Arianna Huffington is an author, mother, sleep evangelist, and the co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post. She currently lives in New York City.
What is your morning routine?
Ninety-five percent of the time I get eight hours of sleep a night, and as a result, ninety-five percent of the time I don’t need an alarm to wake up. And waking up naturally is, for me, a great way to start the day.
A big part of my morning ritual is about what I don’t do: when I wake up, I don’t start the day by looking at my smartphone. Instead, once I’m awake, I take a minute to breathe deeply, be grateful, and set my intention for the day.
How long have you stuck with this routine so far?
I really began to take my morning routine seriously after my painful wake-up call in 2007, when I fainted from sleep deprivation and exhaustion, hit my head on my desk, and broke my cheekbone.
How has your morning routine changed over recent years?
I’ve made small changes over time; for example, when I lived in Los Angeles I was fond of morning walks and hikes. I’m very open to experimenting - I’m sure before long I’ll learn about something new I’ll want to add to my routine.
What time do you go to sleep?
Most nights I’m in bed by 11:00pm, and my goal, as we joke in my family, is to always be in bed to catch the “midnight train.”
Do you do anything before going to bed to make your morning easier?
Yes, I treat my transition to sleep as a sacrosanct ritual.
First, I turn off all my electronic devices and gently escort them out of my bedroom. Then, I take a hot bath with epsom salts and a candle flickering nearby; a bath that I prolong if I’m feeling anxious or worried about something. I don’t sleep in my workout clothes as I used to (think of the mixed message that sends to our brains) but have pajamas, nightdresses, and even T-shirts dedicated to sleep. Sometimes I have a cup of chamomile or lavender tea if I want something warm and comforting before going to bed. I love reading real, physical books, especially poetry, novels, and books that have nothing to do with work.
Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning, and if so do you ever hit the snooze button?
I love waking up without an alarm. Just think about the definition of the word “alarm”: “a sudden fear or distressing suspense caused by an awareness of danger; apprehension; fright,” or “any sound, outcry, or information intended to warn of approaching danger.” So an alarm, in most situations, is a signal that something is not right. Yet most of us rely on some kind of alarm clock; a knee-jerk call to arms; to start the day, ensuring that we emerge from sleep in full fight-or-flight mode, flooded with stress hormones and adrenaline as our body readies itself for danger.
And no, I don’t believe in the snooze button. On days when I do have to use my alarm, I always set it for the last possible moment I have to get up.
How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?
I’m not a breakfast person. I love breakfast foods at lunch or dinner. I love my morning coffee. Right now, I’m loving my Bulletproof Coffee.
Do you have a morning workout routine?
Thirty minutes on my stationary bike on days when I’m home; and 5-10 minutes of yoga stretches.
Do you have a morning meditation routine?
I do 20-30 minutes of meditation before my workout routine.
Do you answer email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?
I make a point not to answer email right when I wake up, and I avoid the temptation by not keeping my electronic devices charging in my room. But since I’m running a news organization, and the morning is an incredibly important time for conversations with our editors, it’s important for me to be reachable. I’m on email as soon as I hit my bike.
Do you use any apps or products to enhance your sleep or morning routine?
One of my favorite apps is Headspace. Former Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe created it as a way to make mindfulness meditation easily available. We’ve also made the app available free to all HuffPost employees. But I personally don’t use anything to enhance my sleep that requires having my smartphone by my bed. I love listening to soothing guided meditations, for example, but I have them on an iPod. I have my favorites in an appendix to The Sleep Revolution. My best endorsement for them is that I have no idea how they end - because I always fall asleep before they finish!
Do you also follow this routine on weekends, or do you change some steps?
I follow it on weekends too! But my exercise time and meditation are longer.
On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?
If I’m traveling, I try to use the hotel gym, except on the days when I have a very early start.
What do you do if you fail to follow your morning routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?
Being committed to a routine is, of course, what makes it a routine. That said, on some days life intervenes or we get off track. And when this happens, I try not to judge myself or let it negatively influence the rest of my day.
I’m a big proponent of silencing the voice of self-judgement and self-doubt in our heads, which I call the obnoxious roommate. It’s the voice that feeds on putting us down and strengthening our insecurities and doubts. I have spent many years trying to evict my obnoxious roommate and have now managed to relegate her to only occasional guest appearances in my head!
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