08/17/2011 08:27 am ET Updated Oct 17, 2011

The Great Wake-Up Program: When Do You Begin to 'Get' Sleep?

What does it take for us to truly understand that sleep matters? For many of us, the mind-body connection around sleep becomes clearest during life transitions or moments of struggle.

If you've ever had a baby, started a more stressful job, moved in with a significant other, dealt with illness, embarked on higher education, and so forth, chances are you know what we're talking about. The unfortunate irony is that we seem to finally "get" sleep -- that is, realize its importance -- when we aren't actually getting enough of it.

This week, the LARK team is thinking about how we can learn from these challenging moments in our lives. How can we think of them as turning points rather than dead ends, as inspiration to change rather than ongoing excuses for unhealthy behavior?

To get us thinking, we talked to Arianna Huffington, the President and Editor-in-Chief of The AOL Huffington Post Media Group. We asked if she had a rock-bottom moment that spurred her to become the strong proponent of sleep she is today, and this is the story she shared:

My turning point started with a thud. That was the sound my face made when it hit the edge of my desk. It was April 2007. The night before, I had arrived home from the airport at midnight, after a week of taking my daughter on a tour of colleges. I had agreed to her request -- okay, it was more like a demand -- that there be no checking of my Blackberry during the days, which meant staying up very late into the night catching up on work. That particular morning, I had gotten up just after 5 a.m. to pre-tape a CNN show. I had been back at home for about an hour when I began to feel cold.

Next thing I knew, I was laying on the floor, bloodied. I had passed out from exhaustion and banged my head on the way down. The result was a broken cheekbone and five stitches under my eyebrow.

That's when I knew I needed to renew my estranged relationship with sleep. We had once been quite close. It had been very important early in my career. But, as time went by, responsibilities piled up and we had grown apart, taken each other for granted. Sometimes we'd go days and barely see each other. But, when it comes to wakeup calls, few are as effective as the spilling of your own blood.

So sleep was back in my life. I became obsessed with it. And the more I studied the issue -- and the more I saw how sleep deprived we've become as a nation -- the more I realized that sleep is, in fact, a major national issue.

As busy readers, you may recognize aspects of your own life in Arianna's story. Perhaps your spilled blood was sleeping through an important interview, nodding off behind the wheel or saying something regretful to a loved one.

Was this moment a wake-up call for you as well? Or have you not yet made the decision to begin -- or renew -- your relationship with sleep? Think about it and stay tuned. Later this week, the LARK Great Wake-Up Program will continue this discussion about transitions and struggles with Dr. Jo Solet, a clinical instructor in the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School.