Arianna Huffington on sleep, ego, wellness and single motherhood

Arianna Huffington sleep Emma Johnson podcast

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Over the past few years I've totally prioritized getting a lot of sleep — at least 9 hours, which means going to bed just after tucking in my 7 and 9 year-olds! The difference is incredible: More energy, never sluggish in the mornings (OK, most mornings!), more focused and I lost a few pounds, too.

Needless to say, I am really excited about this episode! Media mogul, political pundit, single mom and Forbes' ‘Most Powerful Woman,' Arianna Huffington joins me on this awesome episode to talk about her New York Times bestselling book, The Sleep Revolution: Transform Your Life, One Night At A Time.

After the show, Arianna emailed to say our conversation “felt like talking to an old friend” — and I agree. In this Like a Mother episode, the Huffington Post co-founder and editor-in-chief and I dish about:

  • The indisputable, powerful, cannot-ignore science quantifying why sleep is really key to health, wealth and happiness.
  • How we could all save so much money and energy on beauty treatments if we just chilled out and got regular Zs (Jane Fonda and Jennifer Anniston told Huffington sleep was the key to their ageless looks).
  • Huffington's own rock-bottom of sleeplessness— waking in a pool of her own blood, having passed out in a bout of extreme exhaustion.
  • The expensive professional mistakes Huffington made as a result of lack of sleep.
  • Huffington's personal connection between rest, intuition and spirituality.
  • 3 easy, 100% free, and life-changing moves everyone can make now to dramatically improve your sleep— and life.
  • What Arianna Huffington wears to bed.
  • The high priestess of sleep calls me out on my secret bad bedtime habit (despite my proclamations of great sleep hygiene. Busted!)
  • Why the prioritization of sleep really is a revolution— one requiring a paradigm shift in our attitudes about work, success, wellness and even science — and what everyone from executives to politicians to workers to moms can do to push the revolution forward.

Read the transcript of the Arianna Huffington interview below!


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Full interview transcript with Arianna Huffington 


Emma: Today’s guest needs no introduction, but I will give her a brief one. Arianna Huffington is consistently named as one of the most powerful women in the world. One of the most powerful media entrepreneurs in the world. She is the editor in chief and co-founder of The Huffington Post, a political pundit, best selling author, and she is a mom.

Today Arianna and I are talking about her best selling book, The Sleep Revolution. This is more than just a book. This really is a cultural revolution. After our conversation, Arianna sent me a lovely email, and it said that it felt like talking to an old friend during this interview, and I agree. It was so interesting and insightful to hear her thoughts about why we’re not getting enough sleep, why we should, and how by doing so we’re going to change our lives and our culture overall. Have a listen.

Arianna, thank you so much for being here. I have to admit, I stayed up a little late last night finishing your book. Don’t punish me.

Arianna: I hope, did you fall asleep reading the book? I consider this a personal victory when people fall asleep.

Emma: A victory? No, absolutely not. No, you know what? I took the little quiz at the end of your book. Everybody, she has this great little quiz to assess your sleeping habits. I did pretty good. So, I should just let you know off the bat, I’m not a basketcase. So, for those of you who have not read what is the best selling, New York Times best-selling book, The Sleep Revolution, Arianna, you dig into such an important issue and it’s from a historical point of view, from a medical, scientific point of view, and also the social, cultural, paradigm about our culture of sleep in this country, and that’s really what most fascinated me.

You talk a little bit about how there’s this sort of macho bragging that goes on in a lot of work places and in our culture about how little people sleep.

They say: “I only slept four hours last night.” Or, “I was up until 2:00 in the morning working on that project.” So, I’m wanting you to elaborate on that, that’s what I wanted to know more about. What are you seeing out there, and is this turning around at all in our society?

