Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Goodnight, Arianna

When Arianna Huffington gave a short TED Talk at last week's conference about the need for sleep, my first thought was that she was wasting a valuable bit of everyone's time, that a woman as influential as she is should really be talking about something more weighty. The more I have thought about it, though, the more I really appreciate her statements and mission.

It really is pretty simple: Arianna is out to promote the fact that a good night's sleep helps life, helps critical thinking, helps attitude, helps energy. Why would she promote this? Because she thinks - and knows- that one of the ways that Type A's get all that we get done is by sleeping less, and that it has become quite a badge of honor to announce that one can manage with few hours of sleep every night. In integrating into a men's world of business, women often try to prove that we can be as good, as strong, as whatever as men, and the sleeping thing is part of that measuring up.

I used to know that I needed at least 8 hours of sleep a night. With motherhood and successively more executive responsibility in my career, I learned to live with far less. With menopause I learned to cope with interrupted sleep. Since the night my ex-husband nearly died and suffered his permanent brain injury, I have never again been able to sleep without medication, try as I might. Throughout an obsessive affair, I rarely slept well for months, whether I was sleeping alone or accompanied, and wondered how much of my loss of focus about the affair had to do with my constant sleep deprivation.

Listening to what our bodies are telling us grows ever harder in a competitive world. Our ability to communicate 24/7 makes it so hard to turn off. But I think Arianna is on to something, and perhaps I shall try her sleeping challenge for the first months of the new year, as she did at the beginning of 2010. It is a simple challenge: commit to 8 hours of sleep a night, take more time to recharge and say no to obstacles to sleep. It's not an extraordinary act, but I am hoping that it will help restore and revive me in ways so that I can, truly, do more.

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