Although I have read and adored every word Arianna Huffington has ever written, The Sleep Revolution sat on my bedside table for two full weeks. I just could not imagine a duller topic. Sleep? Yawn. I am particularly unaffected by the matter because I’ve generally been a great sleeper, at least in my adult life. Now, as a child that was a wildly different story, complete with nightmares, night terrors, and hallucinations. In my late teens and early twenties, I attribute my lack of sleep to FOMO (fear of missing out), and I may have still been a little scared of what I might see when I close my eyes, but that’s neither here nor there.
Even though I had relatively no desire to read the book, it was kind of required; mainly because I agreed to review the book for Penguin-Random House and because Huffington was haunting me across all my favorite podcasts (see: The School of Greatness & Beautiful Writers). Needless to say, I was greatly surprised, when it only took a few pages for me to become fully absorbed. I mean, the woman’s a Greek goddess. She weaves philosophy, history, economics, sociology, and psychology throughout every page, and in a way that feels like you are listening to her at a dinner party. I can almost see her quoting Carl Jung as she passes me another piece of baklava.
Now that we fully understand me in all my fan-girl glory, let’s move on to the actual contents of the book. It is not a ‘how to’ as I secretly feared, though I imagine most people probably bought the book thinking it was. It’s a manifesto; a kind of ‘call to arms’. In other words, read it. It’s brilliant, so I’m not even going to attempt to recount everything that I learned from this book. What I will say is that I too am now a sleep evangelist. Fully emboldened by this new odyssey, I must ask you- how is your sleep?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one in three adults don’t get enough sleep (adequate sleep is defined as seven or more hours a night). That means that a third of all American adults are somnambulant, or essentially sleepwalking through life. In The Sleep Revolution, Huffington describes that this is the equivalent of driving, working, or performing surgery while impaired. Think about that. We would not want a doctor operating on us while drunk, but we have no issues with allowing a doctor to continue ‘working’ well into a twenty hour shift.
There are many reasons why adults don’t get enough sleep, including longer work hours, small children, and anxiety. Certain things in our life cannot be changed, so then how are we to get enough sleep? Huffington would suggest by simply making it a priority or making sleep sacred. We set appointments for almost everything else in our life, so why not sleep?
Knowing I must be in bed by 10p, I begin winding down by 9p. That means, no more emails, texts, phone calls, or television. I wash my face, brush my teeth, and put on pajamas. For me, ‘pajamas’ means underwear, but Huffington says that doesn’t matter. You can wear whatever makes you feel comfortable (or nothing at all) just as long as you don’t remain in your work or gym clothes. This sends an immediate message to the brain that it is now time for sleep.
I like the idea of being anointed. It feels holy and a true act of self love, so every night I mix my oils (usually lavender and peppermint with an almond oil base) and rub them into skin, starting at the edges and working my way to my heart. Then, I lower the air to 72 degrees (Huffington says any temperature higher won’t allow for adequate sleep). I turn on one small reading light, and then read for about thirty or forty minutes. It’s usually a quantum physics book, though Huffington would suggest a work of literature or something of a spiritual nature, so that the brain isn’t left thinking about the mechanics of the universe. In that case, I’d like to suggest the spiritual writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Then, I turn off my reading light and slowly drift off to sleep. If I don’t fall asleep right away, I meditate and that almost always does the trick.
I would love to hear about your sleep rituals. Please contribute to the conversation below.