Arianna: Well that is what is so exciting. We’ve all lived under this collective delusion that sacrificing our sleep is essential for success, is essential for productivity, and now modern science proves the exact opposite. That in fact, sleep is the greatest performance enhancer, it helps our productivity, it helps our decision making, and it’s essential for our health and our happiness. So, that’s why we’re living through this amazing transition where you both have people who are still in this neanderthal years of thinking that they have to sacrifice sleep and in fact, wear it, like you pointed out, like a badge of honor. But you also have the McKinsey team that’s normally associated with a kind of boiler room of burnout, and now they’ve brought up their study at the Harvard Business Review about the connection between leadership, effective leadership and adequate sleep. So, this is an exciting transition period, where we are recognizing how essential sleep is.

Emma: Right. So, it’s effective leadership, it’s our health, I mean, you start your story with your own personal burnout, which unfortunately is a very common story. I mean, you woke up in a pool of your own blood from lack of sleep burnout. That was your wakeup call.

Arianna: Yes, and you’re right, it is much more common than we know or we realize because a lot of people don’t talk about it publicly. It’s only when we have high profile stories like happened last year with the CEO of United collapsing on his treadmill. The CEO of BMW collapsing on a stage during a press conference. But I have found that whenever I tell my story, there’s so many people who come out of the woodworks and tell me their equivalent story.

Emma: Right. And you– your company, Huffington Post, is famous. You have a nap policy and nap– places to nap, and you nap in your office openly. You write about that in the book. So, we see a lot of this movement coming from the top down. But what about the everyday people? If you’re just a worker and all of your colleagues are bragging about working until 11:00 at night, and you’re like, “Oh, I’m out of here, 5:00. Gotta go get my Zs.” I mean, that’s just not gonna fly.

Arianna: Well, you know, actually it’s not about leaving at 5:00, I think it’s– It’s about acknowledging that we need seven to nine hours of sleep to be at our best. And that when we are at our best, we bring out best self to work. And now, you know, the latest polls show that the majority of people, the vast majority of people, are not engaged in work. We have data on the connection between sleep that we waste and health care costs for companies, sleep deprivation and lack of engagement and productivity. So, even if companies only cared about the bottom line, it’s’ now clear that working 24/7 and being always on, is not sustainable, and is not good for business.

Emma: Right. But can you give me, I don’t know, maybe even a script? I mean, I live in New York, I know a lot of people that work on Wall Street, and it is just, that culture, I don’t know. It doesn’t seem like it’s catching up to your wisdom quite yet. So, if you’re not making the policy at your company, if you’re a minion, what are some things, like little bits of, you call it The Sleep Revolution, what are some little bits of activism that you can be doing in your own workplace?

How to change sleep culture in your workplace and community

Arianna: That’s a great question. So, there are many levels of what you can do. First of all, you can affect your own team. You can let them know about the new science. You can show them by example. You know, when we’re sleep deprived, our colleagues know it, because we’re short tempered, we’re moody, we are easier to overreact. So, when we are operating in that fully recharged way it affects everything and everybody around us. And also, the question is, when you are in a job where there’s still all these neanderthal expectations about being always on, how do you manage that, provided you still want to stay in that job? And I think that’s when you really have to be more regal with your discretionary time. We all have more discretionary time than we let on, right? I mean, somebody’s watching House of Cards.

Emma: Somebody’s stalking their Facebook, not naming names. Right?

Arianna: So, I know with myself, I now prioritize my sleep. Which means, hey, you know what, I have not watched actually– I have only watched one episode of House of Cards, so I know what my friends are talking about. I would like to watch all of it, but it’s a matter of priorities. I don’t like myself when I’m sleep deprived. I don’t like how I show up in my life. And I love how I show up in my life fully present and bringing joy and gratitude to what I’m doing and being able to deal with all the challenges better. So, these are the tradeoffs that we can make, whatever the conditions in our job. But also, jobs are changing. There are the pioneers like in any transition, like Aetna and Mark Bertolini who– Mark Bertolini, the CEO of Aetna, the third largest health insurance company has actually given Fitbits to his employees, and you can opt-in to measure your sleep and if you get seven hours or more, you get $25 a day.

