I read The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time by Arianna Huffington after hearing her interviewed on my favourite podcast Happier. I was already a big fan of sleep and reading about happiness in the last few years has convinced me of how important it is. Now I’m aware of that I’ve noticed what sleep does to my well-being when I’ve had enough and when I haven’t. So, I knew immediately that whilst I didn’t need to be converted to the importance of sleep, which to some extent is what this book is for, I would really enjoy reading it.
Arianna Huffington’s sleep epiphany came only after her dramatic collapse from exhaustion brought on by extreme and sustained all work and no sleep, leading her to re-evaluate what was important. What I liked most about this story is the dismantling of the ridiculous notion that sleep is for losers and if you want to be successful then sleep must be sacrificed. Arianna sets out what she calls our sleep crisis and points out how absurd it is that we have a sleep industry, designed to keep us awake when we should be asleep. The chapter on the science of sleep is fascinating and she reinforces why sleep is so critical for our bodies and our minds. I realised a few years ago that I put on weight, not through indulging in comfort food, or from too much eating out, but when I’m tired. This is true for many of us, and the damage a lack of sleep does to our mental and physical health is all laid out here.
Whilst the first half of the book makes the case for sleep, the second half helpfully focuses on strategies to help us get more of it. It won’t be a surprise to hear that she calls for mobile devices to be banned from the bedroom – all that blue light (so helpful as a boost in winter to wake us up when we don’t see the sun enough) is what keeps us awake if we get it just before bedtime. She also talks about the power of water to help you get to sleep – the value of having that shower or bath to relax just before going to bed. There is also evidence for the power of the catnap, so there’s a reason Google has those sleep pods in their offices. All these strategies really help. But of course, it’s basically about prioritising sleep over those things that get in the way. Not easy if you have young children, a big job or a long commute, but there are lots of tips in here on dealing with these situations so that sleep is not always sacrificed.
I hoped that reading this might reinforce some of my positive sleep habits and it has. I have set myself a sleep goal of the sleep I actually need, rather than the sleep I think it is realistic for me to get, and I’ve been monitoring it. Gretchen Rubin on her Happier podcast talks a lot about setting an alarm to go to bed and my Fitbit now gently reminds me 10 minutes before I should be asleep to go to bed. No, I’m not achieving the hours I need every night, but it has helped me to make better choices about what should wait until tomorrow so I can get the sleep I need before getting up again.
So whether you are already a convert to sleep, or still need some convincing, this is the book for you.