This post was published originally in 2016. I’ve updated and revised for today’s posting.
How many hours of sleep do you typically get in one night? How much do you think you need to be at your best creatively?
Medical experts say most adults require at least seven to eight hours of sleep every night to function properly. Getting only five or six hours of quality sleep can affect us adversely. The National Sleep Foundation cites several ways that sleep — or the lack thereof — affects us:
* When you lose sleep, it’s harder to focus and pay attention to details, which can affect things like school projects and job productivity. You are more prone to making mistakes.
* Sleep slows reaction time, which can impact activities like driving and sports.
* Sleep feeds creativity, synthesizes new ideas, helps you solve problems and enhances innovative thinking.
* Sleep reactivates memories and strengthens connections between brain cells. Your brain simply works more efficiently.
According to the foundation, researchers suggest that sleeping shortly after learning new information will help you retain and recall that information later.
Lack of sleep can affect you in other ways. Emotionally, you may feel easily irritated and impatient which can put a strain on relationships. Physically, lack of sleep can affect your mood, cause weight gain, high blood pressure and other ailments.
We all lead busy lives, and as we take on more responsibilities, unfortunately, sleep becomes less of a priority. How can you possibly think clearly, make critical decisions, remain calm under pressure and perform at your best without adequate sleep? The truth is, you don’t realize how valuable sleep is until you begin to lose it.
If your performance on the job can improve with better quality sleep, it makes sense that it can also sharpen your creativity. If a lack of sleep is preventing you from producing your best creative work, here are a few tips to help you when sleep eludes you:
1. Keep a notebook by your bed. If your brain is racing with ideas or overthinking a problem, grab a notebook and pen and start writing them all down. Getting these ideas down on paper before sleep helps declutter your brain so you can sleep better.
2. Turn off all electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bed time. The lighting from your smart phone, TV and laptop can interfere with the chemicals in the brain that regulate sleep. Avoid watching TV or listening to music before bed time. (I find that this actually works.) It’s important to quiet the mind before sleep.
3. Give yourself 20 minutes to fall asleep. If after 20 minutes you can’t fall asleep, get up and read until you feel sleepy. Then try again.
4. Read before hitting the sack. This may seem counter-intuitive if you’re reading an engrossing page-turner, but reading for a few minutes each night before bedtime can also help you relax. Try reading something dull and boring, like a textbook.
5. Take a warm shower or bath. The warm water eases muscle tension and helps you relax.
6. Drink a glass of warm milk before heading off to bed. If you drink cow’s milk, try warming a mug of almond or cashew milk. You can also try chamomile tea, but it might make you go to the bathroom more often during the night, which only disrupts your sleep more. Wine and other alcoholic beverages might help you get to sleep, but you may have difficulty staying asleep.
7. Avoid sleeping pills. Some can be addictive, while others are ineffective. Other products on the market, like melatonin and Nyquil Zzzzs have had mixed results.
8. Go to bed at the same time every night. It’s important, experts say, to maintain a nighttime routine, regardless of how well you sleep. The better the routine, the better your chances are of having a regular sleep schedule.
Whether you are an artist, writer or business owner, you want to be at your creative and productive best. Getting a decent night’s sleep is the most valuable commodity you’ll ever need.