My friend Arianna Huffington's new book, The Sleep Revolution, on the science, history and mystery of sleep, is coming out on April 5th. I'm pleased to be able to share a sneak preview here on my blog, particularly one that looks at how sleep deprivation affects women. As Karen Brody, founder of the meditation program Bold Tranquility, told Arianna, “I coach busy women and this is what they tell me all the time: ‘I spent years getting educated and now I don’t have any energy to work.’”
Somehow Arianna has always managed to have energy to work, to play, and to show up for friends. A quick personal story: In 2010, after one of her typical, heavily scheduled days, complete with a press conference and a White House event, Arianna gave her TEDTalk talk about sleep at the very first TEDWomen in Washington, D.C. This was back at the beginning of her interest in and work on the subject. That talk was so well received that Arianna became more of a sleep evangelist, and the way she has adapted her own life to accommodate more sleep models how much more all of us can accomplish —and proves we can feel better doing it.
I’m the model for someone who needs to read the book, and I’m doing just that. Please join me, and for Arianna’s sleep tips and resources, visit AriannaHuffington.com.
Excerpt: The Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington
It turns out that women need more sleep than men, so the lack of sleep has even more negative mental and physical effects on them. Duke Medical Center researchers found that women are at a greater risk for heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and depression. “We found that for women, poor sleep is strongly associated with high levels of psychological distress, and greater feelings of hostility, depression and anger,” said Edward Suarez, the lead author of the study. “In contrast, these feelings were not associated with the same degree of sleep disruption in men.”
As women have entered the workplace—a workplace created in large measure by men, which uses our willingness to work long hours until we ultimately burn out as a proxy for commitment and dedication—they are still stuck with the heavy lifting when it comes to housework. The upshot is that women end up making even more withdrawals from their sleep bank. “They have so many commitments, and sleep starts to get low on the totem pole,” says Michael Breus, the author of Beauty Sleep. “They may know that sleep should be a priority, but then, you know, they’ve just got to get that last thing done. And that’s when it starts to get bad.”
According to Dr. William Dement, the founder of the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic (the first of its kind), working mothers who have young children at home have seen an additional 241 hours of work and commuting time added to their lives annually since 1969.
Sarah Bunton, a mother and cognitive-skills trainer, described her experience on The Huffington Post: “Do you ever have one of those days where you want to hit pause? Let me rephrase: do you ever have a day where you don’t want to hit pause? . . . There really isn’t an end of the day for most moms, working or otherwise. There’s usually not a beginning, either, just a continuation of whatever chaos preceded the momentary silence. . . . Mommy wants a nap.”
“Let’s face it, women today are tired. Done. Cooked. Fried,” wrote Karen Brody, founder of the meditation program Bold Tranquility. “I coach busy women and this is what they tell me all the time: ‘I spent years getting educated and now I don’t have any energy to work.’”
Dr. Frank Lipman, the founder of the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in New York, sees so many patients who are sleep-deprived and exhausted that he came up with his own term for them. “I started calling these patients ‘spent,’ because that was how they seemed to me,” he writes. He compares this to his time working in rural South Africa: “There I saw many diseases arising from poverty and malnutrition but I didn’t see anyone who was ‘spent,’ as I do today in New York.”
Just as sleep is universal, so is the belief that we don’t have enough time to get the sleep we need. But we actually have far more discretionary time than we realize. The key is taking an honest look at how we spend it.
In her discretionary time, for example, Sherry Turkle, professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT, has been using TV as a reward, letting herself watch shows such as Mad Men, Homeland, and The Americans after working on her book. “I felt like I earned these elegant treats,” she told me. “I remember saying ‘Orange Is the New Black is mine’ after I finished the ‘Friendship’ chapter of Reclaiming Conversation. As I worked on the ‘Romance’ chapter, it was House of Cards. I wouldn’t have said, ‘I’m prioritizing television drama,’ but what strikes me is that I never said, ‘I’m prioritizing sleep.’”
That’s the case for millions of people around the world, despite how high the costs of sleep deprivation are. The incidence of death from all causes goes up by 15 percent when we sleep five hours or less per night. A 2015 CNN.com article based on the latest findings by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, provocatively titled “Sleep or Die,” discussed the connection between lack of sleep and an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and obesity. In other words, getting enough sleep really is a matter of life and death.
And even when it doesn’t kill us, sleep deprivation makes us dangerously less healthy. Dr. Carol Ash, the director of sleep medicine at Meridian Health, points out that even losing an hour of sleep per week—which many of us do without a moment’s thought—can lead to a higher risk of heart attack. Even the switch to daylight saving time can temporarily disturb our sleep patterns.
Excerpted from THE SLEEP REVOLUTION Copyright © 2016 by Christabella, LLC. Published by Harmony Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.