1. What inspired you to write The Sleep Revolution?
It started with my own painful wake-up call. On the morning of April 6, 2007, I was lying on the floor of my home office in a pool of blood. On my way down, my head had hit the corner of my desk, cutting my eye and breaking my cheekbone. I had collapsed from exhaustion and lack of sleep. In the wake of my collapse, I found myself going from doctor to doctor, from brain MRI to CAT scan to echocardiogram, to find out if there was any underlying medical problem beyond exhaustion. There wasn’t, but doctors’ waiting rooms, it turns out, were good places for me to ask myself a lot of questions about the kind of life I was living.
I wrote about my wake-up call in my last book, Thrive, and as I went around the world talking about the book I found that the subject people wanted to discuss most—by far—was sleep: how difficult it is to get enough, how there are simply not enough hours in the day, how tough it is to wind down, how hard it is to fall asleep and stay asleep, even when we set aside enough time. And since my own transformation into a sleep evangelist, everywhere I go, someone will pull me aside and, often in hushed and conspiratorial tones, confess, “I’m just not getting enough sleep. I’m exhausted all the time.” Or, as one young woman told me after a talk in San Francisco, “I don’t remember the last time I wasn’t tired.” By the end of an evening, no matter where I am in the world or what the theme of the event is, I’ll have had that same conversation with any number of people in the room. And what everyone wants to know is, “What should I do to get more and better sleep?” So I decided I wanted to take a fuller look at the subject because it’s clear that if we’re going to truly thrive, we must begin with sleep. It’s the gateway through which a life of well-being must travel.
2. How do politicians and celebrities feed into the notion that sacrificing sleep is the key to success? And, how does that influence our view on sleep?
The glamorization of sleep deprivation is deeply embedded in our culture. Everywhere you turn, sleep deprivation is celebrated, from “You snooze, you lose” to highly burned out people boasting, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” The combination of a deeply misguided definition of what it means to be successful in today’s world—that it can come only through burnout and stress—along with the distractions and temptations of a 24/7 wired world, has imperiled our sleep as never before.
3. How do nightly routines affect our sleep?
They’re crucial. It’s why I treat my transition to sleep as a sacrosanct ritual. Before bed, I take a hot bath with Epsom salts and a candle flickering nearby—a bath that I prolong if I’m feeling anxious or worried about something. I don’t sleep in my workout clothes as I used to (think of the mixed message that sends to our brains) but have pajamas, nightdresses, even T-shirts dedicated to sleep. Sometimes I have a cup of chamomile or lavender tea if I want something warm and comforting before going to bed. And I have a specific time at night when I regularly turn off my devices — and gently escort them out of my bedroom.
4. As moms, how can we foster good sleep habits for our little ones?
One of the first steps in promoting good family sleep habits is changing the way we talk about sleep. In many families, sleep is meted out as a punishment to children: “If you don’t eat your vegetables at dinner, you’re going straight to bed.” Children are taught early on that sleep is something to avoid as long as possible— a sword of Damocles hanging over their heads every night— and that with sleep comes the end of play and fun. What a terrible message to send! As moms, we need to do a much better job of framing sleep in a positive way for our children, letting them know that sleep is a vital part of being able to play and have fun, and teaching them healthy sleep habits, including naps and transitions to bedtime, that will last a lifetime.
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5. In terms of the workplace, how has The Sleep Revolution transformed the traditional office environment?
It becomes much easier to change our sleeping habits when we have supportive workplace policies and a business culture that embraces sleep. And fortunately, the business world is waking up to the high cost of sleep deprivation on productivity, health care, and ultimately the bottom line. From offering nap rooms to encouraging more flexible work hours, companies are exploring new ways to help employees make sleep a priority. I expect the nap room to soon become as universal as the conference room.
At HuffPost, there was skepticism when we first installed nap rooms in New York in 2011. HuffPosters were reluctant to be seen walking into a nap room in the middle of a bustling newsroom in “the city that never sleeps.” But now they are perpetually full, and we’re spreading nap rooms around the world, starting with our London office. And more and more companies are installing nap rooms, including Ben & Jerry’s, Zappos, and Nike.
6. What is the connection between sleep and sex?
Getting more sleep can lead to getting more sex, at least for women, according to a 2015 study. Researchers measured the duration of women’s sleep and compared it to their level of sexual desire the next day. They found that every additional hour of sleep brought with it a 14 percent rise in the likelihood of having some kind of sexual activity with her partner. So more sleep is better— especially if you want more sex.
7. As busy moms, what’s a simple way to make sleep a priority?
One thing keeping us up at night – and this applies to everyone, but especially to moms -- is worrying about our never-completed to- do lists. We lie in bed thinking of all that was not done today and all that needs to be done tomorrow, and it seems impossible to shut our minds off.
I have a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson by my bed that helps me silence my mind: “Finish every day, and be done with it. . . . You have done what you could— some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in, forget them as fast as you can, tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it well and serenely, and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” Finishing every day and being done with it is the first step to allowing ourselves to make sleep a priority.
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