someone is driving a car, that sleep deprivation is putting everyone else in jeopardy as well, and Huffington notes that not getting enough sleep is as bad as drunk driving, which in essence makes it worse because you know you didn’t get enough sleep.
The first section of the book does everything it can to convince you of this sleep deprivation epidemic. Using statistics, historical evidence, and powerful stories, Huffington makes a solid case that we are not only sleep deprived but our health is suffering. She makes it clear we had better do something to correct the situation – before we get our own wakeup call like her broken cheekbone. She also notes that the lack of sleep is costing us $63 billion annually in terms of people calling in sick to work or going into work unprepared to actually function. If that doesn’t get heads of companies thinking, what will?
The second section of the book, “The Way Forward,” is the “how to” part that explains the ways we can actually get more sleep. While much of this information is stuff we should already know – like no electronic devices or televisions in the bedroom – it nonetheless lays out the information for the reader in a comprehensive way. Huffington tell us that “Bed should be for sex and sleep” and that is her prescription for sleep success, and while perhaps very old fashioned, she claims that our parents and grandparents knew this instinctively and therefore slept soundly and functioned during the day much better than we do now.
By the way, there are “nap rooms” at The Huffington Post and, if Huffington’s book can be truly seen as successful, her hope is that it will lead the way for many more companies and workplaces to make provisions for this. After reading this book, I concur that in 2016 the idea of a nap room is about as essential as a lunch room for employees.
At the end of the book Huffington includes helpful appendices that include “A Sleep-Quality Questionnaire” and “Guided Meditations” to help the reader get to sleep. These sections are like little bonuses and get you thinking more personally in terms of your relationship to sleep or lack thereof.
In general the book, even at 400 pages, is a swift and an enjoyable read, and it indeed gave me a wake-up call because I have definitely used all kinds of excuses to not get enough sleep. With the DVR, there is always something I didn’t get to watch on TV that I can access at any time, or if I wake up with a story idea at 3 a.m. I am too quick to run to my desk and start writing instead of sleeping. I then go through the day feeling a little woozy and out of it, and then the whole cycle begins again the following night.
If you are one of the millions of sleep deprived Americans out there, it would be a good idea to read The Sleep Revolution. It makes a clear and straightforward argument that we all need more sleep for our health and well-being.
I just finished reading the book and am going to try to put into practice what Huffington preaches and get more sleep starting tonight, hoping not just perchance to dream but more importantly to function normally tomorrow.
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