Arianna Huffington: Why Sleep Matters

30.01.2019 |

Episode #1 of the course Productivity hacks: Lessons from top leaders and billionaires by John Robin


Welcome to Day 1 of our ten-day workshop on successful work habits!

My name is John Robin. I’m an author and entrepreneur, and I’ve also written several Highbrow courses on writing, math, and science, including the recent “Most Brilliant Social Psychology Experiments” and “Brain-Twisting Paradoxes,” two exciting courses I highly recommend once you have completed this one. I enjoy using my skill as an author to teach others about interesting topics, and now it’s time to do it again, this time with a study of the world’s most influential people and what makes them successful—and how you can learn from them.


Are You Getting Enough Sleep?

Today’s person of interest is Arianna Huffington. Born in 1950, she co-founded the highly successful Huffington Post with her husband in 2005. In 2011, it was bought by AOL for $315 million. She has been named by Times Magazine in their list of 100 most influential people in the world and has made the Forbes’ Most Powerful Women list.

Despite being made the Post’s president and editor-in-chief, Arianna chose in 2016 to step down to focus on a startup called Thrive Global. The focus of this company is health and wellness and was founded in large part from her own insights on leadership without burnout.

In a recent interview with National Geographic, Arianna shared more about the key to her success. Or, more directly, the key to success as she learned through making the wrong choices.


Why Sleep Matters

If you’re getting seven hours or less of sleep, you’re probably at 30-40% of your potential.

Contradictory as it may sound, there’s research to back this up. In her book, Thrive and the Sleep Revolution, Arianna Huffington unpacks the important of sleep, labeling herself an insomniac turned “sleep evangelist.” Her biggest advice to anyone wanting to climb the ladder or change the world is to develop good sleep rituals and combat insomnia, first and foremost.

“Gently escort the phone out of your bedroom to charge,” is the mantra she wants everyone to adopt. It will make you “more likely to wake up as fully charged as your phone.”


The Science behind It: REM Sleep

When we sleep during the night, we pass through four different stages, in cycles that last about 90 minutes each. During the initial cycles of sleep, lasting about five to seven hours, we get our deepest sleep. Our muscles and other cells repair. This is critical sleep and without it, we die.

But as the end of the night approaches (usually when our alarm goes off and sends us to the snooze button), a different kind of sleep is happening, and it’s this sleep that’s key to organizing our thoughts, charging us for clear thinking and better decisions in the day, and improving our mood so we have more endurance for periods of focus and productivity.

This stage is called REM sleep, and we only get the best of it during our last sleep cycle (after approximately seven to eight or so hours in bed). This is when you’re dreaming the most. During this time, protein synthesis increases, which is critical for regulating your body and managing stress. Scientists strongly believe that REM sleep also helps organize and consolidate memories, helping you learn and retain more, as well as regulating mood.

Napping or broken sleep doesn’t make up for losing out on this time, which is why Arianna Huffington has worked hard to combat the very lifestyle that leads us to justify sleep deprivation in the first place.

Her company’s Thrive app is one example of the tools they are working on to help leaders and entrepreneurs manage time spent on phones, screens, and other devices that waste our precious time and lead to sacrificed sleep. According to Dscout, the average US smartphone user touches their phone 2,617 times a day, and similar studies have shown 86% of Americans check email or social media “constantly.” Forty-two percent of US parents don’t remember the last time they had a device-free meal with their family.

Success for Arianna is all about prioritization throughout the day, without sacrificing sleep. “Making time to unplug and recharge throughout the day” is something she says that we must tend to. This means being ruthless with social media, especially during times when we should be productive.



Your homework for today: Make sleeping for a minimum of eight to nine hours your number-one priority, starting today. Try this for one week and see how you feel, then repeat.

Tomorrow, we’ll dig in further to your work day itself and how to use the most of your time, by way of Warren Buffett.


Recommended books

Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Arianna Huffington

The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time by Arianna Huffington


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