Hey, it’s Marie Forleo and you are watching
MarieTV, the place to be to create a business
and life you love. Now, you may have heard
people say, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,”
or, “Sleeping is for sissies,” and maybe
you’ve even thought that yourself. Well,
my guest today has a very different perspective
on the power of sleep.
Arianna Huffington is the co-founder, president,
and editor in chief of The Huffington Post
Media Group, and the author of 15 books. In
May 2005 she launched The Huffington Post,
a news and blog site that quickly became one
of the most widely read, linked to, and frequently
cited media brands on the internet. In 2012
the site won a Pulitzer Prize for national
reporting. She’s been named to Time Magazine’s
list of the world’s 100 most influential
people and the Forbes most powerful women
list. Originally from Greece, she moved to
England when she was 16 and graduated from
Cambridge University with an MA in economics.
At 21 she became president of the famed debating
society, the Cambridge Union. Her 15th book,
The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life
One Night at a Time, on the science, history,
and mystery of sleep, became an instant New
York Times bestseller.
Arianna, thank you so much for coming back
on the show.
Marie, thank you so much for having me. Everything
looks so beautiful and you have my favorite
flowers here too.
Yay, they’re mine too. So tell me, because
last time you were here we talked about Thrive.
What inspired you to devote an entire book
So I went around the world speaking about
Thrive, actually. I did the first ever interview
about Thrive with you before the book was
even out. And then as I went around speaking
about the messages of Thrive, redefining success
to include wellbeing, wisdom, wonder, and
giving, and sleep was one of the foundational
principles. And I realized that was what people
wanted to talk about more than anything, because
no matter where they are in their lives, no
matter whether they want to meditate or not,
they have to sleep. So sleep is kind of our
unifier. And I just realized that in the same
way that in my life I had collapsed from sleep
deprivation, millions of people were burned
out, exhausted, and sleep deprived. And a
lot of it had to do with the fact that we’ve
been living under this collective delusion
that sleep is optional. That, in fact, in
order to succeed, to achieve, we had to sacrifice
sleep. And it even became like a badge of
honor. People, especially men, but then women
started emulating them, would brag. “I only
need 4 hours sleep,” or, “I’m too busy
to sleep,” which became like code for, “I’m
too important to sleep.” And then as a result
we had the greater and greater number of casualties
of sleep deprivation in terms of health, in
terms of productivity, and in terms of our
mental health and happiness.
You know, there is this cultural notion that
you write about in Sleep Revolution, I’ll
sleep when I’m dead.
Or, you know, sleep is for sissies. What do
you say to those people who are like, you
know, I wanna hack everything and get as most
done as possible. How do you combat that?
Well, I think the most important thing is
to give people the data and the new scientific
findings about sleep, and that’s why I’ve
structured the book this way. You know, to
start with a crisis so that you give people
a clear awareness of the dangers of sleep
deprivation. Then move on to the science,
you know. What gives me optimism is that the
new science of sleep, and it’s relatively
a young science because the first big scientific
sleep center was not founded until 1970 at
Stanford. But it’s so conclusive about how
sleep is a performance enhancer, how it affects
every aspect of our health from diabetes to
cancer to heart disease to Alzheimer’s.
And then the history of sleep, you know, we
need to understand how did we come to devalue
it? Going back to the first Industrial Revolution
when we began to think that we can treat human
beings like machines and just minimize downtime.
And one of my favorite chapters is the chapter
on dreams, about the mystery of sleep, and
how it can become a gateway to a more spiritual
dimension of ourselves. All that is the first
half of the book. And before we get to the
hacks and the best practices and tips and
techniques, I really want to urge people to
read the first half because if we don't change
our minds about the importance of sleep, it’s
going to be much harder to change our habits.
We need to convince ourselves of sleep’s
importance. I kind of convinced myself the
hard way by collapsing from sleep deprivation,
but I’m hoping that people can convince
themselves without having to go through a
painful wakeup call as I did. And frankly,
Marie, I’m really grateful that I did. It
could have been so much worse.
