After Elon Musk recently revealed that he attributes his success as an innovator and entrepreneur to 80 hour weeks, which means he’s surviving on less than 6 hours sleep a night, it’s only right that we re-visit Arianna Huffington’s perspective that sleep is vital to health.
In fact, she’s running a competition to give away a night in her own bed, a space she calls her ‘sleep santuary’ to get the message out that we all need more sleep. But what is the truth on sleep? How much do we need and when do we need it? Fizz gets the scoop.
Ariana’s Bedroom and the Sanctity of Sleep
Back in 2007, the Huffington Post founder found herself in a pool of her own blood with a broken cheekbone. What had happened? She had collapsed due to exhaustion by surviving on only three or four hours of sleep a night. The remedy was that she needed to get more sleep and ever since, Arianna has been on a mission to get everyone sleeping more and sleeping better.
Her new book, The Sleep Revolution released earlier this week is coupled with a promotional competition where one lucky winner can claim a night sleeping in her bedroom, also known as her sleep sanctuary as their prize. Here she promises that you can expect to get 8 full hours of sleep by following her routine of proper sleep hygiene.
She tells Vogue Magazine that we need to stop treating ourselves like machines and stop thinking that sleep deprivation is the price of success because it isn’t. In fact we will be much more creative and productive if we sleep more and sleep well.
What’s the Science?
So the science is evolutionary and study after study continues to show that human beings need between 7 – 9 hours of sleep per night for optimum cognitive function and health.
In the interview with Vogue Magazine, Ariana claimed that sleep deprivation is also partially responsibility for our increasing waistlines, the rising diagnoses of Alzheimer’s and Donald Trump.
And what happens if you don’t get enough sleep?
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine says that if you don’t get enough sleep you will begin to display debilitating symptoms that get progressively worse including:
- Inability to process information and trouble listening to others
- Impulsiveness leading to paranoid tendancies
Research published by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists in 2014 also found that ‘social jetleg’ causes:
On top of all that, if you’re surviving on minimal sleep, you could end up being thought of and behaving like a deranged oompa loompa like Donald Trump who claims he only sleeps for 4 hours a night because that’s the only way to become a billionaire.
The Ariana HuffPo Nap Rooms
At her company, the HuffingtonPost, they have dedicated nap rooms for employees! This is based on science. A 2014 study by Vincent Walsh, brain expert from University College London showed that 30-90 minutes of brain downtime per day increased productivity and wellbeing. This led him to announce that all employers should provide nap zones for their employees as standard. He believes that sleeping only at night is not the only way to ensure good sleep hygiene.
This might be a bit unrealistic and reserved for the worlds of Huffington Post but at the very least, you should ensure you take your breaks and take them away from your desk to get the time out your brain needs to chill out.
Also, The Sleep Foundation don’t recommend napping if you’re already struggling to get to sleep or to get good quality sleep as this will only help you get through the day rather than improve your long-term wellbeing. They say, first you need to get good sleep at night.
Create your Own Sleep Sanctuary
Ariana’s strategy will turn you from a sleep amateur to a sleep pro just like she did!
There needs to be a transitional ritual to sleep where what you engage in has absolutely nothing to do with work or electronic devices. Ariana’s ritual is 30 minutes long where she consciously allows herself time to slow down.
Starting good sleep hygiene requires setting ground rules. The National Sleep Foundation proscribes the following tips to get you in tip-top sleep shape:
- Stick to a schedule. That’s every day, including weekends! Your body clock is really sensitive and as such it needs to be regulated so make sure you go to bed and wake up the same time every single day. This might sound boring but human beings respond really well to routines and your bad habits at the moment are just another kind of routine.
- Uh huh get off your butt for at least 30 minutes a day. Exercise increases wellbeing but also helps you burn energy that improves your brain’s down time.This also means you can link it up to your work breaks so that you help your brain get the down time it needs.
- Feng Sui your Room. Your body is massively sensitive to its environment and to get good quality sleep you need to make sure that the environment you’re sleeping in is hospitable to rest. The room needs to be cool between 60-67 degrees. Light and noise need to be minimized especially ‘blue light’ omitted from your electronic devices. This means your phone, TV and tablet could all be contributing to poor quality sleep so if you’re addicted to tech at night it might be time for a rethink.
- Rethink your bed. Your mattress and pillows must be comfy and supportive. Make you’re your sleeping on something that actually suits your body’s needs and consider investing into a new mattress and pillows. Also, mattresses should be replaced every 9-10 years. Your pillows should ideally be hypoallergenic and washed free of allergens every Spring. Finally, your bed needs to be associated with sleep and sleep related activities like sex. Everything else, do elsewhere, this includes your wind down ritual.
- Wind down. Just like Ariana, you need to develop a sleep ritual but it needs to be tailored to your needs. 30 minutes is the minimum time you should spend preparing for sleep. You should aim to do something calming and aim to avoid ‘blue light’ devices.