Emma: Wow, that’s great.

Arianna: That’s pretty amazing because it’s not just the money, you have that, as you said earlier, top down method from the CEO that sleep is important. That it’s actually better for our productivity, that it’s better for our health. And as you right, you said, there’s also a lot of companies who are still bragging about how little sleep they get.

Emma: Right, so not just sleep, but there’s this culture where you know, we’re so busy. Right? You run into your friend at the bus stop with your kids, “Oh, how are you?” “Oh, I’m so busy. I’m so busy. Busy.” It’s really even just changing your vocabulary and the conversation.

Arianna: Oh, I so agree with you. I think I have kind of made a conscious effort to eliminate certain words from my vocabulary, like, “I’m slammed.” That’s crazy. “I’ll get back to you when I come up for air.” “I’m drowning.” You know? I think it’s very important. You’re absolutely right, to recognize that using these words, creates like a chaotic atmosphere around us and in our own lives.

Emma: Right. I mean, we know that there are certain words that like, our grandparents were using racial terms, or that we just don’t use anymore, and it seems like there is a recognition of the importance and the power of language. But we can then apply this to the wellness movement really too. Like, what are we prioritizing collectively? And what can I do to move the agenda forward?

Arianna: Exactly. And we should become more conscious of those words and that language, we’re becoming more conscious. But congratulating employees for working 24/7 is the cognitive equivalent of coming to work drunk. So, all that is becoming part of the conversation as we’re changing our culture. That’s what I’m really excited about, that we are in the middle of a culture shift.

Driving sleepy is like driving drunk

Emma: Right. So, yeah, you talk about that, and I think a lot of us have heard those statistics about driving sleepy is like driving drunk. And you had a great line in your book about how you have a wish list. Like a wish list, like the CDC prioritizing sleep study. You want candidates, political candidates to call each other out when the other one’s bragging about not sleeping, right? And one of them was what? Board of directors to question any CEO that brags about not sleeping. Because, as you say, you’re making really lousy decisions if you’re sleep deprived. So, I wonder about, for you, you’re a CEO, you’re a fabulous entrepreneur who was sleep deprived for years and years and in hindsight, what kind of mistakes were you making?

Arianna: Well, I think my biggest mistakes were hiring mistakes. I mean, unfortunately, having the Post is now almost 11 years old, and my collapse in the beginning of my– living my life differently was two years into the building of The Huffington Post, it was still pretty small, but undoubtedly when I was sleep deprived I didn’t see the same red flags that I can see now. And I find that in terms of my leadership at The Huffington Post, some of my best decisions, some of being able to be clear about where the world was going, about seeing where the icebergs were, came when I was fully recharged and more connected with my own wisdom, rather than running on empty.

Emma: Your intuition was muted because you were tired?

Arianna: Absolutely. I think our intuition, our inner wisdom, these are huge gifts for leaders and for everybody in our daily lives, and when we’re running on fumes we’re much less connected with ours.

Emma: I really appreciated the part about beauty. Beauty regimens and you interviewed some celebrities, other people that obviously gorgeous physical human beings. Jane Fonda, who looks so gorgeous and fabulous for her age, or period. And they said, they swore sleep was the answer, and it’s just like we’re spending so much money on beauty regimens, so much research, just get a good night sleep, right?

Adrianna: Yes, I know. And it’s so true, people like, including the younger generation, like Karlie Kloss that I write about in the book, people for whom their beauty and their looks is absolutely essential for their careers, as you can see from everything they’ve said, prioritize their sleep. The term beauty sleep is real. We all know what sleep deprivation does for wrinkles, for blemishes, and what it does also for how we feel about ourselves, which also affects how we look.

Emma: I mean, I know. If I get a good night I wake up, my pores are small, there’s color in my cheek, it’s wonderful.

Adrianna: Isn’t it amazing? We know all that. And that’s why we need to give ourselves permission and give each other permission and support to change destructive habits. And I think, like with any culture shift, it will require us supporting each other, creating little tribes where we check in on each other.

