15 Minutes of Pillow Talk with Arianna Huffington

Arianna

Let’s be real, if you want to know how to survive a life of travel and stay on your game, this is the powerhouse you ask.  It should therefore come as no surprise that I made sure to grab a seat front and center, legal pad positioned and pen poised, for her talk on her latest book, The Sleep Revolution, at Belmont University’s Spring Leadership Luncheon this afternoon.  If secondhand sprays of success decided to emanate magically from the stage, I wanted to be waiting readily in their near vicinity for anointing.

All right, maybe success doesn’t exactly work that way (though a little cosmic fairy dust never hurt anybody) but relevant, impactful knowledge does, and of that, there was no shortage.  Her talk encompassed commentary on our culture, tips for sleeping well, and a question and answer session, during which I gleaned valuable information and suggestions for staying well-rested while living this crazy plane life.

As she explained it, our overall cultural paradigm on sleep shifted dramatically during the Industrial Revolution, when we “started treating humans as machines.”  Since then, we have evolved into a culture that lauds sleeplessness as dedication and importance.  We showcase our lack of time for sleep as a trophy, because we think it proves just how indispensable we are.  Given, however, that sleep, nutrition and exercise comprise the three pillars of health, “sleep,” as she put it, “is non-negotiable.”

Quick, someone put that on a graphic tee.

If we want to become healthier individuals, and ultimately, a healthier culture, that mindset has to change.  Because “without disrupting models that don’t work, we can’t create ones that do.”  Given that healthy cultures, communities, and families start with a healthy you and me, following are some helpful tips and guidelines I gleaned from her talk to start all of us on our training as Sleep Champions:

1- Take microsteps.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, eat an elephant one bite at a time, so on, so forth.  Good habits are not formed overnight or all at once.  Start small, but start smart. Be deliberate. In the spirit of “practice what you preach,” I’ll list my microsteps for each tip.

2- Set a demarcation.  I loved this.  When we set a marker by identifying a time or an activity that says, “the day is done,” we condition our brains to stop harassing us with tomorrow’s work, and give it the freedom to unwind and rest.  Bubble bath, meditation, sunset stroll, herbal tea, making dinner–your call!
♥ My Microstep:  Use making dinner, taking a bath, meditating, or having a cup of tea as my demarcation by 8pm.

3- Learn your sleep cycle and ditch the alarm.  Don’t panic; it’s possible. She makes a great point: the word “alarm” says it all. When we are yanked from our natural cycles, we are immediately starting our day in fight or flight mode, akin to pulling the laundry out of the washer before it’s done.  Experiment when you can, learn your sleep cycle, and let simple mathematics become your natural alarm.  Working from home (half the time) helped me get somewhat of a grasp on this, but letting our bodies wake us up shouldn’t be considered a luxury. When I have to be up at a certain time, being in bed nine hours prior has me awake before an alarm 90% of the time.  On the road, it’s more like 50%, but that also could be the maid cart.
♥ My Microstep:  Be in bed to read by 11pm.

4- Set your alarm for when you need to get out of bed.  When you need to use an alarm, why yank your body out of its sleep cycle before you actually have to and rob yourself of precious rest?  Commit to more sleep and less snoozing.  I read once that hitting the snooze button is breaking the first commitment you made to yourself that day.  As Jim Gaffigan put it, “Nothing like starting the day with a little procrastination.”
♥ My Microstep:  Get UP when I wake up-no bonus hour of Instagram, Huff Post, or online shopping while I’m laying in bed.

5- Unplug.  We all have tech addiction.  Ditch the tech for a specified amount of time before bed so your brain and eyeballs can actually prepare for restful sleep.  Her tech detox time is 30 minutes.  Maybe start with five (see bullet point #1).  Turn them off and, as she puts it, “escort them gently out of the room.” Having your phone in your room is kryptonite if you wake up in the middle of the night. Not even the best of us can ignore all of those little red bubbles. If you’re wondering what to do with yourself instead, they do still manufacture books: pick something fun and enjoyable and totally unrelated to work. If you use your phone as an alarm, buy an alarm (do they still make those)?  I’ll be honest–I said a big, fat “no way, not possible” in my head when she covered this.  Then I realized:  Arianna Huffington is the President and Editor-in-Chief of a multi-million dollar news publication tech company spanning 15 countries (think of all the time zones).  Maybe news never sleeps, but Arianna Huffington does.  If she can go without blue-lighted tech overload for 30 minutes a day without something major falling apart, well, it’s absurd at best, and idiotically narcissistic at worst, to think I can’t.
♥ My Microstep: Noise machine. I usually use an app on my phone, but tonight it will be charging in the living room.  [Follow up: What was the first thing I did this morning was when I woke up? Reached for my phone on zombie tech autopilot.  At first, I felt a sharp stab of phantom limb pain, but after a few moments, it was really nice.  When was the last time I started my day with my own thoughts instead of Facebook?]

