The Sleep Revolution, Arianna Huffington. New York: Harmony Books, 2016.
Summary: Huffington summarizes the research on sleep, the impact of sleep deprivation on our lives and performance, and steps we may take night by night to reverse this deficit and improve our lives.
Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired?
Arianna Huffington argues that this book is for all those who are, which includes many of us in our fast-paced modern society. We are the sleep-deprived, and it has crucial impacts on our relationships, our performance, our sense of well-being and even our basic health. Sleep deprivation is associated with weight gain, increased susceptibility to illness, and a variety of other ill effects that literally may shorten our lives.
The first part of the book is titled “Wake up call” and explores the statistics about sleep deprivation, including the dangers of drowsy driving, which are as great as intoxicated driving. She considers the sleep industry, particularly the dangers of pharmaceutical sleep aids, which may result in all kinds of bizarre behavior. She then explores the science of sleep, and here as elsewhere reiterates the importance of 7-8 hours of sleep a night and the particular value of REM sleep. She includes a chapter on sleep disorders and their treatment. This is when we dream and she, along with many through history, suggests keeping a dream journal by one’s bed to note down one’s dreams upon awakening from them when they are clearest in our minds.
The second part of the book explores “sleep hygiene,” what we should do and not do to get a good night’s sleep, preferably without any chemical sleep aids. She talks about how much sleep we need at different stages of life (never less than 7 hours!), strategies with children, in families, for college student, and when traveling, particularly across time zones. She, as many others extols the value of a nap, which may partly reverse the effects of sleep deficits and has been shown to improve work performance. Reducing light (particular the blue light of computer screens), stowing our technology in another room, watching diet (especially late night sugary snacks), curbing caffeine after 2 pm, and having bed-time rituals (baths, night clothes, etc.) that relax one are critically important.
The style throughout is a mix of information and personal story, making the book highly accessible and an easy read. She includes at the end appendices with a sleep quality questionnaire, guided meditations, and hotels and mattress firms that have taken sleep seriously.
My only quibble with the book is that some people in my own faith tradition would object to using the meditative practices she endorses, particularly at the end of the book, because they are rooted in a different religious tradition and worldview. I wish she had included some of the Christian practices that have a long history including contemplative prayer, compline and night prayers, and the use of the Examen of consciousness to review the day before resting. All of these (and others not mentioned here) prepare us for rest or help us during wakeful periods at night. Perhaps those in the Christian tradition need to do a better job teaching and practicing these!
However, there is so much that is helpful in this book concerning our need for sleep, the benefits of getting sufficient amounts of sleep, and hindrances to sleep. It is such a helpful contrast from a highly successful business woman to the “I don’t need sleep, and those who do are just slackers” culture of our modern professional world. Her inclusion of other examples from the media, sports, and professional life suggest there are the beginnings of the “sleep revolution” she envisions. Hopefully, this will reach a tipping point, which will hardly address all of society’s ills, but could have a marked effect.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”