Yeah. One of the most shocking chapters for
me was about the sleep industry. And I was
literally… I couldn’t believe what I was
reading for folks who take medication, sleep
aids, to go to sleep and the devastating impact
of the things that they don't know that they’re
doing. Getting up in the middle of the night
and driving a car. I mean, this is insane.
So I was curious, have you had any pushback
from big pharma?
No. You know why? Because there's nothing
they can say.
And, in fact, America is the only country
other than New Zealand allowed to advertise
sleeping pills. And so you have all these
ads of happy, beautiful people frolicking
in the fields while a cheerful voice reads
92 devastating, adverse effects including
you may get in your car and drive without
being aware of it. And it doesn't say that,
but it has happened. You may actually kill
or hurt someone. And then a lot less serious
and sometimes people consider them amusing,
but still stunning things - you may eat yourself… Into a stupor.
Into a stupor without even having any memory
of it. A friend of mine received 10 days after
she apparently ordered them, an entire packet
of clothes which all turned out to be hooker
clothes that she had ordered without having
any recollection of it. And so some of these
things are funny, but the idea that you can
do all of these things without any memory
or consciousness and the fact that people
nevertheless continue to be chronically dependent
on sleeping pills. I’m not talking about
you went through a traumatic event and you
need to take a sleeping pill. I’m talking
about people who literally cannot go to sleep
without one. And the impact on their health
I was in shock when I read that. And frankly
sometimes, you know, if I’m watching TV
and I catch one of those commercials. And,
you’re right, there’s butterflies all
over the place and it’s like, you know,
you may have an increase in suicidal thoughts.
And I’m like, “What?!” Like, this is
insane. But I love that you painted that picture
so graphically in the first part of the book
because I think it helps wakes us… it wakes us all up.
Well, and it also prepares us for the second
part of the book where I walk us through all
the natural alternatives.
It’s not like we don't have hundreds of
Including if you have, like, some extreme
case of insomnia, cognitive behavioral therapy,
which is incredibly effective and much more
effective long term than any dependence on
sleeping pills. It’s just that we can’t
be lazy about it.
And we need to experiment with what works
for us. And for me the key thing, Marie, is
creating a transition ritual between our day
life and sleep. You know, most of us right
now literally are on our phones until the
last moment, you know, texting, emailing,
checking social media, and then we turn off
the light and we may go to sleep right away
because our bodies are exhausted but our brains
have not slowed down. So they wake us up in
the middle of the night, which is normally
not a problem except we can’t go back to
sleep easily because then we start processing
our day or worrying about tomorrow. And if
our phone is by our bed, we are very likely
to pick it up and start responding to texts
or checking notifications, etcetera. And that’s
why I say in the book that the most essential
part of this transition ritual is turning
off all our devices and gently escorting them
out of our bedroom. And for me, my ritual
now is 30 minutes. But, you know, start with 5.
Don't make the perfect the enemy of the good.
You know? Start wherever you can. I’m a
big believer, as I know you are, from all
your work, in microsteps.
But for me it starts with turning off the
devices and moving them outside my bedroom,
having a hot bath. I love the kind of ritual
of water. It’s almost like a purification
ritual, washing away the day. And every day
however blessed we may be in our lives is
a mixture of good things and not so good things,
you know, obstacles, incompletions. There
has to be a clear demarcation line between
all that and the time to recharge. And I love
having epsom salts in my bath, having candles
nearby, low lights. It’s also like a way
of rekindling your romance to sleep. Instead
of how many people see then let me tell you
Marie, everything I’m saying I’ve done,
you know, for years and years. You know, basically
seeing sleep like enemy territory. How can
we… how long can we avoid crossing that border?
Yes. It’s… I loved hearing about your
rituals. I think one of the other things that
I really found fascinating in your book was
this idea that our brain is like a dishwasher
and all of the toxins that it removes while
we’re sleeping. Again, this is nothing that
we’re ever taught.
