Let’s get one thing out of the way straight away: sleep hygiene doesn’t mean having a shower before bed!
It also doesn’t mean making sure the pillow cover is washed once a week. While it certainly can involve those two activities, true sleep hygiene isn’t really concerned with “cleanliness” at all.
No, sleep hygiene refers more to a set of practices that impact and influence your ability to get good-quality sleep.
Why is quality sleep important to a writer? Well, it can make you more productive and boost your creativity!
Let’s look at 3 ways good sleep can help you as a writer—and how you can get better sleep starting tonight!
1. Sleep Improves Your Concentration
Why is it that some days a hurricane can be blowing the house down around us but we don’t even notice—yet other days we get driven insane by the ticking of a clock two floors above us?
Sleep, or lack thereof, could be the answer.
Studies have shown that well-rested and sleep-deprived individuals are both just as effective at undertaking most given tasks—that is, until they are distracted from the task.
Let’s say the phone rings, or the cat knocks over a cup. The sleep-deprived individual will struggle—if not find it completely impossible—to regain focus, whereas the well-rested individual can often get straight back to work.
So, if you are struggling to focus on the page today, it could be time for a quick and rejuvenating afternoon siesta.
2. Sleep Improves Your Creativity
Yesterday the words were flowing through you like you were the reincarnated spirit of Bill Shakespeare himself. Yet today, you can’t even find enough inspiration to fill a single tweet.
Why? Well, once again the answer could be sleep.
Modern science, in the form of fMRIs and high-density EEGs, has finally allowed the boffins in white coats the opportunity to see what our minds are up to while we sleep. And with this improved sight comes a new insight into the processes at play behind one of humankind’s most intangible qualities: creativity.
What they discovered is that not only does good-quality sleep improve our ability to form patterns and make connections—in essence, to be more creative—during our waking hours, we are actually also quite creative while we sleep.
When we sleep, our brains are far from shut down. In fact, freed from the need to keep us from getting hit by cars and the like, our sleeping brains continue to work on problems from the day past, often coming up with innovative and creative solutions for us to wake up to that a full day of head-scratching got nowhere near solving.
3. Sleep Makes Us More Accurate and Effective
The well-rested make fewer mistakes than their tired counterparts. They can work quicker. And they are a damn sight better at making good decisions. In fact, sleep deprivation has been repeatedly shown to adversely affect just about every facet of cognitive performance.
So, even if your literary heroes like Hunter S. Thompson and Chuck Palahniuk were able to burn the candle at both ends and still create masterpieces, they are pretty much the exceptions that prove the rule.
The next time someone tells you to “sleep on it,” listen to their advice—there is scientific wisdom in their words. Whatever the issue at hand—whether it is hitting your daily word target, finishing those revisions, or coming up with a believable name for the heroine of your story—chances are that you’ll come up with a far more creative solution in the morning.
How to Get Better Sleep
Now that you’ve read about why you should be getting more shuteye—and more quality shuteye, at that—you may be wondering exactly how you go about it.
Well, getting better quality rest is all about taking sleep more seriously. It can take a little while to work out exactly what things are preventing you from getting great sleep and what things help, but it’s worth taking the time and effort to do so.
To help you along, here are my three top tips to improve your sleep hygiene…
1. Get into a Sleep Routine
A sleep routine is a set regular of actions you do every night in the 30 minutes or hour before bed. By having a regular pattern that you do every single night, without fail, you will train your brain to know when it should be slowing down and getting ready for sleep.
2. Remove Distractions
Bedrooms should be treated like a zen sleep sanctuary. Your bed certainly shouldn’t be treated like an office or a home cinema. Ban screens, whatever shape they take, from your bed and you will be amazed at the impact it has on your sleep.
3. Block Out the Light
When it comes to sleep, light is your enemy. Daylight—or any kind of light, for that matter—keeps your mind alert and awake. This is especially true of blue-tinged light—the exact kind that comes from a tablet or phone.
It therefore stands to reason your bedroom should be as dark as possible. Invest in an eyemask or some blackout curtains. Better still, swap out all the bulbs in your home for low-watt bulbs or install dimmer switches. When the sun sets outside, dim the light inside. And turn off that phone at least an hour before bed!
There you have it: three ways sleep is great for a writer’s productivity and creativity, and three quick hints to help you drift off more effectively tonight.
For more great productivity tips, read on!
- Increase Your Word Count with Ambient Noise: 5 Tools to Get More Done with Sound
- Hydrate More to Write—and Think—Better
- 9 Calendar Hacks to Maximize Your Productivity