The Sleep Revolution

Michelle Chahine Sinno Sleep Revolution Arianna Huffington

“Modern science proves that it’s non-negotiable,” said Arianna Huffington at The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books on Sunday, April 10th at the University of Southern California campus. We need to sleep, and all scientist agree that “over 98% of humanity need 7-9 hours of sleep.”

The remaining 2% are not stronger or more dedicated to their work because they don’t sleep that much. They are literally mutants– with a specific gene that can be tested for, and you’ll know you have it.

This is Huffington’s primary message in her new book, The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Timewhich should definitely be on everyone’s reading lists, especially anyone thinking about balance their lives. Huffington divided the book into 2 parts: The science and facts behind why we need sleep, and tips and tools to help us sleep better every night.

This blog post has been a long time coming–after I attended her talk and the BookFest and as I make my way through the book–especially because of Huffington’s mission not only to educate us on the science behind our basic human need for sleep, but also because of what I think is her admirable goal of dispelling the idea that in order to succeed, we must sleep less. Many people seem to think that not getting enough sleep is a sign of ambition, hustle and drive. Huffington stated unequivocally that it’s simply foolish (and I agree).

First, there are facts that can’t be disputed. She explained:

  • $63 BILLION are lost to economy because of sleep deprivation, measured by productivity and health care cost.
  • Even though we’re now working longer hours than ever, last year we each lost 11 days of productivity (or about $2,280).

Then, there is common sense based on this “non-negotiable part of evolution.” Huffington said that we “need to stop being in awe of politicians who claim they don’t sleep.” I would add to that leaders in all fields, be it entrepreneurs, writers, teachers, and even parents. Watch this video from the event last month where she explains the link between effective leadership and sleep.

Michelle CHahine Sinno Arianna Huffington Sleep Revolution LA Times Festival of Books

I thought it was fascinating when she made the link between the state of our country and sleep deprivation: “The state of American politics,” she said, “Is a manifestation of how our politicians are running our country chronically sleep deprived.”

There needs to be a general shift in our culture with respect to how we view sleep. As individuals, we have an important role to play in how we revere lack of sleep as a mark and ingredient of success. Businesses have an important role too, and some are leading the way, including The Huffington Post: They have 2 nap rooms, and Huffington herself naps in her office with the curtains open because she “wanted to remove stigma.”

“At Huff Post,” she said, “We believe you’re going to be more productive if you nap, rather than having the fifth cup of coffee or third Cinnabon.

She encourages everyone to get 8 hours of sleep every night, and nap if you feel tired.

What was most helpful to me in her talk and in the book so far, is the idea of a “clear demarcation line between day life and sleep.” I simply hadn’t thought of it that way before. I thought of sleep as just one more thing I need to do every day, rather than a special time that can have some ritual and pleasure to it. As Huffington put it, “You need to disconnect and reconnect with something deeper in ourselves.”

Arianna Huffington Signed Copy Sleep Revolution

She also spoke to the idea of work-life balance, and sleep being an important component that we cannot skimp on because of delusions of how important our work is. She talked about cultivating “the recognition that however magnificent our jobs, we are more than our jobs…

“No one with even a remotely interesting job can finish everything they want to do in one day. We need to acknowledge that there are going to be incompletions, but the day is done.”

I personally now have a to-do list based on The Sleep Revolution, including getting an alarm clock that is not on my phone, so that I can keep all my digital devices outside of the bedroom. I’ll report back on more tools suggested in the book later in the summer when I’m finished reading and experimenting, but for now I wanted to officially add this to my recommended work-life balance reading list.

We all need to join the #SleepRevolution!



“We are more than our successes and failures. We are more than other people’s opinions.” ~Arianna Huffington 

During her conversation with LA Times columnist Robin Abcarian at the Festival of Books at USC in April, Huffington seemed to answer some of my burning questions that inspired my “A Working Life” Q&A series, which I got a real kick out of. I’ll be working on a separate post about more of her work-life balance, email, and disconnecting policies, but for now I’ll leave you with this:

Michelle Chahine Sinno Arianna Huffington Sleep Revolution


(I took this photo at the Lower Antelope Canyon in March).



Q&A With Los Angeles Times Science Reporter Deborah Netburn

Deborah NetburnThis week I met with Los Angeles Times Science Reporter Deborah Netburn in downtown Los Angeles to get her take on work-life balance. Deborah, 39, has been with the L.A. Times for nearly 10 years and is a mother of 2 boys, 8 and 5 years old. 