Sleep and motherhood

Emma: Yeah, let’s talk about motherhood and especially, mothers with young kids and babies. I mean, my kids are six and eight, so they’re just getting out of that age. Those kids are up all night, you’re exhausted when you’re a new mom, and you write about your early motherhood too and you, sounds like you had a really involved dad, and your mom was living with you. Most moms just don’t have that. Either one of those. So, what’s some advice about sleeping for a new mom?

Adrianna: Well, first of all, let me reassure all moms listening who have young kids that their children will grow up. So, this is a stage in our lives, it’s not a forever. And I think during that stage, more than any other we do need a little tribe, we do need a support system. I was lucky to have my mother living with me, but if we don’t have our parents, if we can have friends, you know, that we can barter time with, that we can give them time when our children are older. We need to be able to have someone help us with our babies, our young children, so we can have a nap during the middle of the day. Or for us to try and go to sleep when they go to sleep. Rather than you know, sometimes we say, “Oh, this is now my time to watch my shows.” Or, “Have some me time.” Well, the best me time is getting enough sleep before we get any other me time.

Emma: Right. So let’s move on to some of the practical tips. I mean, is really just such a fascinating look at all of the resource, a lot of the stuff that most of us know. Right? I’m just wondering if this sleep revolution takes off like a Starbucks stock, and then just completely tank?

Adrianna: No, no, no. Because here’s the thing, I mean, I love coffee. The question is, when are you having coffee? Caffeine after 2 pm is what makes it more problematic to fall asleep. Coffee in the morning? Not a problem at all. And coffee is not the problem. The problem are all these energy drinks. You know, like 5 Hour Energy drinks, Red Bull, where they have extreme levels of caffeine, mixed with extreme levels of sugar. And it’s that combination that becomes so toxic that we have thousands of people ending up in the emergency room because of energy drink consumption. And that’s like the vicious cycle of sleep deprivation, energy drinks, and doing damage to ourselves.

Emma: Well, right, and then everybody needs a cocktail or they think they need sleeping pills in the evenings to unwind from all the buzz of the caffeine from the day. I mean, that’s really conversations that I hear people having.

Adrianna: And we need to break that cycle by getting enough sleep.

Emma: Right. So, you’ve been studying sleep and prioritizing sleep, I think you said nine years, was there anything in researching this book that really surprised you? Some of the research.

Adrianna: Yes, I was very surprised by how active our brains are during sleep. And as the researchers who have done those studies have made it clear, sleep is a time of frenetic activity in the brain when all the toxins that have been accumulated in the day are washed away. And that’s kind of a wonderful thing to remember, otherwise, we end up building up toxins in our brain, and that’s one of the causes of Alzheimer's.

Emma: Interesting. I really enjoy the parts about when you were talking about the unconscious working itself out, but which is something I think most of us kind of are familiar with or accept, but there’s these other– These fantastic stories that you had about people who are getting messages from their bodies, right? It’s like the woman who kept hearing, saying, “Call 9-1-1” There was a voice, like an unfamiliar voice, “Call 9-1-1”. And it turns out that her appendix was on the verge of bursting.

Adrianna: I know. Isn’t it amazing how through our dreams, through our intuition, when we are most still and quiet, we get so many messages? And that we just need to bring enough stillness in our lives, enough quiet, to be able to listen.

Emma: So, you’ve been really promoting this book heavily on college campuses, that’s been a big focus for you, why?

Adrianna: Because college kids are such a stress generation that really has bought into our cultural delusion that sleep can be dispensed with. So you have a saying in many colleges, which is, social life, grades, sleep. Pick two. And they don’t pick sleep, and the results are dreadful. I was speaking at the Stanford Business School on Monday, and they were telling me how many students there have come down with meningitis, whooping cough, they just really drive themselves thinking that’s the way to succeed and in the process, they destroy their health. It affects also their productivity and cognitive ability, and these are all matters of science. That’s why, in the book, I have 50 pages of scientific end notes, to kind of help each other update our views of what happens during sleep.

