By Suma Varughese
The Sleep Revolution,By Arianna Huffington,Paperback,WH Allen Ebury Publishing, INR599, 392 pages
There may not be much in common between Arianna Huffington, the media moghul who owns the vastly successful Huffington Post, and me, save that we are both women in the media business, but apparently we both have a sleep problem. Arianna solved hers and wrote a book about it, which I picked up, hoping to solve mine. The main point Arianna makes is that our present society celebrates not sleeping. Staying awake all night in the cause of working hard is considered to be the ultimate proof of commitment in today’s 24×7 culture. She confesses that she belonged to this category herself. Her wake-up (!) call happened when she travelled across the US in order to pinpoint the right college for one of her two daughters, Christina. Her daughter had extracted a promise from her that she would not work during that time, so obligingly Arianna kept her hands off the laptop and Blackberry, until her daughter went to sleep, after which she sneaked them out and hammered away till 2 or 3 am. Tour over, she returned to work, and one fine day, collapsed at her desk. She came back to her senses, recognising that she had a problem. She solved hers over time, by experimenting with different meditations and resolutely staying off sleeping pills. The book explores at length the history of sleep, when and how we began to deify sleeplessness, the debilitating effects of sleeplessness on the body and mind (includes getting a heart attack or a stroke), the benefits of getting a good night’s sleep (absolutely vital to well-being, says the author of Thrive), the power of dreams, and so on. An interesting morsel of information I gleaned from the book is that earlier, before the invention of the electric light, when we went to sleep with the lark and woke up with the lark, we had segmented sleep, which means we woke up for a few hours after the first flush of sleep, after which we went back to sleep. However, unlike today, when we immediately turn on the TV or the computer or the mobile, our ancestors spent that time musing about their dreams and seeking to gain the insights they contain. Those hours of wakefulness still constituted downtime, when cocooned in bed, they allowed the mind to connect with the subconscious. Today a messiah of sleep, Arianna has established a nap room in her organisation. Thank goodness, someone finally called it a day! I would strongly recommend this eminently readable book and endorse its vital message.
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