Read More About Sleep Revolution on Huffington Post

As a professional who travels 50-60% of the time for work, I was dying to have those microphone ushers call on me during Q&A time, so I could ask her to how keep my head above water and happy on the pillow, while hotel-hopping from state to state.  As luck would have it, I was the next person up when they stopped taking questions (fairy dust FAIL), so enter… Uber.

As part of her campaign to raise awareness for drowsy driving (the cause of 8k deaths and 1.2 million crashes last year), Arianna Huffington has partnered with Uber to provide free rides to college students during certain late hours.  Which meant that in Nashville today, from 3:30-5:30pm, as part of this promotional campaign, you could enter a promotion code, move the toggle to ZZZZ, and get picked up by Arianna Huffington in an Uber (Is this real life?!).

By 3:46, the ZZZZ still wasn’t showing on my phone, so thank you, Uber Nashville, for quickly responding to my sad face emoji on your Instagram post, and telling me I needed to park my butt and my smart phone closer to Belmont.  Sure, it may have required sitting in a coffee shop for 45 minutes refreshing my Uber app for a ZZZZ car every 90 seconds while skimming her book, and you may consider that light stalking, but let’s get real. Arianna Huffington is one of the top five people in the world I would have elected to have a cup of coffee with (before 2pm, of course) and pester with questions.  And as she so eloquently put it during her speech: “Life is a dance between making it happen and letting it happen.”  So my Uber strategy was in full swing.

I had rather gotten used to seeing the “There are no ZZZZ cars” notification while haphazardly alternating my attention between the app, the book, and the two hipster musicians at the next table talking loudly about music-y things and writing music-y notes on their music-y computers, when I looked down and lost my mind. ARIANNA HUFFINGTON WAS PICKING ME UP FROM BONGO JAVA IN THREE MINUTES.  I grabbed my water and ditched the coffee (I had ordered in a frenzy and had not followed the 2pm rule), and waited on the curb.

There are several words I could use to describe this little tête-à-tête, or têtes-àu-têtes, given the Uber employees and media guys, but honestly, it was just so FUN.  She was, of course, fresh-faced and lively, and equally as warm and welcoming.  Her follow up question to asking where I was from was, “What brought you to Nashville? Are you a model or an actress? You’re so gorgeous!”  Needless to say, my inner dialogue went something like, “Wait… Was that real? Did Arianna Huffington just ask me if I’m a model?  Okay, sold. Love her already.”

After she said she would have fixed me up with the Uber rep if he wasn’t married, and I asked her if she’d had hot chicken yet (she hadn’t), she asked me what I did for a living. I explained my job and told her that I travel 50-60% of the time.  Her facial response resembled mine whenever I realize I have to book a flight with two layovers, or I find out TSA pre-check is closed.  “That’s always hard on sleep.  How do you maintain your sleep routine?”  Most of the time, I do fine. But there have been a couple of instances this year when I have crashed and burned, and now Arianna Huffington was swooping in as my sleep angel.

I told her of a few examples when my schedule had been so overloaded or erratic that I had experienced major exhaustion and burnout.  One incident followed five straight weeks of travel, followed immediately by five straight days of sleeping for no less than 14 hours per day when I got home. Another involved rampant and repetitive episodes of utter absent-mindedness, including booking accommodations in the wrong city, only to discover the night before that I was four hours away from the next day’s event (I got a good laugh out of it, then made the most of it by renting a convertible for all the driving, but it was still exhausting).  The point is, these things are not in character.  OCD is my second religion.  Believe me, if I were a character on Friends, I’d be Monica.

What I hadn’t had the chance to ask and wanted to get her advice on most was about sleeping in hotels.  When your sleep environment is always changing, it is difficult to maintain routine, and familiar comforts start to feel like long lost loves.  There are an innumerable number of factors outside of your control that can affect your quality of sleep:  noise, bed softness, light, pillow thickness, sheet fit, humidity, etc.  It can be a nightmare for a light sleeper who’s used to sleeping on a King-sized tempurpedic in a room with blackout curtains. She gave some great advice, interspersed with a few laughs (bonus: Arianna Huffington is kind of hilarious).  Her answers are written from memory and summarized to the best of my recollection, but they are not verbatim:

How do you maintain a healthy sleep routine when your sleep environment is constantly changing?  Bring familiar comforts from home, like small scented candles and your own pillowcase.  Make sure all blinking and bright lights are off.  Turn the lights off, lay on your bed, let your eyes adjust, and then identify where any disruptive light is coming from.  Unplug the clock.  I always pack black tape to cover up lights I can’t unplug or turn off.

