2. The Ambassador
Name: Arianna Huffington
Title: CEO of Thrive Health and author of “The Sleep Revolution”
Why they're interesting: Media-and-wellness mogul who turned sleep into a mainstream conversation
Arianna Huffington is the most famous sleep obsessive in the country. By now, her sleep-Eureka moment is etched into the annals of health history: In 2007, after years of, as Huffington put it, "buying into the delusion that burnout and sleep deprivation were necessary to succeed," the then-EIC of the Huffington Post collapsed from exhaustion at work and broke her cheekbone. "That was my wake-up call," said Huffington, "and I now realize that I would have been more productive — and more present to enjoy my life — if I’d been getting enough sleep all along."
Thus began Huffington's tenure as the unofficial spokesperson for sleep. She overhauled her own resting life and spread the word about shuteye via social media, public appearances, sleep coverage on the Huffington Post, a TED Talk and the crown jewel of her sleep corpus, 2016's "The Sleep Revolution." "When I first started writing "The Sleep Revolution,'" Huffington said, "the conversation on sleep was still mostly about convincing people that sleep was even important."
And Huffington was in an ideal position to drum up interest in sleep: Unlike sleep researchers, she had the audience and name recognition necessary to reach the masses. And unlike a lot of celebrities who take on causes, Huffington had a reputation as a serious-minded careerist; people were willing to accept her as an authority. Her passion for sleep undeniably registered with a lot of people, particularly over-worked, "I'll sleep when I'm dead" go-getters — fledgling Huffingtons, maybe — who hadn't yet realized that their refusal to slow down was holding them back.
Attitudes towards sleep have changed enough in the past few years that Huffington no longer feels the need to hammer home the message that sleep matters. "We’re past that stage, as more and more individuals and companies are taking in the science that sleep is essential to well-being and productivity," said Huffington. "So now the conversation is moving towards how we can change our culture to come in line with the science."
After years of promoting sleep with laser-like focus, Huffington has broadened her sphere of interest. But that doesn't mean she's leaving behind sleep entirely. The mission of her new wellness venture, Thrive Global, Huffington said, "is to end the stress and burnout epidemic, and sleep is obviously a big part of that."