Opening Our Eyes to the Value of Closing Them
My big idea is actually a very small idea -- but it's one that gives you access to the keys that will unlock the big ideas that will change our world.
Like many big ideas, my small one started with a bang. More like a thud, actually. That was the sound my face made when it hit the edge of my desk. It was
Next thing I knew, I was lying on the floor, bloodied. I had passed out from exhaustion and banged my head on the way down. The result was a broken cheekbone and five stitches under my eyebrow.
That's when I knew I needed to renew my estranged relationship with sleep. We had once been quite close. Sleep had been very important early in my career. But as time went by, responsibilities piled up and we had grown apart, taken each other for granted. Sometimes we'd go days and barely see each other. But when it comes to wake-up calls, few are as effective as the spilling of your own blood.
So sleep was back in my life. I became obsessed with it. And the more I studied the issue -- and the more I saw how sleep deprived we've become as a nation -- the more I realized that sleep is, in fact, the next big feminist issue.
Women have, obviously, made great strides in all areas of society, especially the workplace. But our national delusion that the way to be ultraproductive is to cut back on sleep is particularly destructive for women.
On average, single working women and working mothers actually get an hour and a half less sleep than the seven-and-a-half-hour minimum the body needs to function.
Which, really, is no surprise. Just because women have added responsibilities in the workplace doesn't mean the division of labor at home has changed accordingly.
And in the macho, boys club atmosphere that dominates many offices, women too often feel they have to overcompensate by working harder, longer and later.
In fact, lack of sleep has become a sort of virility symbol. I had dinner recently with a guy who kept bragging that he had only gotten four hours of sleep the night before. I wanted to tell him -- but I didn't -- that our dinner would have been a lot more interesting if he had gotten five.
This has got to stop -- because the scientific research is in, and not getting enough sleep is not only not a sign of virility, it's bad for you in a million different ways. Including in the bedroom (nearly 25 percent of Americans say they have sex less often or have lost interest because they are too sleepy).
But even if you don't care about sex, lack of sleep leads to increased risk of high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, weakened immune system, anxiety, depression and heart disease. Sleep deprivation is also involved in one of every six fatal car crashes. It is, literally, killing us.
And when it's not killing us, it's turning us into zombies. It's no coincidence, for example, that sleep deprivation is a key strategy of many cults. They force members to stay awake for extended periods because it degrades their decision-making ability and makes them more open to persuasion.
And it's not just decision-making that suffers, but also memory and creativity. Sleep deprivation severely affects relational memory, which is the brain's ability to combine and synthesize distinct facts. It's the sort of thinking that allows us to see the big picture and solve problems with creative and innovative breakthroughs.
But your brain just doesn't do it as well if you don't get enough sleep.
You want more proof? Lack of sleep played a role in the
At the moment, the world is facing multiple crises. Many brilliant leaders with extremely high IQs have made terrible decisions, both in government and in business. What's been missing is not IQ but wisdom -- and sleep is our ticket to wisdom.
Even more important than doing what's best for ourselves and our careers, the world is in desperate need of big ideas. And there are many, many of them locked inside of us. We just need to close our eyes to see them.
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Opening Our Eyes to the Value of Closing Them
(c) 2010 Arianna Huffington. Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.