Emma: Wow. So these young people are burnt out while they are blowing through tens of thousands of dollars that are largely debt. I mean, the math just doesn’t add up. And you’re talking about, you know, this pressure on productivity for college kids. Like I said, my kids are little and I am swept up in this whole thing about homework for little kids. And I feel like it’s part of the same culture that we’re– adults and college kids are ascribing to, which is, more is more. RIght? More work–

Adrianna: You’re so right about that. I have a whole section in the book about start times for schools which are way too early before kids are ready to go to school.

Emma: Right, so it’s really starting with the parents. We have to change our mindset, our paradigms, prioritize sleep, and sleep for kids. I mean, sleep, it’s arguably even more important than it is for adults. Tell me about that.

Adrianna: Well, it’s actually important for all of us. That’s what is so interesting. That unless we are one of those short sleepers, you know, who only need four to five hours, we all need seven to nine hours, the rest of us. And to be a short sleeper is a genetic mutation. You can’t learn to be a short sleeper.

Emma: And isn’t it like one percent or less than one percent of the population that–

Adrianna: One percent, exactly.

Emma: Yeah, right, so it’s like, hey guy who’s bragging, that’s not you. Right?

Adrianna: Yeah, exactly, exactly.

Emma: So, as you’re speaking about this, what’s the pushback? I mean, are people saying, “Oh well I just can’t sleep. I’m not a good sleeper.” Or, what’s the challenge?

Adrianna: The challenge is to, first of all, raise awareness about the science, and to make it super clear that this is not negotiable. That over centuries of evolution, human beings have needed to get adequate sleep in order to function, because that’s the time when our bodies are restored, our brains are cleaned out from all the toxins of the day. That’s why I structured the book like that. First of all, we have the crisis, you have to look at what’s happening in our lives, in our culture. Then we have the science. The history to explain to us when did we start going wrong. And then, finally, we have the second half of the book which is all the tools and techniques. But I urge everybody listening, not to jump to that first. I think it’s really important to absolutely convince ourselves of the importance of sleep. That it’s not something that we can negotiate, and especially for mothers. I mean, that’s why I’m so happy to be talking with you, because mothers so often think we’re going to get everything done, and then if we have time we’ll get some sleep. And now, I think mothers need to change that and operate more the way they tell us on airplanes. Get your own oxygen mask first, and then take care of others.

Emma: Right. You know what I thought was the most convincing part of your book? Well, two. One, I love the part about the athletes and that’s saying a lot because I don’t care at all about professional sports, at all. It was a byproduct, there was like a sleep study at a university and just coincidentally some of the swim team members were part of the study, right? And they were like setting world records because they were sleeping so much.

Adrianna: I know, that was– I was actually at Stanford with Cheri Mah, the scientists who came up with that study, and she’s worked with Andre Iguodala who just helped win the great victory for the Golden State Warriors last week. So, I think what is super important here, is to recognize that the athletes who care about performance more than anything else are actually the ones who have recognized that sleep is a performance enhancer.

Emma: And then, the other part that I would urge people to pay especially close attention to, or I’ve personally found fascinating, was the history. The industrial revolution and how that was such a pivotal point that human labor was a commodity and it was just about squeezing absolutely as much as the industrialists could out of every single worker. And accidents ensued and productivity was questionable, but it’s like, okay we’re moved away from that system but we still hold that same mentality in many ways.

Adrianna: I absolutely agree with you. That’s really why changing the culture is going to be key. Right now, when we try to make changes in our lives we often feel we’re swimming against the current, but the current is changing and we have a lot of examples everywhere. And I feel every mother who is prioritizing herself is doing a favor, not just to her family because she’s going to be less cranky, she’s going to be more emotionally available to her children, her partner, but also it’s going to make it easier to accelerate this cultural shift and stop devaluing sleep.


