The other day President Barack Obama ruefully told The Huffington Post that he probably doesn’t get enough sleep.
Our response to that was, duh! We want him to fret and worry about the country at night so we can fret and worry about other stuff. The Tonight Show’s Jimmy Fallon unkindly insisted we don’t pay the president to sleep on the job — he’s expected to be bleary eyed all the time.
There is an ulterior motive in all this, you know. Arianna Huffington, the rich woman who founded the online Huffington Post Media Group is peddling a new book, Thrive, in which she argues that America’s big problem is that we don’t get enough sleep.
The full title is The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom and Wonder. Since this is her 14th book, she has two children, she runs a media empire and she goes to a lot of conferences on women, we wonder how she gets much sleep.
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She does argue that cat naps, a la Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, can be a refreshing alternative to a full supine eight hours. Thus, all those nodding heads at meetings.
At any rate, because The Huffington Post boasts that Arianna’s empire is “one of the world’s most influential news and information brands,” we can expect that sleep will be a big 2016 campaign issue.
“Sen. Cruz! Sen. Cruz! How much sleep do you get each night … after you read ‘Green Eggs and Ham’?” reporters will shout, again dredging up that best-forgotten time the new Texas senator filibustered for more than 21 hours in part by quoting Dr. Seuss.
President Bill Clinton took great pride in needing little sleep. He was famous for calling friends, scientists, authors and historians late at night for long philosophical conversations while they propped up their eyelids with toothpicks and slept at their desks the next day.
Obama recently told Vanity Fair he goes to bed at 1 a.m. and is up six hours later, although sometimes aides wake him in the middle of the night to inform him about a crisis. However, there are many photos of the president nodding off during meetings.
Newsweek said in 2011 that Obama outlined his typical day for them: “I’m a night owl. My usual day (is): I work out in the morning; I get to the office around 8:30 a.m. to 9 a.m.; work till about 6:30 p.m.; have dinner with the family, hang out with the kids and put them to bed about 8:30 p.m. And then I'll probably read briefing papers or do paperwork or write stuff until about 11:30 p.m. and then I usually have about a half-hour to read before I go to bed … about midnight, 12:30 a.m. — sometimes a little later.”
The HuffPost interviewer elicited this from Obama: “I will say that when people leave the administration and I see them six months later, they have that post-administration glow. They really look good. So I’m hoping the same happens to me.”
“Tut. Tut. Tut,” Arianna would say, indicating there’s no time to waste getting more sleep.
Her goal is changing the thinking that successful people don’t need much sleep. She wants people to consider burnout, stress and depression new “worldwide epidemics.” Like many motivational speakers, she wants people to exercise, lose weight, smell the roses, sleep more (telecommunication equipment stowed elsewhere) and meditate.
She says meditation changes the brain. “One study found that meditation can actually increase the thickness of the prefrontal cortex region of the brain and slow that thinning that occurs there as we age, impacting cognitive functions such as sensory and emotional processing.”
Money and power were the first two legs of the success stool, she says. But without the third, the stool falls. The third leg is well-being, wisdom, wonder, empathy and giving back. It’s a new paradigm in politics. Or, as being well rounded is now called, The Third Metric. Get ready.
“Gov. Bush. Jeb! How often do you meditate?”
“Sen. Paul! Rand Paul! Are you stressed out?”
“Rev. Huckabee! Mike! Are you losing weight again?”
“Gov. Walker. Hey, Scott! Do you have any empathy at all?”
“Hillary! Hillary! Have you ever slept?”
Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may send her email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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