In the latest Twitter battle, Tesla's chief executive, Elon Musk, and co-founder of HuffPost, Arianna Huffington, debated about whether or not adequate sleep should be a priority. The public debate follows Musk's interview with The New York Times last week, when Musk admitted that the last year had “been the most difficult and painful year of my career." Struggling to meet Tesla’s production targets, he said he works up to 120 hours a week, sleeps very little and relies on Ambien, a sedative used to treat insomnia, when he does manage to find time to rest.
“You’re a science and data-driven person,” Huffington wrote. “You’re obsessed with physics, engineering, with figuring out how things work. So apply that same passion for science not just to your products but to yourself. People are not machines. For machines ― whether of the First or Fourth Industrial Revolution variety ― downtime is a bug; for humans, downtime is a feature. The science is clear. And what it tells us is that there’s simply no way you can make good decisions and achieve your world-changing ambitions while running on empty.”
Huffington shared an open letter via Twitter.
In true insomniac fashion, Musk responded at 2:32 a.m. Sunday: “Ford & Tesla are the only 2 American car companies to avoid bankruptcy. I just got home from the factory. You think this is an option. It is not.”
In just a matter of very little time, of course, Twitter users chimed in, many of whom have told Huffington to "stay in her lane."
"If she was such a friend she would have reached out to him privately and expressed her concern," one user wrote. "This feels more like someone criticizing someone for the sake of attention."
Another user commented: "Love you but open letters to people about how to live their lives are condescending & self involved. If you really care just drop the guy a personal message. So long as we’re dishing out unsolicited advice, people ought to stay in their own lanes and get out of the way of genius."
In a statement to CNN, Huffington explained that she wrote the letter in an open form because the advice she shares in it is applicable to anybody who finds themselves in a similar position. She said: “This is not about sleep, or about slowing down, or about asking Elon to chill out under a mango tree. It’s about how we can unlock and sustain our peak performance, and see solutions and opportunities where others can’t.”
Singer Kelly Clarkson also tapped into the Twitter conversation, thanking Huffington for sharing the advice publicly because she, too, needed to hear it. She tweeted: "Well I can’t speak for him but I damn well needed to hear this. I’m not an island and no one is. A rested mind is an evolving one. Thanks @ariannahuff this was like the best self help book/tweet ever, and it wasn’t even meant for me ha!"
In response to Musk's reply, many Twitter users shared their support for his hard work, encouraging him to keep it up and asking him for ways society can help push his work forward.
One user placed his "bets" on Musk, pointing out that, because of his hard work and dedication, he survived recessions. He wrote: "Elon has brought Tesla and SpaceX through the great recession when all was about to fail. Had one last opportunity with SpaceX and the Model 3 is the bet-the-company car. My bets are on Elon for one reason.... he is relentless!!!
Meanwhile, many others threw Huffington a bone, helping to reiterate her intentions for the man behind PayPal, SpaceX and so much more.
"An amazing accomplishment, but it's hard to imagine how not sleeping well & not focusing on the fulfillment of life has made that achievement possible," one Twitter user commented on the thread. "I agree with Arianna. Focus on your gifts/strengths. Surround yourself with a team that solves problems at all hours of needed."
"I don't think @ariannahuff was suggesting that you pamper yourself... she was quite objectively stating that you can't run a car company if you're dead or incapacitated," another user wrote.
Another commenter shared: "@elonmusk I appreciate your hard work but she had supporting words for you. By saying u just came back from factory & not ack her supporting words u prove her point, bcs I’m sure if u were rested u would reply better."
Of course, Musk's work is vital to the health and growth of our society for a myriad of reasons. He's a self-made billionaire who's revolutionizing the world in which we live. And to say he's done his job well on his evidently little sleep thus far would be an understatement.
He's not alone in adopting the attitude that there's time to sleep in the grave. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three adults don't get the recommended at least seven hours of sleep a night.
That said, sleep deprivation is a common factor behind a spectrum of issues, to which Huffington calls attention in her open letter. It's no secret that sleep deprivation can prevent one's immune system from functioning properly, which can lead to illnesses, and long-term sleep deprivation can, therefore, also increase one's risk for chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease.
In fact, according to a 2017 study by researchers at the Marche Polytechnic University in Italy, sleep deprivation can actually cause parts of the brain’s synapses to be “eaten” by other brain cells. Astrocytes — abundant glial cells in the brain that clean out worn-out cells and debris so electric impulses can be transferred smoothly between neurons — are more active when we’re deprived of sleep, so they break down more of the brain’s connections than necessary.
Whether or not readers agree with the execution or delivery of Huffington's advice, labeled both "unsolicited" and, following Musk's interview, also "warranted," we can all agree that no one wants Musk's brain to eat itself.
After all, then there'd be no late nights in the factory, terrestrials might never settle on Mars, we might have to start writing checks again, the human race might deplete the earth of all its resources and the world might just end.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.