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Why Creatives Need Sleep Time to Thrive
Kevin Whipps March 31, 2021 · 5 min read
The Benefits of Getting Enough SleepThe cynical guy would respond to that headline with, “To feel more rested,” but that’s not the only thing to think about. If you’re a creative person — designer, artist, writer, etc. — then you need sleep to perform. Don’t believe me?
You’ll Be More CreativeThere have been numerous studies that correlate sleep and creativity. As it turns out, if you go without sleep, your creativity is impaired, and you won’t be able to perform as well. Plus, going to sleep is like resetting your mind, which can solve problems for you by showing you alternative methods.
Sleep Can Spur Creative ThoughtsAlthough naps are great, it turns out that some people perform creative tasks better in the morning because of their sleep patterns. Since you go through a deep period of REM sleep just before you wake up, it can clear out the other random thoughts running throughout your head, freeing you up to do your creative tasks. Plus, that’s when you’re often dreaming, which can give you ideas as well. Famously, Paul McCartney claimed that **the tune for “Yesterday” came to him in a dream.
You’re in Good CompanyIn the book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey, he has a chart that shows the sleeping habits of famous geniuses. If you look closely (it helps to zoom in), you’ll see that many of them at least 7 hours of sleep in there, as opposed to the 4-5 you’re likely getting.
How to Get Enough SleepAlright, you get it: you need more sleep. But how do you do that when you’re doomed to long work days and late deadlines? Fortunately, we have the Mayo Clinic to answer some of those questions.
Schedule It OutMy dad once told me that if he had 8 hours to get a project done that should take 2 hours to complete, he’d somehow find a way for it to take 8 hours. Sounds silly, but it turns out that’s a thing, and you may suffer from it as well. Instead, schedule out your sleep. How does that help? It limits the time you’re able to procrastinate, because if you have a “hard out” at a specific time, you simply can’t work anymore. Just stay true to the schedule, and you’ll be OK. Oh, and make sure to schedule about 8 hours per night — 7 may be optimal.
Limit Caffeine, Fluids, and FoodFun fact: I have the bladder of a toddler. If I have caffeine after 6pm, I’m going to be up all night going to the bathroom, and the same goes for too much water or other beverages. Waking up a lot to go to the bathroom means you’re constantly dipping in and out of REM sleep, and that’s no bueno. Same goes for food, particularly if you’re prone to indigestion, which can also make you restless.
Make the Environment Ideal for SleepIn the summers, we get sunlight around 5am in my part of the U.S., and if we didn’t have blackout shades in our bedroom, I’d be up with the roosters. I’ve also found that if my mattress is junk or my pillow lumpy, I won’t get a good night’s sleep. Makes sense, right? Make your bedroom environment ideal for sleep — and only sleep — by removing distractions, including anything with LED status lights that could keep you going. If necessary, use ear plugs to block out sound and sleep masks to block out the light. Whatever it takes.
Learn How to SleepYou’d think that this would be fairly obvious, but not everyone can get to sleep easily. There are a few different options you can try, but my favorite is the 4-7-8 method. The gist is to put the tip of your tongue behind your front teeth, then inhale through your nose for four seconds, hold your breath for seven and exhale through your mouth for eight seconds. It’s amazing how it relaxes your body, and if you keep doing it long enough, you’ll fall asleep. View it here:
Experiment with Different MethodsIf you work from home and don’t have to keep a set schedule, you’ve got a ton of options. One that I’ve tried before is a bi-modal sleeping pattern, where you essentially sleep twice a day, just for different lengths of time. In my case, I would take a nap in the middle of the day, and then go to bed later so that I could wake up at 6am with the family. I’ve also tried the opposite, where I wake up at 4am to get a head start on the day, then nap later. It’s similar to writer Kelly Sue DeConnick’s 3am wake up time, and she gets a ton done, so maybe it will work for you.
The important takeaway from all of this is that you need sleep. I know it’s easy to push off because everything is more important, but sleep needs to take priority. Seriously, it’s your health that’s at risk, so take care of yourself.
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