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Arianna Huffington on Being a Better Leader and Getting More Sleep

by Alexa Albanese
money & life

Arianna Huffington blames lack of sleep as the main culprit for some of her biggest mistakes in business.

Who can blame her? It’s nearly impossible to make sharp business decisions when you haven’t been sleeping well or enough.

It’s an age-old theory, tried and true, and with good reason. The (not so secret) secret to a clear, sharp mind is, you guessed it, getting enough sleep. Easier said than done, you might think. Your to do list is never ending and there are only so many hours in a day.

Well, Arianna Huffington, like the rest of us, only has 24 hours in a day and she has managed to establish herself as one of the most respected self-made entrepreneurs of our time. Watch our hour-long interview with her, for free over on 30 Days of Genius.

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In her new book, The Sleep Revolution, she dives deep into sleep research, covering everything from “the history of sleep, to the role of dreams in our lives, the consequences of sleep deprivation, and the new golden age of sleep science that is revealing the vital role sleep plays in our every waking moment and every aspect of our health – from weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease to cancer and Alzheimer’s.”

Huffington tackles the dangerous sleeping pill industry, how dreams play into our days, and how our generation’s dangerous addiction to technology is affecting our sleep.

Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to make sure you don’t reach a stage of complete burn out in your career. Getting to know your sleep preferences, completing your sleep cycles, and sticking to a routine are all crucial steps to waking up feeling refreshed and productive.

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

A great way to determine how much sleep you need is to abandon any set sleeping schedule and just observe how your body behaves, optimally throughout a period where you don’t have anything to do, like a weekend or vacation.

To do this, just go to sleep when you feel tired and let your body wake you up naturally. Take note of when you start to feel tired and what time you wake up. Do this for a few days, Huffington says, and you should have a good idea of your optimal sleep duration.

Everyone is different, so there’s no “correct” answer, but most people find that they feel best when reaching somewhere between 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Everyone has a type, called a “chronotype,” which determines when your body likes to sleep. Some people prefer to wake up early; some people perform best at night, and everything in between.

If you know your chronotype, it’ll make setting your optimal sleep schedule that much easier.

How to Get Better Quality Sleep

The quality of your sleep is affected by everything from the level of stress throughout your day, to the last time you used your phone (especially if you use your phone while lying in bed at night).

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There are a few proven ways to make getting good quality sleep easier.

Our body is programmed to wake up with natural light, so having some sunshine through the windows in the morning will make it easier to roll out of bed. If you can, throw the curtains wide open or turn on some lights as soon as you wake up and it’ll help jumpstart your day.

At night, relaxing in the dark stimulates the production of melatonin and tells your body that it’s time to go to sleep. We often counteract this by the use of smartphones and other electronic devices.

The emission of blue light from our electronics throws off our hormone production and confuses the body’s natural sleep cycle. To avoid this, try to put your devices away at least thirty minutes before bedtime. That way, your body will have some time to calm down and relax before its time to actually fall asleep.

The Importance of Sleep Cycles

As you’ve probably heard before, we sleep in cycles.

About half of our sleep is spent in a light sleeping, dreamless state. The other half, is spent in REM, which is a more intense sleep where dreaming, full muscle relaxation and the most rejuvenating resting period occurs.

To feel the most well-rested, it’s crucial to complete your sleep cycles. If you’re woken up (say, by an alarm clock) in the middle of a REM cycle, it’s likely you’ll continue to feel only half awake for the rest of the day.

It’s much healthier to complete your sleep cycles. Luckily, there are lots of gadgets out there to help you do so, including personalized alarm clocks and even an app on your phone.

Getting adequate, quality sleep is one of the most impactful factors in becoming a great leader over the long run.

How are you supposed to make great decisions if you’re walking around like a zombie half the time? Exactly.

If you’re feeling sluggish most days, like you’re not getting enough sleep or just a little “off,” it might be time to take a closer look at your sleeping habits. You might be surprised at how much something as simple as getting an extra hour of sleep per night, or putting your phone away thirty minutes earlier can help you in every aspect of your life.

For more on how to be a better leader and get better quality sleep, watch Arianna Huffington’s interview on 30 Days of Genius.

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Alexa Albanese

Alexa is a slow traveling New Yorker who loves to write, drinks a lot of coffee, and probably swears too much. Hustling hard in pursuit of location independence, entrepreneurial bad assery, and endless epic sunsets. Follow her mischief at She Tells Travel Tales or on Instagram.