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Arianna Huffington says she became truly successful when she quit one common bad habit

Arianna Huffington: How to turn sleep into your secret weapon
Arianna Huffington: How to turn sleep into your secret weapon

Media mogul Arianna Huffington has been very vocal about the importance of sleep since accidentally overworking herself to the point of exhaustion in 2007.

Critics may point out that she managed to establish a successful media company, the Huffington Post, after years of losing sleep and prior to becoming a champion for wellness and balance. But Huffington says that's not the case.

Contrary to popular belief, she tells CNBC Make It at a Fuel List event hosted by her wellness site Thrive Global, that she truly became successful when she quit working round-the-clock.

"I have to assure you that the success at the Huffington Post happened after I started taking care of myself," says Huffington.

In 2007, Huffington was making phone calls and checking her email when she passed out at her desk. She awoke in a pool of blood with her daughter standing above her.

"Huffington Post was only a two-year-old baby when I collapsed," says Huffington, noting that the company had not yet achieved the influence and readership that it has today.

After coming to realize the importance of sleep, Huffington started to see a difference in her work style and that's when, she says, her business began to grow.

"I can tell you with authority that when I'm exhausted, when I'm running on empty, I'm the worst version of myself," says the entrepreneur. "I'm more reactive. I'm less empathetic. I'm less creative. And all of us can testify to that."

Arianna Huffington surrounded by The Fuel List honorees on Wednesday November 8, 2017.
Gary He

Huffington adds that it's a "complete delusion" that if you get little sleep and take poor care of yourself, you are going to be more productive.

"I'm not saying that you can't succeed by burning out. But you can succeed much more effectively, and much more sustainably, and with much less damage to your health and your relationships," says Huffington. "That's why they tell you on airplanes, put your own oxygen mask on first."

Prior to finding balance in her life, says Huffington, she made bad decisions. Though the businesswoman would not specify what those were, she notes that other successful people have alluded to the importance of a full night's rest.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, for example, prioritizes getting at least eight hours of sleep. Real rest "makes a big difference for me, and I try hard to make that a priority," he told Thrive Global in 2016. "For me, that's the needed amount to feel energized and excited."

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates also admitted that he can't think creatively if he isn't well rested.

"I used to work all night in the office, but it's been quite a while since I lived on catnap," says Gates in a Microsoft FAQ. "I like to get seven hours of sleep a night because that's what I need to stay sharp and creative and upbeat."

The more fully recharged and connected you are, Huffington contends, the more clearly you can look ahead. And "for me [looking ahead] was making sure that Huffington Post was a global company," she says.

Looking ahead also meant knowing when the time had come for her to leave the media company, which she did in 2016.

"I see some people stay in one place because it's convenient or it's comfortable. But they're missing out on their passion," says Huffington. "My passion is to help people live lives with less stress ... so thinking I could take that risk, and do it, and follow my new dream was something I wouldn't have done if I was simply operating on survival."

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See also:

Here's how successful people de-stress
Here's how successful people de-stress