I recently had the pleasure of interviewing The Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington. She recently launched Thrive Global with the mission to change the way we work and live by ending the collective delusion that burnout is the price we must pay for success.
Huffington also has been named in Time Magazine’s List of the World’s 100 Most Influential People and in the Forbes List of the Most Powerful Women. In addition, she has authored 15 books, including Thrive and The Sleep Revolution.
1. What does your daily routine look like? When do you wake up? When do you go to sleep?
95 percent of the time I get eight hours of sleep a night, and as a result, 95 percent of the time I don’t need an alarm to wake up. And waking up naturally is for me a great way to start the day.
A big part of my morning ritual is about what I don’t do: when I wake up, I don’t start the day by looking at my smartphone.
Instead, once I’m awake, I take a minute to breathe deeply, be grateful, and set my intention for the day. Then I do 20 to 30 minutes of meditation and 30 minutes on my stationary bike, on days when I’m home, and 5-10 minutes of yoga stretches.
Most nights I’m in bed by 11, and my goal, as we joke in my family, is to always be in bed to catch the “midnight train.”
2. Do you think by delaying the time at which schools begin, students would be able to get more rest and therefore perform better?
Yes. For many young people, schools have become burnout zones where along with history, math, and science, we teach our kids the worst habits of our destructive work culture.
But happily, many schools around the world are responding to the latest science on sleep, taking creative steps to restructure the school day in ways that can make a big difference in academic performance and overall well-being.
When schools do make changes, the results are clear. A 2011 study from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology found that students who started school at 8:30 a.m. slept nearly an hour more and performed better on tests measuring attention levels than peers who began school at 7:30 a.m.
In the United Kingdom, one high school in North Tyneside, England, moved the school’s start time from 8:50 a.m. to 10 a.m. and found that student test scores improved significantly.
3. How can getting more sleep benefit an entrepreneur?
There is this founder myth that if you are starting a company you can’t afford to get enough sleep. But in reality three-quarters of startups fail, and perhaps if these founders were getting the sleep they need they’d have a higher likelihood of succeeding.
Sleep is nonnegotiable, and it will improve every aspect of your health, productivity, and your chances of having a successful startup.
4. Can too much sleep be harmful?
In 2015, experts from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society examined thousands of peer-reviewed articles and determined that for individuals between the ages of eighteen and sixty, seven to nine hours of sleep a night is essential for optimal health.
Where you are on that spectrum is individual, but as for too much sleep – no, that’s not a problem! Though if you asked Thomas Edison, he’d disagree.
If you were to pinpoint one person who most embodied our sleep delusion, it would be Edison, who was convinced that sleep was unnecessary, and said “Nothing in this world is more dangerous to the efficiency of humanity than too much sleep.”
5. Can a person make up for lost sleep? If so, how?
While chronic poor sleep can have long-lasting effects on our health, naps can help mitigate some of those effects, at least in the short term.
According to a study by the Sorbonne University in Paris, short naps were found to lower stress and boost the immune system.
“Our data suggests a 30-minute nap can reverse the hormonal impact of a night of poor sleep,” said one study coauthor, Brice Faraut. “This is the first study that found napping could restore biomarkers of neuroendocrine and immune health to normal levels.”
Short of time travel, a next- day nap may be the closest we can get to a second chance at a good night’s sleep.
6. Many companies thrive on a five-hour work day and work from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. In these situations, do you think nap rooms are still advantageous? Are you a fan of the five-hour work day model?
A nap room can absolutely still be advantageous – it’s still possible, after all, to feel burned out or sleep deprived while working less than a standard workday.
And it certainly won’t do any harm! I’ve read about companies that swear by the five-hour workday, and while it isn’t feasible for most industries (including those of us in the media), some companies have found a way to make it work.
7. Are you an advocate for nap rooms in all colleges?
Yes! And this has been a major – and very popular – component of our Sleep Revolution College Tour at 400 colleges across the country, drawing on the latest science to raise awareness and spark a national conversation about the importance of sleep and the dangers of sleep deprivation. It’s had an incredible response.
8. What industries and influencers are you working with now to create a cultural shift in how Americans sleep?
We’re working with an amazing range of companies and influencers.
For our College Tour, for instance. we’ve partnered with major brands, including Sleep Number, JetBlue, Marriott, Jawbone, Cocomat, Spotify, Lands’ End, Fresh, Sleep Shepherd, Headspace, Marpac, Sheex and others to host “sleep fairs” and slumber parties on campuses to give students tangible tools and products to learn better sleep habits and make small but transformational changes in their lives.
9. If you could tell your 20-year-old self one thing, what would it be?
I’m often asked what advice I would give to my younger self if I had the chance. My answer?
I wish I could go back and tell myself: “Arianna, your performance will actually improve if you can commit to not only working hard, but also unplugging, recharging and renewing yourself.”
That would have saved me a lot of unnecessary stress, burnout and exhaustion.
10. What new projects are you working on right now at The Huffington Post?
To name just a few, we recently announced the forthcoming launch of HuffPost Mexico, which will be our 16th international edition.
We acquired the virtual reality and immersive storytelling company RYOT, and together we’ll be building on HuffPost’s video offerings to bring an entirely new range of experiences to our global audience, from virtual reality to full-length films and 360°.
And most importantly, there’s our coverage of Donald Trump. One of our major parties has now nominated the most unqualified, unstable, and dangerous nominee in U.S. history, and from the beginning, we have refused to cover him as just another normal candidate.
We refuse to pretend that the truth is always in the middle, and that our job is to present two sides to everything. But not every story has two sides, and the truth is often found on one side or the other. The Earth is not flat.
Evolution is a fact. Global warming is a fact. And there are definitely not two sides to the truth that instituting a religious test to enter a country founded on religious freedom is, as David Cameron put it, “divisive, stupid, and wrong.”
Claiming that Mexico is sending us rapists, inciting violence at rallies, or claiming that President Obama was not born in the United States — we know these are all false and wrong — and if we don’t say so clearly and unequivocally, that’s how these insidious falsehoods become whitewashed and mainstreamed.