No, and you know, it’s all relatively new
science, again. We really used to be told
that sleep is a time of inactivity for the
brain. In fact, one of the metaphors was it’s
like putting your car in the garage and turning
off the ignition key. And now we know that
sleep is actually a time of frenetic activity
for the brain. It’s more like your car becoming
a driverless car and running essential errands
for you, and one of the most essential errands
is cleaning up the toxins that accumulate
during the day. I actually also found that
one of the most fascinating scientific findings
and, as you know, the book has 50 pages of
scientific endnotes not because I expect anybody
to read them from beginning to end, but I
want to convince even the greatest skeptic
that this is not like one woman’s opinion.
This is conclusive, scientific evidence. And
it’s almost like, you know, we used to believe
that smoking was glamorous. In fact, you had
doctors advertising cigarettes in the fifties
and saying things like, you know, I smoke
menthols because they refresh my throat. And
then the scientific evidence about the dangers
of tobacco became too overwhelming to ignore.
I think we’re reaching that tipping point
now for sleep deprivation.
I’m really happy that you're talking about
this so much and that you're such a sleep
evangelist and you’re bringing it out because
one of the other, you know, bits of the book
that I appreciated and that actually got me
thinking was about pilots and drivers and
all of us, you know, whether it’s an Uber
driver or a taxi driver or ourselves with
our families taking a road trip and the extreme
danger that we can put ourselves in and that
our society, we kind of force upon each other
to work, work, work, work, work nonstop. It’s
unbelievable. It’s so important that we
do start shifting our cultural ideas about
what it means to be well rested.
Well, in fact, that’s why we launched a
partnership with Uber to raise awareness about
drowsy driving. Because we’ve raised awareness
as a culture about drunk driving and we have
halved the crashes because of drunk driving,
because of the designated driver campaigns,
friends don't let friends drive drunk. We
need to do the same around drowsy driving.
Because last year there were 8 thousand deaths
because of drowsy driving and 1.2 million
crashes. And I think, in fact, what is even
worse is that it’s pretty hard not to know
when you’re drunk, unless you’re unconscious.
But very often people think they can power
through when they’re tired. Well, I’m
going to get a Coke or a coffee and power
through. And it can take literally 2 seconds
of microsleep for tragedy to follow.
So scary. So I’m curious, what are some
of the biggest changes you made? I heard about
your sleep ritual that I love. What I’m
curious about though now is you’re Arianna
Huffington. You’re this amazing powerhouse
of a woman. Have you bumped up against any
struggles for yourself? You know, like, Arianna,
can you speak here, can you come here, and
started to change your decision making based
on what you’ve learned from all the research?
I’ve definitely changed my decision making,
but what is interesting, Marie, is that, I
mean, I’m… I know we follow each other
on social media, so you know that I’m very
active. I think the question is what do I
say no to in order to be able to get my 8
hours sleep, which is what I need. You know,
the consensus is that the vast majority of
us need 7 to 9 hours. You know, you may do
great on 7 or you may need 9. Unless you’re
a short sleeper, which is a small minority
of us who can do great on 4 or 5 hours. They
have a genetic mutation though, and you can’t
train yourself to have a genetic mutation.
You either have it or you don't. So I… like
tonight is a good example because after we
finish our conversation I’m going to do
The Daily Show with Trevor Noah and after
that I was going to go to the public library
Spring Gala, which is a beautiful event. But
tomorrow morning I have to get up really early
to go to Minneapolis, so I cancelled going
today to the public library. So, you know,
these are really the tradeoffs, but I didn't…
I don't have any sense of sacrifice about
it because the alternative would have been
for me to get up at 5 in the morning to go
to Minneapolis tomorrow and be a zombie for
the whole day. And I can’t stand myself
now when I’m sleep deprived. I really don't
like to be around myself, and there’s nothing
I can do. You know, I become irritable and
moody and you look at me a certain way and
I take it personally and I’m not creative
and I just go through the motions. And I don't
want to be that person. And I also now really
value so much loving my life. You know, I
feel we’re so blessed and that doesn't mean
that there are no problems in our lives or
things we’re dealing with, but on the whole,
you know, just being healthy and doing something
you love is just something to be constantly
grateful for. And I don't want to take it
for granted and I don't want to just move
through the motions and get stuff done. I
really want to bring joy into what I’m doing.