What do you never leave home without when you travel?  I have a bag that’s always packed with everything I need for sleep:  eye mask, noise cancelling headphones, lavender candles, my noise machine.  When your schedule is always changing, you have to plan ahead, you have to prepare, and you have to be very, very organized.

During the 5% of nights when you haven’t gotten enough sleep, what do you do to maintain energy the next day?  Take naps.  [Let that sink in for a moment.  A Pulitzer Prize winning journalist tycoon named by Forbes magazine as one of the World’s Most 20 Powerful Women in Business just told us to TAKE. NAPS.  NAPS!!]  I drink coffee-not after 2pm-but I have no problem with coffee. I love it.  I pack healthy, energizing foods.  I love organic nuts like almonds and macadamia nuts. Especially macadamia nuts-I LOVE them.  I don’t really eat sugar, because it makes your energy spike and crash.  If you don’t stay fueled on good, healthy things, that’s no good, because you’ll end up taking whatever’s available to you.

To this, I replied, “You just exactly described my dating life,” and then, Arianna (yeah, our relationship is so first-name basis now) cracked up laughing.  “See?” she quipped – “Some rules are universal.

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As if she needed to be any more endearing, she sent me skipping away with a bag full of sleep goodies-a noise machine, an eye mask, a granola bar, and a Sense ball that measures movement, light, humidity, and circadian rhythms while you sleep.  They’re all going in my travel sleep kit.  She called me bright and beautiful and I called her a charming powerhouse and thanked her for championing sleep.  After years of hearing sarcastic choruses of, “oooohhhh, how nice of you to join us,” it’s a beautiful thing to be told by one of the most successful women in the world that “sleeping in” puts me at lower risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, weight gain, cognitive decline, strokes, car accidents, and wrinkles.

At the end of the day, the bottom line from this magical experience boiled down to this:  yes, we all live busy lives, but there’s a difference between being busy and being productive–and NO ONE performs at peak productivity when they’re running on fumes.  In a world where being a yes-person is more popular than being a no-person, and fear of missing out or falling short dominates our daily decisions, we martyr ourselves in the name of success or think we are not holy unless we are haggard.  Remember that sometimes saying “no, I can’t take that meeting,” or “now is not a good time for a trip,” or “no, I don’t want to go out,” is really the act of saying a bigger yes to yourself. It’s saying, “yes, I have the power to decide how I will spend my time today,” or “yes, I deserve to hit the market well-rested,” or “yes, my well being is more important than someone else’s opinion about how hard I can hang.”

We are each the lone steward of our life’s structure, our overall health, and our capacity for success. Sleep is one pillar that contributes to the vitality of it all, and not only is it an important one; it’s a pleasant one.  Thank the moon and stars!

Sweet dreams, then.
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Buy Sleep Revolution here

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Watch: Things You Should Never Do Before Bed

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Watch: The Evolution of Sleep Culture

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Watch: Arianna Huffington on Donald Trump

 

 

Travel Recovery Pro Tips

{{A few essentials I can’t live (or fly) without, to help rejuvenate the body inside and out…}} 

Airports and planes can be headaches and pains, and while we can’t control all of the factors that go into making a flight environment or experience pleasant, I can share a few things from my own personal regimen:  let’s call it my little air travel survival kit.


1 – WATER 

If we’ve heard this once, we’ve heard it a thousand times, but really (no bull), how many times have we actually listened and heeded this advice?  I did about 10% of the time, if I’m being generous (or if I’m lying), until I started flying 6-10 times per month.  Simply put, humidity on a plane can be up 50% lower than what you’re comfortably used to.  Who cares, right?  Well, your skin, your hair, your energy, and your immune system for starters.  Raise your hand and roll your eyes if you’ve caught a cold, or worse, the flu, from some derelict who decided to fill an enclosed space with his or her projectile sneeze and cough germs for two hours.

Here’s the deal:  humidity in the air moistens your airways, allowing them to trap germs and prevent bacteria from entering your body.  You can’t argue with that.  It’s science.  Making this your number one priority will help guard against sickness, while also helping prevent alligator skin, Richard Simmons hair, and the energy levels of a coma victim.  Bonus points:  the more hydrated your cells, the more efficient they are at burning fat, so if you won’t do it for your health, do it for all that extra junk food you ate while on vacation.  Think ahead, be proactive, and chug a lug.

👉 My move: I buy a liter water bottle (half of the suggested intake for the day) as soon as I pass through security and make sure I’ve finished it by the time I get off the (first) plane. water

❤️ Extra love:  When you get home, infuse water with yummy fruits and herbs so you’re sure to gulp more of it down.  To make this a travel option, fill a water bottle with your fruits and herbs, but leave the water out until you get through security.