Technology and sleep

Emma: And you mentioned, you have a whole section, it’s called, Technology is the Problem but Technology is the Solution, right? So, business– The money is following the revolution and we have the Fitbits and those Jawbones and you can spend gobs of money at like– for the perfect night of sleep at a luxury hotel. There’s endless amounts of money we could be spending on sleep, but we all don’t need to be spending any money on sleep, right? It’s not a luxury product. So, what are three things you would want to leave people with about what they can be doing? Easy affordable changes that can make the biggest impact?

Adrianna: Great, I love that. So, the first thing would be to recognize that we need a transition to sleep the same way that when we have children, especially when they’re babies, they’re very young, we know we don’t just drop them in bed. We have a whole ritual. We give them a bath, we put them in their PJs, we read them a book, we sing them a lullaby. We need our own ritual for ourselves. And I have a whole menu of choices for everybody to choose from in the way forward section of the book, and I also describe my own ritual, which is 30 minutes before I’m going to turn off the lights, turning off all my devices, gently escorting them out of my bedroom, lowering the lights in my bedroom and my bathroom, having a hot bath with Epsom salts to kind of wash away the day, wearing a night dress a PJs or something that is sleep clothes as opposed to what I used to wear, which was my gym clothes. Going to sleep in my gym clothes. And then when you’re in bed, no screens. I have read something you wrote once, Emma, that you get in bed sometimes by 9 pm and you spend plenty of time, you said, twaddling on Facebook.

Emma: Mm-hmm, it’s happened.

Adrianna: Well, here’s my recommendation if you don’t mind me saying so.

Emma: Oh, I’m all ears.

No screens in bed

Adrianna: No screens in bed. This is your time to recharge, and this is your time. And I promise you one thing, you know already a lot of people are asking, “How do you get so much done?” When I’m recharged, I get so much more done. Don’t you find that?

Emma: It’s so true. Yeah, you busted me. I’m far from perfect. But I really have built my life to get pretty decent amount of sleep. I have to say.

Adrianna: That’s fantastic.

Emma: Yeah, I mean, and it’s not so conscious. It just is. But I am surprised when people are like, “Oh how do you get so much done?” I’m like, “I don’t know. It’s not rocket science.” Right? You feel good, you feel better when you exercise, you feel better when you don’t eat a lot of sugar, right? You don’t have to be maniacal about it, just– It’s basic. It’s really basic stuff.

Adrianna: And I love you in that fabulous article you wrote about 49 things you can do while you’re doing the laundry.

Emma: Instead of laundry. I don’t want women to be doing laundry anymore.

Adrianna: No, no. instead of doing the laundry.

Emma: Exactly, right? Why do women insist on doing the laundry? Professional women– You know the statistics, that women, mothers, do exponentially more housework than men. And the default assumption, the feminist's assumption is that because guys are lazy bums. Well, maybe guys just have their priorities straight and they’re spending their time doing other things that are more meaningful to them.

Adrianna: Right. So, you’re saying get a more qualified person to do the laundry. And I love some of the things you mention you can do instead. Read a book, a physical book. I mean, in bed, definitely, I love only reading physical books.

Emma: Yeah, talk about that. Because that’s a very new problem. The lights of our screens are special.

Adrianna: The lights of the screens, exactly. So, if we talk about the three things you ask me. The first is establish your own transition. I told you what mine includes. Powering down my devices, having a bath. Okay, the second thing is no screens. That blue light is just a stimulant for the brain, so it makes it much harder to fall asleep and it may wake us up in the middle of the night. So, I consider it a personal victory if you are reading The Sleep Revolution and fall asleep while you are reading it.

Emma: But blue light, it’s different than sunlight or an incandescent light bulb. It’s like your worst enemy for sleep.

Adrianna: Exactly. And then, have a dream book beside your bed. Again, I love that you said dream big, and beautiful, and outrageous and write those dreams down. And it’s kind of amazing. Whether it’s dreams during the day, dreams of what you want to achieve, or dreams while you are sleeping. They open up whole new worlds. And it’s important to open up our lives to something beyond what is on our to do list.

