Not making time for sleep? Arianna Huffington says it's fuel for success

Arianna Huffington will speak at the Sun Valley Wellness Festival on Memorial Day Weekend.
Arianna Huffington will speak at the Sun Valley Wellness Festival on Memorial Day Weekend. TNS

Arianna Huffington tends to be on the forefront of everything. That’s just how she rolls.

She is one of the most influential people in media as co-founder of The Huffington Post. She is helping to empower women through Thrive Global, her online clearinghouse for information and products to help people live more mindfully and healthfully.

Now Huffington is increasingly influential in the realm of personal health as an advocate for the benefits of a good, old-fashioned night’s sleep. Huffington will speak on that topic and others at the Sun Valley Wellness Festival at 6:30 p.m. Friday, May 26, at the Sun Valley Pavilion, 300 Dollar Road. Find ticketing information below.

Huffington’s latest book “The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night At A Time” explores the science, history and mystery of sleep, which is an overlooked key to success and an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, she says.

huffington book
Arianna Huffington is the author of “The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night At A Time.” Provided by Harmony Books

This is the 20th year for the festival that is put on by the Sun Valley Wellness Institute. Over the years, the festival has brought some of the most renowned health advocates, spiritual leaders, motivators and thinkers to Idaho, including Deepak Chopra, Ram Dass, Marianne Williamson, Robert Turman and Kris Carr, to share their wisdom about the mind-body connection. In recent years, the festival has added scientific and environmental speakers to the mix.

Other keynote presenters at the festival this year are Vandana Shiva, a physicist, environmental activist and founder of Navdanya, a national movement to protect biodiversity, and Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States and author of “The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals and Our Call to Defend Them.”

Huffington’s sister Agapi Stassinopoulos, clairvoyant and author of “Unbinding the Heart,” also will speak, and Huffington’s daughter Isabella will exhibit her artwork at Friesen Gallery, 320 1st Ave. N., Ketchum. The show “Tiny Beautiful Things” will be on display through Saturday, June. 10.

Q&A with Arianna Huffington

Has the “Sleep Revolution” taken off like you hoped? Taking a step back to get rest seems somewhat anti-American, or at least against the principles of capitalism. Do you think people are paying enough attention?

When I wrote it, the culture shift happening around sleep was in its early stages, but now it’s definitely taken off. Everywhere I go, people come up to me and tell me about their sleep. And, increasingly, we’re seeing very high-profile people like CEOs and top athletes be open about how they use sleep to fuel their success.

And yes, the idea that sleep is just wasted work time has been deeply embedded in American culture for a long time, but that’s changing. And that’s because it’s coming up against the very American love of productivity — and what science is clearly showing is that sleep and recharging actually help us be more productive. It’s changing, and more and more people are paying attention, but we’ve got a ways to go to change the culture completely.

How has your attitude toward sleep changed you and your life?

Yes, after my collapse from exhaustion in 2007, my attitudes toward sleep changed drastically. I now take it much more seriously, and prioritizing my sleep has changed every aspect of my life for the better.

As you were researching your book, what was the one thing you learned that turned on the light bulb? What’s the most effective way to turn your sleep around?

There was no one light bulb moment — rather it was finding out how overwhelmingly and comprehensively sleep is tied to every part our physical and mental health. And the most effective way to turn your sleep around is to first prioritize it. We have to give it the respect it deserves, and do what we do with other appointments in our schedule that we simply make the time to meet. If you have an important meeting, or a train or a plane to catch, you stake out that time in your schedule and you structure the rest of the day around it.

So one tip is to think of sleep as an appointment with yourself — one that you stake out and adjust the rest of the day accordingly.

I can tell you that once you see the benefits of getting more sleep, and feel the positive results in your life, it becomes a lot easier to move it up the priority chart and make the time for it.

As someone who is busy, and definitely a “type A” personality, how do you balance work and life to make sure you get enough sleep? What do you let go of?

I wouldn’t say I’m type A — and I’m not sure those categories are meaningful anymore. And I no longer think of it as a balance problem. Work and life, well-being and productivity, are not on opposite sides — so they don’t need to be balanced. They’re on the same side, and rise in tandem. Increase one and you increase the other, which is what the science clearly shows. So what you have to let go of is the idea that you can get more done by working more.

You’ve said you unplug at a certain time at night. How do you think technology fits into a healthy lifestyle?

Our relationship with technology is a huge part of a healthy lifestyle. Technology allows us to do amazing things, but it’s accelerated the speed of life beyond our capacity to cope. We’re being controlled by something we should be controlling. It consumes our attention and cripples our ability to focus, think, be present and connect ourselves — all essential to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. So we have to be very deliberate about making time to unplug and recharge.

Besides sleep, what are three other elements to staying healthy?

There’s disconnecting from technology, movement, nutrition, having a sense of purpose, practicing gratitude and finding moments of wonder and joy.

In light of the current political situation, what advice do you have for young women who want to empower themselves?

What’s important is to not be paralyzed by outrage — that’s not a sustainable state to be in. That’s not to say we should disengage, but more that we should channel our outrage in productive and effective ways. And that begins by taking care of yourself. It’s like what they say on airplanes: Secure your own mask first before helping others.

The Huffington Post was such an innovation for journalism. What do you think is the next big innovation or evolution for journalism?

I think the current trend — of democratization, increased participation and a lower barrier to entry — will accelerate. And technology is going to continue to allow increased participation, which is something we tried to do at HuffPost — not just presenting the news of what was happening in people’s lives, but giving them avenues and tools to be involved and change the trajectory of the story itself.

You’ve written about Maria Callas and Picasso. Is there anyone else you’re planning to write about?

With every book, I tell my agent, my friends and my family that it’s my last. And that promise lasts until the next topic grabs me. Thankfully, one hasn’t yet!

Do you find that people treat you differently now that you’re older? If so, how do you deal with that? How do you treat yourself differently?

If they do, I don’t feel it. We Greeks are both young and old — ancient traditions combined with a love of the moment.

And as I’ve gotten older, I take things slower, but that’s less because of age than because of what I’ve learned about well-being.

I’m privileged to work in a newsroom where our publisher and executive editor are both women. What strengths and perspectives do women bring to the workplace?

Being newcomers to the workplace can mean that women have less invested in the status quo ways of doing things and can be more willing to find new ways of doing things. That’s why I think that women will lead the way in ending the macho culture of burnout. Which, of course, will also benefit men.

Do you have a new or different way to measure success?

Yes, that’s what my book “Thrive” was about — that over time our society’s notion of success was reduced to money and power. But that’s not a definition that’s sustainable or one that gives us the lives we truly want. So what we need to do is add a third measure of success — a third metric — that consists of well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving.

Sun Valley Wellness Festival

Friday, May 26, to Monday, May 29, Sun Valley Resort, 1 Sun Valley Road.

▪  Individual keynote tickets run $120 to $40

▪  Single day passes are $105

▪  Silver Passes for Saturday and Sunday only are $200

▪  The Gold Pass with general admission for all three keynotes is $305, or go Platinum for $420 and get premium reserved seating.

▪  The Diamond Pass includes workshops, classes, all presentations, Huffington’s meet and greet and premium seating to all events for $1,200.