Career & Success

Arianna Huffington’s Next Disruption: Your Sleep Patterns

Why the founder of Huffington Post wants everyone to get more shut-eye.

April 29, 2016

| by Bill Snyder


Arianna Huffington | Photo by Natalie White

Arianna Huffington started a revolution in online journalism when she co-founded the Huffington Post in 2005. Now the one-time California gubernatorial candidate hopes to start a revolution in sleep. Her newest book, one of 15 she’s written since 1973, is called The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time.

A good night’s sleep to Huffington is more than a way to feel sharp in the morning; it’s an essential step on the way to solving the world’s problems. “How much and how well we sleep in the coming year — and the years to follow — will determine, in no small measure, our ability to address and solve the problems we’re facing as individuals and as a society,” Huffington wrote in a blog post (on her own website, of course) shortly after the book was published.

Sleep, Huffington said during a recent View From The Top discussion with Stanford Graduate School of Business students, “is a productivity tool.” She advises students and executives to ignore popular wisdom like “‘You snooze, you lose,’ or congratulating people for working 24/7, which now sleep scientists will tell you is the cognitive equivalent of coming to work drunk,” she said.

That message is beginning to resonate in the corporate world. Mark Bertolini, the CEO of Aetna, asked his employees to track their sleep with a Fitbit. Anyone who gets at least seven hours a night gets $25 for each night, Huffington recounted during her April talk at Stanford GSB. Aetna had researchers at Duke University track the results of the sleep experiment, and they’re finding a 7% reduction in health care costs and a 62-minute a week improvement in productivity, she said.

Facebook is holding sleep workshops, she added, and recently the Harvard Business Review ran a piece on sleep by McKinsey’s chief learning officer and the company’s sleep specialist linking sleep and effective leadership.

The Sleep Revolution is not Huffington’s first wellness-focused book. In 2014 she wrote Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, and 1994 she published a self-help book titled The Fourth Instinct .

Her main focus though is still the Huffington Post and the changing landscape of digital media.

A website that started with five people working out of Huffington’s Los Angeles home now encompasses 850 reporters, editors, and engineers in 15 countries, and it won a Pulitzer Price, journalism’s highest honor, in 2012. Founded with $2 million in seed money from friends and a partner, the Huffington Post was sold in 2011 for $315 million to AOL, which in turn was acquired last year by Verizon.

Despite its success, the Huffington Post faces many of the same challenges its competitors are struggling with, particularly the increasingly central role played by social media. More and more visitors come to news-oriented websites via Facebook posts, Twitter feeds, and the like, challenging editors to find a way to make their content go viral. “If I was launching the Huffington Post today, there would be no website because it’s all social,” Huffington said.

Sleep deprivation is the ‘cognitive equivalent of coming to work drunk.’
Arianna Huffington

Huffington said she has shifted strategies a number of times to address this change. For years, the Huffington Post attracted readers by creating “splashes,” big headlines and pictures on the homepage that focused the eye of the reader on the top story of the moment. But more readers began turning to social media, not homepages, to discover new stories. “Editors would spend a lot of time creating beautiful splashes that would be seen by fewer and fewer and fewer people. So we built different teams that instead worked on how to make content be social and be viral,” Huffington said.

Another focus to encourage social sharing: stories that focus on solutions. If you look at the front page of the Huffington Post, you’ll notice that some stories are tagged with a colored logo saying “what’s working,” and there’s an entire section labeled the same way.

“In every area, whether it’s business, the environment, the workplace, we focus on what is working. What are the solutions that are working? This is the content that goes more viral than anything,” said Huffington.

As to her political activities, Huffington said that initially covering Donald Trump’s campaign in the site’s entertainment section was “one of our best decisions.”

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