For you to be a truly productive writer, your body must feel good and your brain must be in top form. An important component for both is getting enough sleep at night.
How do you know if you are not getting enough sleep? Simple: how do you feel during the course of the day? If you feel sleepy, you are not getting enough sleep.
Another sign of lack of sleep is inefficiency in your daily tasks, including your freelance writing.
How much sleep should you get? This varies by individual, but most people need 7-8 hours of quality sleep every night. Some folks feel great on only 6 hours, while others may need 9 hours.
Scientists have conducted extensive research on sleep, including the consequences of insufficient sleep and what we need to do to get enough high-quality sleep.
The 8 Consequences of Insufficient Sleep for Your Life and Your Writing
Here’s a list of the 8 negative consequences of insufficient sleep:
- Decreased memory function
- Decreased quality of life
- Decreased happiness
- Depressed immune system and increased illness
- Increased irritability
- Increased probability of accidents, including auto accidents
- Increased probability of diabetes, obesity, depression
- Decreased life span
Of course, all of these will lead to less productivity in your writing, especially that last one.
How to Ensure You Get Enough Quality Sleep
The nature of your bedroom is very important. Here are 5 tips for creating an ideal sleep environment:
- A dark bedroom, with thick curtains blocking the windows so bright morning sun won’t wake you too early.
- A quiet bedroom. If you live in a noisy area, use white noise such as a fan or a machine that continuously plays the sound of a waterfall or rain or something else that sooths you.
- The bedroom should be used only for sleep and sex. No television, no computer, and no arguing.
- Your bed must be very comfortable and large enough to easily accommodate you and anyone else who sleeps with you.
- Unless you have the perfect dog or cat that conks out for the entire night, have your pet sleep elsewhere. A dog that shifts position several times during the night and wakes you up will significantly interfere with your sleep, as will a cat that decides to sleep on your chest—or your face. When I still had my golden retriever Molly (she passed away in 2010), she slept in the living room, and I put up a baby gate to keep her from coming down the hall to my bedroom.
And here are 6 more tips for quality sleep:
- Maintain regular sleep cycles. This means going to bed and getting up at roughly the same time every day, including weekends. Your body has its own natural circadian rhythms that regulate hormone levels and many other aspects of your health, so you want to keep these rhythms regular.
- Eat dinner at least 2 hours before you go to bed; 3 or more hours is better.
- No reading or television dealing with violence or themes that will stir up intense emotions for at least an hour before bed.
- Wake without an alarm clock whenever possible. This allows you to wake when your body wants to, when it’s fully rested. I set an alarm for the latest time I want to wake up, but I almost always wake up naturally before it goes off.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol in the evening. Both prevent you from sleeping deeply through the night. If you are very sensitive to caffeine, you may need to end all intake after lunch.
- Exercise regularly; however, don’t do any strenuous exercise within 2 to 3 hours of going to bed.
I personally sleep about 7 hours a night. In summer I go to bed around 10:30 and wake up around 5:30. In winter I go to sleep around 9:30 and get up around 4:30. I do this so I can get several hours of work done by lunchtime; I then spend time outside in the daylight, which is important for my mental and physical health.
You May Need to Deal with More Serious Underlying Causes
Some people have physical or emotional issues that interfere with sleep. Here are some examples:
- Sleep apnea
- Frequent urination
- Hot flashes
- Arthritis pain
- Leg cramps
- A wide range of psychological issues
Consult a qualified and licensed professional to treat these.
The Power Nap, a Writer’s Savior
Several days a week I take a short nap after lunch. It’s a natural part of circadian rhythms to have a sleepy period in early afternoon. I honor this by setting an alarm for a 20-minute snooze. Most of the time I do drop into sleep, and even if I don’t, I still relax my body and brain.
Do you get enough quality sleep every night? If not, why – and what will you do about it? Any other tips to share with us?