The Problem With Rihanna’s Advice to Her Younger Self

She says she should have prioritized sleep in her youth, but what about now?

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Thursday night, E! News asked Rihanna to share a piece of advice she’d give her younger self. She summed up her answer in a single word: sleep. She laughs while explaining, “Because you’re not gonna get to [sleep] in your twenties or your thirties, the way my thirties are starting out.”

Her advice, though candid and well-intentioned, could have an adverse effect on the young people who look up to her. By saying that she doesn’t sleep much (and hasn’t for the last decade), Rihanna may inadvertently contribute to the false notion that sleep is not vital to a person’s success.

The “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” proverb is ubiquitous in the conversations around success, despite the overwhelming science that proves it to be outdated and incorrect. A 2012 YouTube video named “Best Motivational Speech Ever: Secrets to Success, How Bad Do You Want It?” has over 3.5 million views, and features a ROTC coach telling his audience that if they want to sleep, they don’t want their success bad enough.

So when a person of Rihanna’s seismic influence admits that she doesn’t sleep because she’s so busy, it only perpetuates the old stereotype. People who aspire to accumulate even a fraction of Rihanna’s success may take her words as an endorsement of a sleepless lifestyle.

In response to Elon Musk’s interview with the Times in which he said he’s been working 120-hour weeks at the expense of sleep, Arianna Huffington wrote in an open letter, “There’s no way you can connect with your amazing vision and creativity when you don’t give yourself time to reconnect not just with those you love but also with yourself and your wisdom.” She urges Musk to take care of himself so that the world can benefit from his revolutionary vision, and her sage advice is relevant to Rihanna, as well. While Rihanna isn’t suffering from Musk-like extremes, we hope that she will be able to prioritize her rest in the near future. 

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