Emma: Yeah, that’s beautiful because you were talking about a guided dreams. The practice of learning to control your dreams while you’re having them.

Adrianna: Yes.

Emma: Yeah, and you’re not interested in it. You said because you love the loss of control. Like, letting go and letting your dreams take you where they may. And I thought that was so delicious.

Adrianna: Yeah, I have this little saying on my desk and on my nightstand which is, “Life is a dance between making it happen and letting it happen.”

Emma: Yes. For girls like us with big personalities, in control, how do we manage that?

Adrianna: Exactly. And I think we manage it when we realize that even when we look back on our lives, often some of the best things that have happened, and also, unfortunately, some of the worst things that have happened, we didn’t make them happen, right? So, life is not always about things that we make happen and when we think that, it puts tremendous pressure on us. It makes it much harder to recharge, to go to sleep, to do all the things that then make us much more pleasant and joyful in our lives.

Emma: I’ll just share my belief, but I think it’s in line with yours, it’s that when I’m rested and well physically, emotionally, mentally, I am healthier spiritually and I’m attracting more wonderful things into my life on a spiritual level.

Adrianna: Exactly. We need to help everybody understand, and that’s why I added 50 pages of scientific endnotes so that even the biggest skeptics can read them and convince themselves that this is the new science.

Ancient science of sleep

Emma: Right. Or old science, right? I mean, some of this stuff is just ancient. We’ve forgot. We forgot the wisdom.

Adrianna: Well, it is ancient practice, but new science. In fact, it’s very new. The first scientific sleep center was established in 1970 at Stanford. So, another 2,500 scientific centers, so in fact, that’s one of the things that happened, it is as you rightly said, ancient practices in ancient Greece, in ancient Rome, in ancient Egypt, that we forgot when the industrial revolution happened and people like Thomas Edison told us, “Hey, you know what there’ll be a day soon when you don’t need to sleep.” And we believed him because, hey, he had invented the light bulb but he had gotten the sleep all wrong.

Emma: Right, you’re going back into that mentality of the industrial revolution that science convinced us for a minute that formula is better than breastmilk. Right? And it took us a couple generations to figure out that that was wrong.

Adrianna: And you know, another thing that is made it harder is the digital revolution, which is our relationship with technology. I mean, you know, I’m sorry I keep quoting you, Emma, but I think–

Emma: Please, I love it, more.

Adrianna: It’s really important when you wrote about the day you got out of bed, and you made your coffee, and you wrote 1,000 words of the story, and your phone was on the other side of the house. That is such a key message for us to remind each other of. And we all need support and permission to just put our phone out of our way if we want to create, or if we want to recharge.

Emma: Right. One tip that I heard that was really fantastic, sleep with your phone in the other room, but another benefit of that is that you have to physically get out of bed to turn off your alarm, and you’re not scrolling through your messages the first moment. Maybe you’re delaying it by 90 seconds, but that might be an improvement for some of us.

Adrianna: 90 seconds is key. I recommend delaying it by 60 seconds. Just like, take 60 seconds of a few deep breaths and setting your intention for the day. Remembering what you are grateful for. You can do it in 60 to 90 seconds. And then start scrolling through your emails.

Emma: Beautiful.

Adrianna: Because, otherwise you’re telling the world, “Hey, you know what, what you want from me is more important than what I want from my day.” And that’s not a good way to start the day.

Emma: I love it.

Adrianna: I have one more pet peeve. Do you have one more minute for my pet peeve?

Emma: Please, I want to hear it.

No more snooze buttons

Adrianna: Which is no more snooze buttons. The snooze button is a barbaric invention. Because, first of all, the alarm is a barbaric invention because it makes you wake up with cortisol, the stress hormone, flooding your body, in a fight or flight mode before you’ve even done anything. But then, you have that repeated multiple times before you get up. So if you still need an alarm because your body is not getting enough sleep, please set it at the last possible minute that you have to get up and as you just put it, Emma, by having it outside your room you have to get up to turn it off, and that’s it. You’re up.

