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Arianna Huffington On The Importance Of Sleep

Industry Top Dogs Say You Now Need To Sleep Your Way To Success

In November last year, publishing doyenne and Huffington Post co-founder and editor-in-chief, Arianna Huffington left her namesake business news website to launch a new lifestyle, health and wellness site: Thrive Global. Huffington aims to utilise this new platform to address the pandemic of severe sleep deprivation and stress by “promoting well-being and productivity,” and ultimately hopes to “transform our culture from surviving to thriving”.

Driven by her personal experience with severe sleep deprivation and sheer exhaustion that eventually resulted in her collapsing in her office where she hit her head and broke her cheekbone, Huffington has since become a passionate sleep advocate, having published two books extolling the importance of sleep, Thrive and The Sleep Revolution. The central theme running through the books addresses the collective delusion prevalent in many working cultures, that being overworked and chronically sleep-deprived is an inevitable tradeoff to achieving success. Everywhere you turn, sleep deprivation is glamorised and people fear the notion that if “you snooze, you lose.” Eventually, this chronic social problem is resulting in a global sleep crisis according to Huffington.

The launch of Thrive Global by Arianna Huffington reflects a burgeoning global movement to prioritise well-being in our workplaces and in our lives out of which the pivotal role of sleep is highlighted by both researchers and industry leaders alike.  


Our Body Has A Built-In Sleep Control

The science behind our need for sleep is resoundingly clear that shortening our sleeping hours in pursuit of our careers goals is counter-productive and even dangerous in the long run. Our body has a built-in sleep control; it craves sleep much like it hungers for food. However, your body can’t force you to eat when you’re hungry, but when you’re tired, it can shut down and literally put you to sleep, even if you’re in a meeting or behind the wheel of a car. When you’re exhausted, your body is even able to engage in microsleep episodes of one or two seconds while your eyes are wide open. 


Sleep Deprivation Impairs Effective Leadership

Neuroscientists have found that sleep deprivation impacts the brain's ability to accomplish executive functions like cognitive reasoning, solving problems, organising, planning, and decision-making. Research on sleep deprivation finds a person's performance levels after being awake for 17 to 19 hours is comparable to having a blood alcohol level of .05 per cent, which is about one or two drinks and the legal limit in most countries. In more severe cases, if a person continues working after being awake for over 20 hours, their performance is equivalent to someone with a blood alcohol level of 0.1 per cent -- legally considered drunk in the US. 

Numerous world leaders have also been outspoken about the necessity of sleep toward improving their productivity and well being, turning the damaging idea that we should wear are sleep-deprivation as a badge of honour and signifier of a hard worker on its head. For instance, Bill Clinton once said, "Every important mistake I've made in my life, I made because I was too tired." 

Jack Ma, co-founder of Alibaba and one of China’s richest man, probably also shares the same sentiment when he told students once that sleep is his best friend at times when he can’t solve a business problem.