If you are a regular reader of this blog, than you know how important I believe sleep is. Its equally as important to physical and mental health as proper nutrition and exercise. As someone who spent many many years suffering from insomnia, I know this from first hand experience!!!
For this reason, I was happy to agree to review Arianna Huffington's new book, The Sleep Revolution. Ms. Huffington is founder of The Huffington Post, in case you are not aware. I must say, given that my politics and hers differ greatly (although apparently she has moved towards the left since she was married to Michael Huffington), I am surprised by how much I liked this book. I would not expect a conservative to have such progressive views on work and life balance. She provides nap rooms to her employees!
Her motivation for writing this book comes from her own experience of suffering the repercussions of living on insufficient sleep. Passing out and injuring herself due to exhaustion served as her wake-up call, and from her discussions with others, which she details in the book, this isn't an uncommon consequence of chronic sleep deprivation.
The first part of the book is my favorite because she explores the history of sleep and science of sleep, and this touches on social history, sociology, and psychology, all of which interest me greatly. I am quite impressed with her research into all of this. It also explores our society's current sleep crisis.
Essentially, industrialization created the idea that sleep deprivation = devotion to work. We developed idolization of those who sacrifice sleep for work and see them as heroes. The problem is, which Huffington believes we are just starting to acknowledge, when you sacrifice sleep, you also sacrifice quality of work, physical and mental health and safety.
To be honest, I can't relate to any of that. I have never been one to willingly sacrifice sleep...well except, perhaps as an undergrad, when I was still young enough to get away with it. By the time I started my first real job at the age of 23, and at that point developed insomnia which lasted on and off (mostly on) for 10 years or so, I discovered that a tired me = a catastrophe. I don't just feel sleepy when I don't get sufficient sleep, I have a constant headache impervious to any medication or therapy, I am grumpy, clumsy, and miserable. I experience fogginess, memory lapses, shakiness, and basically just want the day to end. Given that life is finite, being in that state, to me, is a total and utter waste, and makes me feel useless and very sad. I prioritize sleep above almost everything else because when I am rested, I feel like I can do almost anything and have so much more resilience for coping with life demands. Its been obvious to me from day one of my sleep struggles that insufficient sleep is hardly an efficient way to live for me because I really don't function at my best. Its like night and day!
But I do know people...lots of people, both in my personal life, and many clients, who readily sacrifice sleep, either for work, or for various past times (video games, Internet, television, etc.) and pay the price in various ways. One of the first questions I ask my counselling clients is about their sleep because insomnia is often a symptom of anxiety or depression, or it can be related to food cravings, an inability to lose weight, etc.
The second part of the book goes over dos and don'ts for improving/increasing your sleep and various strategies for bettering your sleep hygiene. It also outlines recent research on the power of sleep and how it can improve cognitive functioning and sport performance.
Huffington includes various appendices at the end that provide a host of resources from guided meditations to sleep-friendly hotel chains, to quality mattresses.
So do I recommend this book?
I do recommend it for anyone who hasn't yet realized the importance of sleep and is still drinking the cool-aid of the sleep deprivation cult. In particular, all the research she discusses about the benefits of getting enough sleep should motivate you to change your ways. Who doesn't want to work better, look better and perform better athletically?
Disclosure: I was sent this book to review, but all opinions on this blog are my own.
Wishing all moms a Happy Mother's Day!