• Lillie Burke

Arianna Huffington brings “Sleep Revolution” tour to Belmont’s campus

Belmont brought Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post to the Curb Event Center on Friday, addressing the audience about the sleep epidemic and what people can do to revolutionize it.

Huffington, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, spoke to an audience ranging from entrepreneurs to students to doctors about her findings from her new book, “The Sleep Revolution.”

“We believe it is very important to recognize when a culture is going in the wrong direction and see how we can facilitate a culture shift. I think the impact on our health and our leadership is going to be amazing,” said Huffington.

The revolution stems from a personal experience in which Huffington collapsed. Huffington’s lack of sleep and busy schedule lead to sleep deprivation, prompting the research for her newly published book and leading her to recognize that a change within herself was necessary.

Combining fact and personal experience, Huffington and her team at the Huffington Post set out to change the minds of millennials regarding sleep on a non-traditional book tour.

Traveling to 16 college campuses between April and May, engaging students with Snapchat filters to promote sleep and riding alongside customers through Uber, Huffington is aiming to stop the promotion of sleepless nights.

“Sleep is nonnegotiable. If we don’t get enough, it affects every aspect of our lives, it affects our health, our productivity and our wellness,” said Huffington.

Further explaining the effects of a lack of sleep and drowsy driving in college students, the Huffington Post’s Sleep Revolution College Tour partnered with Uber to deliver facts directly to the target market: students.

“To encourage this conversation around drowsy driving and awareness, I’m also doing ride-alongs with Uber drivers in multiple cities, including Belmont,” said Huffington. “You can request me to ride along with you and receive a personal sleep consultation.”

Sara Scannell, a freshman at Belmont, rode alongside Huffington in an Uber after sitting in the lobby of her freshman dorm for more than an hour trying to request this specific experience.

With an Uber executive in the front seat, Huffington’s assistant in the back and the Uber driver behind the wheel, Scannell met a lifetime idol of hers and learned about some of the pressing facts on sleep she typically did not recognize.

“Once I get in bed, I can’t slow down my brain. I told Arianna about this, and she was really understanding and gave me some great advice. She suggested locking away all my electronics in a box or suitcase 15 minutes before bed so I’m not tempted,” said Scannell.

Interacting directly with the undergraduates on smaller projects and speaking to a larger demographic through luncheons, Huffington emphasizes that this problem is no laughing matter.

Throughout her new book, Huffington digs deep into the science of sleep through research and analysis.

In a 2014 study with the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, Roxanne Pichard, Ph.D, associate professor of psychology at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, claims college students who are not sleeping enough are more likely to make worse grades and perform poorly in comparison to healthy sleepers.

“Sleep problems are not systematically addressed in the same way that substance abuse problems are,” Pichard said. “For college and universities, addressing sleep problems early in a student’s academic career can have a major economic benefit through increased retention.”

Taking a step back from the facts, Huffington delivered her points with comic relief, including a joke on the nation’s Republican front-runner in the upcoming election, Donald Trump.

“In fact, let’s be frank. He is exhibit A of sleep deprivation. He is showing all the symptoms that the American Academy of Sleep Medicine considers symptoms of chronic sleep deprivation: inability to process simple information, mood swings, anger outbursts and instability of false memories,” she said.

Jokes aside, the message Huffington shared had an impact on audience members.

Tana Smith, a Belmont alumna and the director of production at Judith Bright, a local jewelry store, attended the luncheon and left recognizing certain changes needed to be made.

Smith admitted to the feeling of invincibility she once had as a college student, thriving on long work days, 8 a.m. classes, a social life and, primarily, two to three hours of sleep a night.

Once Smith graduated from the college atmosphere and progressed into a more structured routine, however, she noticed the change in pace and a more efficient start to her day.

“Having that peaceful, calm, alone time, I feel like that sets my day. Going from sleeping, to alone time, to being ready to take on everything that the day brings,” said Smith.

Sympathizing with current students, having recently been one herself, Smith encourages students to pick up Huffington’s book as she sees the information and facts as invaluable.

Perhaps the most emphasized note from Huffington throughout the luncheon was her encouragement to take technology out of the bedroom before going to bed.

Encouraging others to turn their phones off, get rid of the snooze button and put computers and cell phones in the other room, Huffington reminds the crowd how alarming technology is.

“Think about the word alarm. We are starting the day in a fight or flight mode before anything has happened,” said Huffington.

Determined to change millennials’ minds about sleep and eliminate old habits, Huffington refuses to shy away from facts and the truth. This generation is in need of sleep, and everyone could use a few more naps in their life.

This article was written by Meg McDonald.

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