How did you identify your passions and choose your career?

I wanted to be a reporter since I was 7, and I really never stopped wanting to be a reporter. When I graduated from college, it’s not like I wasn’t scared, but there wasn’t a feeling that I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.

Why did you want to be a reporter since a young age?

I like writing, and it felt like something I was good at. I’m curious anyway, and being a reporter gives you a license to ask people questions.

What led you to be a science reporter? 

I graduated from college in ’99. Journalism was really different then. I wanted to be a features writer. I did do that kind of work for a while in New York and as a freelancer in LA. But it doesn’t pay very well to be freelance. [Laughs]

A friend of mine got a job at the L.A. Times ‘entertainment’ section, and he said “If I ever get to hire someone, I’m going to hire you.” And so he did.

My first job was the exact opposite of what I used to do. I went from long-form to shorter pieces, more like blogging. Then I moved to the ‘home’ section, and then I got moved to national news. I found myself drawn to the science stories. When I got moved to technology, I said “I’d really like to cover science.”

So you worked a lot of different beats before getting to science.

Yes, I think there’s real value in doing things you didn’t think you could do, or didn’t want to do. Because it’s really empowering to know you can do them. So it’s worth it to take on things you’re uncomfortable with to show yourself what you’re capable of.

What does the term “work-life balance” mean to you?

I think it means that your whole life isn’t about work.

Do you think work-life balance is possible?

It’s definitely possible. I do wonder how possible it is if you’re very ambitious at work.

I find my work, ever since being in science, really meaningful. I believe in helping people learn about their world and their universe even if they don’t have PhDs. I believe in trying to make science and discoveries something everyone can understand. I am very proud to be a reporter at the LA Times, but I’m not like a world-famous science writer. I wonder how hard it would be to have the work-life balance I have now if my goals were different.

Did having kids change your thoughts on that?


I’m lucky because I have a very nice husband. That wasn’t a variable in my life. It always was very steady. So it was just work. Before I had kids, all my feelings about myself were tied up with how things were going at work, and I felt I needed to have something else. That’s when I decided to have my first kid, because my career at the time wasn’t wholly fulfilling. (I was writing about entertainment which wasn’t really my passion).

Do you wish there was one thing, now, that you had more time for?

So many things. [Laughs]

Before I had my kids, I used to do yoga 2-3 times a week. If I just went once, I’d feel disgusting. And then I went 5 years without doing yoga at all. My kids are getting older, and I can go to one yoga class a week, which I feel is heroic now.

Is there something you wish you do differently, in how you manage your time?

I think the one thing for me is a function of my job. I worked for people, for a while, where numbers were really important, like web traffic and Facebook likes. I sometimes check that at home now, and that’s not a useful activity. You know, I’m not going to be able to do anything to change it. I’m just watching it. It doesn’t feel like a good use of my time– checking how many likes your Facebook post got.

I think that’s something so many people can relate to these days. 

Do you have advice for someone starting a new career or endeavor–especially now during graduation season–and trying to find balance, while following their passions, doing meaningful work and making a difference?

  1. Planning Ahead

I would say, if you want to have a family, and you’d like to be able to spend time with your kids, it’s probably worth going pretty hard when you’re young. In everything. You can’t imagine how much time your kids take.

Go hard at work. Go hard at whatever exercise you do… That’s all stuff that you’ll have later… It’s like muscle memory. Maybe you need to pull back a little bit when your kids are babies. If you’ve shown what you can do even from an employers’ perspective, it’s worth supporting you if they know what you’re capable of and what you can bring.

I’m not sure that’s what I’d want to hear when I was young, because you don’t want to imagine that things could change.

2. Taking Time to Learn What You Like

In 2003, when my husband and I left New York, we took some time off and travelled for 3 months, to Europe and Southeast Asia. People kept saying, “I wish I could do that.” It’s like, save money and do it. I think it’s really interesting to have to wake up and figure out what you want to do every day. Because if you’re at work all day, you don’t have to think about it. After work, you just get drinks with your friends…

What if you had time to fill? How would you fill it? I think that’s really interesting, for some people, to learn what you like.

Connect on Twitter: @DeborahNetburn


Edited for length and clarity.