Emma: Absolutely. You know, I have to say, I think back to the most blissful time of my motherhood was when my kids were little, and I was a single mom at that time, and the kid’s daycare was a block away and so I had all this control over my time, and we would just wake up with the sun. Which was around 7:00. Yeah, there was exceptions. I had something going on or whatever. But the kids were usually wound up in bed with me, it wasn’t a family bed officially but it was practically a family bed, right? And it was so– In hindsight, that was so beautiful and energizing to wake up with the sun with my two gorgeous chubby kids in the bed with me and to start our day in this really natural way. And I realized that that’s not conceivable for a lot of people and because of their work and their family structures and all of that stuff, but I think there are some small steps that people can do to grab hold of their time and their energy in a way that’s proactive.

Adrianna: Exactly. But I think it starts with what we value, and once we value it you can prioritize it and support each other to make it happen. And that’s why I’m excited to have this conversation with you and help people tell their stories and we are all works in progress. I don’t know anybody who is doing it perfectly. And we all fall off the wagon. But as long as we course correct quickly, and know what’s the optimal way to live, that’s all that matters.

Emma: Right. And I love your idea about reaching out to your friends and offering support. I know I have a friend right now, and she’s just overwhelmed, and her kids and her ex-husband isn’t gonna take them overnight, and I think, “I’m gonna call her and say why don’t you dump your kids with me, and go get a good night sleep?”

Adrianna: Oh my god, that’s amazing. We need to be doing that for each other. I was very blessed that my mother lived with me when my kids were young, but if you don’t have parents or parents-in-law living with you, then supporting each other. Kind of bartering time even. I’ll help you down the road. Makes such a difference. Because we can’t do it alone. Especially when our children are really young.

Emma: Right. Arianna Huffington, you have to check out her book. You think you know what a good night sleep is all about, but seriously it’s going to very much surprise you, the science, the culture, the history. Check it out. The Sleep Revolution. It is a revolution. This is gonna change our lives, our children are going to grow up with different attitudes about sleep than I was. And for that, I say thank you.

Adrianna: Oh, thank you so much, Emma. Thank you for having me on. Thank you for all the amazing work you’re doing and I look forward to doing more things together.

Emma: Likewise. Likewise.

About Emma Johnson

Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour,, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.


  1. April on April 20, 2016 at 12:54 pm

    That was wonderful to listen to. It probably added to it that I listened to it on a bike ride in the middle of the day :) I average a little less than 7 hrs, it’s something I want to do better with. I will use some of the tips!!

    • Emma Johnson on April 21, 2016 at 6:44 am

      You know, I thought I was pretty good about sleep, but since reading her book and interviewing Arianna I’ve been going to bed earlier and earlier!

  2. Allison on April 21, 2016 at 11:34 am

    Great episode, Emma! I average 7-8 hrs per night and, occasionally still feel sleepy during the day or while sitting in So Cal traffic. This book and podcast gave me new clarity around some bad habits I need to break to get better sleep. Must create a bedtime ritual and cut out wine after 8…sniff sniff!

    • Emma on April 21, 2016 at 11:37 am

      ha! It’s rough, these first world problems :)

  3. Hattie on April 21, 2016 at 1:27 pm

    I’m amazed at how much less sleep I feel I need when I get enough sleep. Fun interview!

    • Emma on April 21, 2016 at 1:59 pm

      ha, so true and thanks!

  4. Maureen on April 22, 2016 at 8:42 am

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  5. The Thrifty Issue on May 18, 2016 at 10:24 am

    Thank you for sharing. I enjoyed listening to this. It made me think an want to take action in my own life. i KNOW i don not sleep enough and yet I continue to hit the ground running daily.

    • Emma on July 11, 2016 at 1:37 pm

      Once I made sleep a priority about a year ago, everything changed ….

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