IN BED WITH ARI­ANNA HUFF­IN­G­TON

The me­dia mogul, po­lit­i­cal ac­tivist and sleep evan­ge­list shares her ul­ti­mate snooze se­crets

Harper’s Bazaar (Australia) - - Contents -

The ul­ti­mate sleep tips.

ONE THING KEEP­ING US UP AT NIGHT is wor­ry­ing about our never-com­pleted to-do lists. We lie in bed think­ing of all that was not done to­day and all that needs to be done to­mor­row and it seems im­pos­si­ble to shut our minds off.“i would stress three words: calm the mind,” Jen­nifer Ail­shire, as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of geron­tol­ogy at the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, told me. “If we can’t slow our thoughts and dis­en­gage our minds from the daily stress and strain we ex­pe­ri­ence, we have lit­tle chance of get­ting rest­ful sleep. Strate­gies for do­ing this will vary from per­son to per­son, but yoga and med­i­ta­tion are good op­tions.” So is qigong, an an­cient Chi­nese prac­tice of phys­i­cal pos­tures and breath­ing that can help us pre­pare for sleep.

I have a quote by Ralph­waldo Emer­son by my bed that helps me si­lence my mind:“fin­ish ev­ery day, and be done with it ...You have done what you could — some blun­ders and ab­sur­di­ties no doubt crept in, for­get them as fast as you can, to­mor­row is a new day. You shall be­gin it well and serenely, and with too high a spirit to be en­cum­bered with your old non­sense.”

One way to fin­ish ev­ery day and be done with it is what Joey Hub­bard,who di­rects ourthrive work­shops [based on Huff­in­g­ton’s best­selling book of the same name], calls the “mind dump”. Be­fore bed, write down all the things you can think of that you need to do.this can empty your mind and re­as­sure you that you don’t need to re­mem­ber your tasks through the night — your to-do list will be wait­ing for you in the morn­ing.

When we walk through the door of our bed­room, it should be a sym­bolic mo­ment when we leave the day, with all of its prob­lems and un­fin­ished busi­ness, be­hind us.when we wake up in the morn­ing, there will be plenty of time for us to pick up our projects and deal with our chal­lenges, re­freshed and recharged. I treat my tran­si­tion to sleep as a sacro­sanct rit­ual. Be­fore bed I take a hot bath with ep­som salts and a can­dle flick­er­ing nearby — a bath that I pro­long if I’m feel­ing anx­ious or wor­ried about some­thing. I don’t sleep in my work­out clothes as I used to (think of the mixed mes­sage that sends to our brains) but have py­ja­mas, night­dresses, even T-shirts ded­i­cated to sleep. Some­times I have a chamomile or laven­der tea if I want some­thing warm and com­fort­ing be­fore go­ing to bed.think of each stage as de­signed to help you shed more of your stub­born day­time wor­ries.

And when I’m re­ally hav­ing trou­ble sleep­ing, or I wake up with thoughts crowd­ing my mind, I’ve found med­i­ta­tion to be a great rem­edy. In­stead of stress­ing out about how I’m stay­ing awake and fear­ing I’ll be tired the next day, I prop a few ex­tra pil­lows un­der me and re­frame what’s hap­pen­ing as a great op­por­tu­nity to prac­tise my med­i­ta­tion. If it’s in the mid­dle of the night, I re­mind my­self that that’s pre­cisely when many avid med­i­ta­tion prac­ti­tion­ers, such as the Dalai Lama, wake up to get in two or three hours of med­i­ta­tion.

As Mar­cus Aure­lius wrote in Med­i­ta­tions, it’s a jour­ney that’s al­ways avail­able to us: “Peo­ple look for re­treats for them­selves, in the country, by the coast or in the hills … when it is pos­si­ble for you to re­treat into your­self at any time you want.there is nowhere that a per­son can find a more peace­ful and trou­ble-free re­treat than in his own mind . . . so con­stantly give your­self this re­treat and re­new your­self.” Since we find it harder and harder to re­treat into our­selves in the mid­dle of our busy days, the re­treat in the mid­dle of the night — whether through sleep or med­i­ta­tion — can be re­framed as a pre­cious lux­ury.

An­other prac­tice my older daugh­ter, Christina, has been us­ing, and that I’ve bor­rowed, is mak­ing a grat­i­tude list part of our bed­time rou­tine. I find that it fo­cuses my mind on the bless­ings in my life — large and small — rather than on the run­ning list of un­re­solved prob­lems. Jim Gor­don, the founder of Edge­wa­ter Funds, a bil­lion-dol­lar pri­vate equity fund, has his own grat­i­tude-based sleep rit­ual that’s bet­ter than any sleep­ing pill (and with none of the de­struc­tive side ef­fects). He told me that when he wakes up in the mid­dle of the night and can’t get back to sleep, he starts count­ing his bless­ings (lit­er­ally) in the form of his chil­dren and grand­chil­dren jump­ing over a picket fence. When he re­counted this to one of his daugh­ters, who is a psy­chol­o­gist, she told him it sounded like clas­sic cog­ni­tive be­hav­iour ther­apy, but he had come to it by him­self.

Breath­ing is one of my favourite sleep hacks. Count­ing out a few slow breaths is one of the tech­niques I use when I’m hav­ing trou­ble fall­ing asleep. One such ver­sion, the 4-7-8 method pop­u­larised by Dr An­drew Weil, is rooted in the an­cient In­dian prac­tice of pranayama. I love its sim­plic­ity: you sim­ply in­hale qui­etly through the nose for four counts, hold for seven counts, and ex­hale with a whoosh­ing sound through the mouth for eight counts. Dr Weil says that with prac­tice and reg­u­lar­ity it can put you to sleep in one minute — and any­thing that can help you get to sleep that quickly is worth a try.

One of the most in­ge­nious new sleep tips I’ve dis­cov­ered comes from a study by re­searchers from the Univer­sity of Glas­gow. Par­tic­i­pants suf­fer­ing from in­som­nia were di­vided into two groups. One was told to go about their nor­mal rou­tine to try to fall asleep, while the other was in­structed to de­lib­er­ately try to stay awake (though with­out get­ting up and turn­ing on the com­puter or TV). The group told to stay awake, us­ing what’s called “para­dox­i­cal in­ten­tion”, had “a sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tion in sleep ef­fort and sleep-per­for­mance anx­i­ety”, the study’s au­thors wrote.

“Pa­tients re­alise when they try to re­main awake, they feel sleepier, which is what nor­mal sleep­ers do — peo­ple who sleep well don’t try to sleep,” said study author Colin Espie. “Para­dox­i­cal In­ten­tion Ther­apy recre­ates the blasé at­ti­tude to­wards sleep that nor­mal sleep­ers have in those in whom anx­i­ety about sleep is caus­ing in­som­nia.” It re­minds me of the scene in Mary Pop­pins when the chil­dren want to stay up and play and Mary sings to them,“stay awake, don’t rest your head … You’re not sleepy as you seem. Stay awake, don’t nod and dream.” Promptly putting them to sleep.

This is ex­cerpted fromthe Sleep Rev­o­lu­tion:trans­form­ingy­our Life,one Night at a Time, by Ari­anna Huff­in­g­ton (WH Allen), $35, out April 18.

Clock­wise from top: In Bed pil­lowslip, $130 (for set of two), and sheet, $120; Hay ta­ble, from $390; Aerin Rose de Grasse can­dle, $100; Pa­pier d’amour note­book, $25; Jurlique Rose Hand Cream, $29; In Bed du­vet cover, $180, and robe, $480; Slip sleep mask, $40.

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