You’ve Got a Bad*ss Job that is super-demanding. Tinder matches are piling up and they all want dates. And your squad makes you feel #blessed, but damn if they don’t make a tonne of plans! You’ll sleep when you’re dead, right? No way, says Arianna Huffington, President and Editor-In-Chief of The Huffington Post Media Group, and author of The Sleep Revolution. Skipping sleep has become a badge of honour, she says, but it’s actually making us less happy, less productive, and more prone to weight gain. She sat down with us to explain the importance of enough ZZZs—and how to catch more of them.
Many women think a lack of sleep isn’t a big deal if it’s not a chronic issue. What if it’s just been one of those days when life prevented good sleep?
“That happened to me yesterday. I had to get up at 5:30am; by noon, I was dragging myself around. So I cancelled what I was going to do and I took a nap. Of course, there are certain things you can’t cancel, but usually there’s something you can move without being disrespectful.”
Is it about prioritising?
“Think of yourself like you do of your phone—it doesn’t work well when it’s low on battery. How quickly can you get back to a state where you’re fully charged?”
So a nap is like a portable charger?
“Exactly! So recharge yourself, then make sure you have a fully-charged night ASAP.”
What’s your advice for those nights when you’re freaking out—‘Oh my God, I’m in bed but I’m not sleeping and it’s 1am...2am...3am’?
“Those wide-awake moments often happen because we crash. We are on our phone, answering e-mails, going through our feeds, right till the moment when we turn off the light. We fall asleep because our body is exhausted, but we haven’t turned off our mind. What wakes us up is the brain. I have a simple ritual: 30 minutes before I go to sleep, I turn off all my devices and escort them out of my bedroom. People say, ‘What about an alarm?’ Set an alarm clock. But don’t keep your phone by your bed.”
Can I keep it in a drawer next to my bed?
“It can’t be somewhere you can reach it without getting up. If you wake up in the night and you can’t sleep, you’re going to turn to your phone. Then it’s less likely that you’ll go back to sleep because your day life has invaded your night (sleep) life.”
What about women who feel they have to check their work e-mail at night?
“We think that somehow if we get less sleep, we are more of a winner. We think we are more productive; we will get more things done. That’s a collective delusion—that sleep is dispensable, that sleep doesn’t matter.”
It’s not just about being more productive. Women have so much going on. How can they deal with the FOMO factor that causes sleeplessness, the feeling of ‘I can’t rest; what if I miss something?’
“What helped me deal with that is how much I love feeling fully charged. At first, it needs discipline, but gradually it becomes something you’re drawn to because you like yourself that way. It’s its own high.”
If you sleep more, you also get more out of what you do when you’re awake, right?
“Yes. If we were talking yesterday, when I was sleep-deprived, I’d be going through the motions. Today, because I got more sleep, I’m really enjoying talking to you.”
Let’s talk about the beauty aspect. When you don’t get enough sleep, your skin can start to look crappy—true?
“The concept of ‘beauty sleep’ is very real. Models and actors talk about sleep as a top beauty weapon.”
What about eating poorly when you’re tired?
“The connection between sleep deprivation and weight is huge. If you’re sleep-deprived, your body craves fat and carbs.”
Can coffee be our friend or does it need to go in favour of sleep?
“I love coffee. I just don’t drink it after 2pm. Let’s say you’re planning to go to sleep at about 10pm. You want an eight-hour gap—that’s a good rule of thumb. But people are different: you may be able to drink coffee until 4pm or later. You have to experiment.”
Is there anything we should drink before bed?
“If you want, you can have something soothing and hot. Liquorice tea is a favourite of mine, as is to put on bedtime clothes (unless you sleep naked). It could be a cotton tee or little silky things. But it can’t be gym clothes because then your brain gets contradictory messages and will wonder: ‘Are we going to the gym or are we going to sleep?’”
What about when we’re sleeping with someone new?
“You’ll have the excitement of the new, which is energising, so you’re probably not going to get much sleep...especially if the sex is good! But actually that is a fun, exciting thing that often gives us more energy during the day.”
So, sometimes giving up sleep for sex is a good idea?
“Absolutely! And an orgasm is a good sleep-inducer.”
If you wake up in the middle of the night, don’t freak out—reframe it as choosing to be awake. Read a book, practice meditation, listen to soft music (on your iPod, not iPhone). You’re more likely to go back to sleep because you’re relaxing, not stressing.