Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sleep, Health & Creativity

A relaxing cup of tea. A hot bath or shower. Spa-style music, unencumbered by words and voices. A book on my Ipad that I'll read until I can't keep my eyes open anymore.

Those are a few of the nightly rituals that send me on my way to a night of fitful, restful sleep. On lazy days when we don't go anywhere and we don't have guests, lounging out at home, I've also become a fan of the afternoon siesta.

I didn't always feel that way about sleep. Years ago, early in my writing career, someone told me and a group of other writers that "Sleep is overrated." The idea being, of course, that sleep takes time away from writing, writing, writing. For years I subscribed to that view--not always, because I've always worked a full-time job, besides being a wife and mother. Still, many nights I'd go to bed at 1, 2, and even 3 AM or later. I'd get up at 7 and function on only 4 or 5 hours of sleep.

It's not often that I do that anymore.

Maybe what you did at 35 or even 40 isn't as easily done when you're over 50. Really, it has more to do with the fact that, over the years, I've found that physical rest does more for health and creativity than insanely pushing yourself each and every weekend. According to studies, getting enough sleep at night also works together with exercise and healthy eating for losing and maintaining weight.

Getting enough sleep at night:

* Makes you alert enough to approach your WIP. There's nothing more miserable than trying to force yourself to work when you're either too tired or not feeling well. Maybe some writers report they work well under those circumstances, but it's not typically the time I've done my best work. Your energy also won't be tapped out earlier than usual, so maybe you can go an extra hour or two to write before going to bed. An extra hour or two...not the entire night.

* Gives you enough energy the next day to work out. Whether you walk, go to the gym, do yoga or ride your at-home exercise back, your workout has overall benefits that include clearing your head and relieving stress. In turn, that translates to an easier flow of creativity. Ever try to workout when you've had only 3 or 4 hours of sleep?

* Writing, writing, writing at a breakneck pace, and at the cost of your own health, doesn't guarantee your best work. It probably guarantees a LOT of work, but not necessarily your best. Can we take good care of ourselves and still give our best to our writing?

* There's a definite correlation between getting enough sleep and stress relief. As someone who has suffered with stress and anxiety, I have noticed the difference that getting enough sleep makes for relieving stress. With stress, like clutter, out of the way, creativity flows more smoothly.

So now, years later, I would have to disagree.

Sleep is not overrated.

So put on the chamomile tea. Listen to Sounds of the Ocean. Lie down on clean and crisp sheets and blankets, especially now that it's autumn and the weather is cooler, perfect for sleep, and pretend you're floating on the clouds, right into a deep and wonderful sleep.

In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, oh LORD, will keep me safe. - Psalm 4:8

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