 2 – HYDROGEN PEROXIDE

I’ve never been much of a germaphobe, but now that the travel requirements of my job make me much more susceptible to illness, I’m the queen of Wet Ones and hydrogen peroxide. You may think this next tip is nuts, and you wouldn’t be the first.

It’s an old wives’ remedy that has been thought to combat the flu, and it goes a little something like this:  lay on your side, drop a  half cap full of hydrogen peroxide into your ear, wait three minutes, flip, drain, repeat.  Full warning, the sensation is bizarre, disconcerting, and tortuously ticklish at first.  It may drip into your nasal passages, which is fine (think neti pot), and because it’s affecting your inner ear, it can also make you feel a little dizzy, temporarily.  But as I understand it, most illness-causing bacteria enter our systems through our ears, nose, and throats, and hydrogen peroxide can kill the bacteria that may have entered your system on a plane, that are then lying in wait to wreak havoc on your immune system.

From the reading I’ve done, there’s no harm in doing this unless you do it too often–so save it for after high-volume germ environments like planes or hospitals, or when you feel the onset of cold or flu symptoms.  I have to say, in the past 16 months, I have been on over 50 different aircraft carriers, and I’ve been sick a grand total of one time.  There are, of course, more foundational factors that contribute to my good health, like nutrition, vitamins, water, and sleep, but this little baby is my sniper rifle waiting at the back lines to take down anything that may have slipped past my normal defenses.

👉 My move:  I use a travel shampoo bottle for squeeze ease, so it’s already TSA friendly when it’s time to pack!  It’s also handy for when you accidentally drop your toothbrush on the hotel bathroom floor.

❤️ Extra love:  Have a Q-Tip ready and waiting. A Q-Tip will never have felt so good.


3 – SOAKS & STRETCHES

I don’t think I need to tell anyone that plane seats are terrible and perpetuate the EPSOM SALTever-worsening decline of modern day posture.  But good news:  a hot bath isn’t just a pampering luxury item–it is a valuable, practical application for maintaining joint and muscle health.  Draw a bath with Epsom salts and some relaxing essential oils, and soak it up. Do some stretches in the tub, practice deep breathing, and just take a moment to relax. 

Post bath, whip out the yoga mat and get next level with your muscles and joints.  You know what they say:  “You are only as young as your spine is flexible.”  Structural health is no joke:  everything in your body is connected to your spine, and every movement you make flows from it.  In my own experience, I have found that the more often I practice yoga during and after travel, the less often I feel the need for a chiropractic adjustment (sorry, Dr. Grande!), or even a massage–but believe me, I am opposed to neither.

👉 My move:  I typically do a variation of the following postures to work through travel tension:  Sun Salutation A, Cat & Cow, Puppy Dog, Sitting Half Spine Twist, Reclined Spine Twist, Child’s Pose, and Bridge (you can massage your shoulder blades into the floor with this pose).

❤️ Extra love: If you’re packing a carry-on, you won’t fit your yoga mat, but you will fit your yoga towel.  Use it for hotel yoga or take it with you to a studio so you don’t have to rent a used one.


4 – SKIN CARE

Let’s face it (pun intended), your skin has just been through a totally garbage time and deserves a little extra attention.  As with our insides, our outsides need extra cleansing and hydrating post-plane, too. Even oily skinned people like myself need to keep their skin plenty juiced. 

Find a quality cleansing masque and a quality moisturizing masque.  Apply one during the evening after you’ve been on a plane, and the other the following morning–focus first on what you think your skin needs best at the moment.  Your face is your first impression.  Keeping your skin in prime shape helps it reflect your true, fresh and lovely self; not the haphazard plane version we don’t recognize under those heinous fluorescents. 

👉 My move:  I typically use SkinCeuticals Clarifying Clay Masque the evening I arrive mask 2home, and Image Skincare Vital C Hydrating Enzyme Masque the morning after. It’s important to remember that our skin care needs change throughout the year.  I choose my most intensive skin care items based on my esthetician’s recommendations following periodic facials.

❤️ Extra love:  Keep a travel bottle of Evian Natural Mineral Water Facial Spray in your bag at all times. The minerals help kill bacteria in the skin, the water helps keep your skin hydrated, it’s a great primer to use before resetting your makeup in the airport bathroom, and the cool mist feels amazingly refreshing after having been trapped in a metal vestibule with bottom-shelf wine and grimey tray tables all day.  


Whether you’re a constant plane dweller like me, or the occasional traveler, I hope you’ve found a helpful tip or two to remain your best self for your next flight.  Hours of baggage-toting, security-braving, germ-inhaling, armrest-sharing, tantrum-tolerating, hair-frizzing travel can drain even the best of us.  You deserve to be well.  Safe and happy travels!