And so it’s become really much easier to
just make decisions based on prioritizing my sleep.
I love it. And it gives you a really easy
way to keep yourself in the state that you
want to be in, which is happy and joyful.
I know for me anytime, you know, I do a cleanse
and I’m like, “Oh, I’m not gonna be
eating dairy or I’m not gonna be doing that,”
my decision making process just gets a million
times easier. So for anyone listening, hopefully
we know they’re gonna get the book. But
what are 3 things if you could advise anyone,
ok, if you could just try these 3 things to
start to prioritize sleep. What would they be?
So let me just talk about a couple more elements
of the transition because the transition is
the key, the first key thing. And anybody
watching with children knows that that’s
what we do with our children. You know, when
they’re babies we don't just drop them in
bed. We give them a bath, we put them in their
PJs, we tell them a story. So we have to think
of the child in us needing also a ritual,
a sacred ritual before going to sleep. And
beyond everything I said, I think it is very
important to have no screens in bed. It’s
okay if you have a TV in the bedroom. Fine.
Just don't watch it before you go to sleep.
And read real books, physical books. In fact,
if anybody is reading The Sleep Revolution
and it helps them fall asleep, I’ll take
it as a personal victory. And then I love
ending the night, that’s like you told me
three, so the third… the second thing is
giving the closing scene of the day to what
you’re grateful for. Because you could give
the closing scene of the day to what didn't
work that day or the mistakes you made or
the worries about the next day, and then that’s
going to wake up up in the middle of the night
and you’ll be processing it. So just focusing
on what we are grateful for as the last thing
of the night. So, you know, if you have a
partner you can share it with them verbally,
you can write it down, you can just tell yourself.
Whatever works for you. And the third thing
is to have like a sleep kit ready whether
you are traveling or at home. And my sleep
kit includes an eye mask, because having…
being in a dark room is really important.
If you are traveling they often give you an
eye mask, but it’s often harsh and plastic.
So I have a beautiful eye mask and I invest
in something silky and yummy. I have a pink
one, a pink silk one. You know, just have
fun with your sleep kit. I have noise cancelling
headphones, if you prefer earplugs, whatever.
Something industrial strength though.
Lavender spray. I have soothing teas like
licorice and lavender and chamomile. And I
have a kit that I travel with. Even if i’m…
even if I’m going to the [inaudible] for
an hour because I may just want to take a
nap if I’m tired. That little kit is tiny,
it’s not like it takes a lot of room. And
I also have a dedicated sleep iPod because
I don't want to have my phone by my bed. I
have all my meditations that help me sleep
on the iPod. In fact Agapi, my sister and
I, wrote a meditation that she recorded which
is on my website, AriannaHuffington.com if
people want to download it. And so if you
wake up in the middle of the night or you’re
on a plane and you can’t sleep easily, play
a meditation. I have 2 meditations that I
mention in the book that I’ve never heard
to the end because they always put me to sleep.
That’s awesome. Thank you so much. Thank
you for doing the great work that you do in
the world and for taking such a strong stand
for sleep, because we all really do need it.
Thank you so much, Marie, and thank you for
what you are doing.
Now Arianna and I would love to hear from
you. What is one thing that you could do to
make sleep a higher priority in your life?
And, most importantly, what action are you
committing to take starting tonight? Leave
a comment below and let us know. Now, as always,
the best conversations happen after the episode
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You know, the consensus is that the vast majority
of us need 7 to 9 hours. You know, you may
do great on 7 or you may need 9. Unless you’re
a short sleeper, which is a small minority
of us who can do great on 4 or 5 hours. They
have a genetic mutation though. And you can’t
train yourself to have a genetic mutation,
you either have it or you don’t.