Whether you're writing a book or a series of blog posts, there is one surprising activity you can do to strengthen your writing - improve your sleep.
When we're trying to think of ways to create more time in our businesses or daily lives, cutting sleep is often the first step.
But here’s a surprising fact: Skimping on shut-eye will not give you more time or help you write faster.
In fact, lack of proper sleep will only work against your creative ambitions – not to mention your abilities.
Sleep and Stress
For starters, it’s a well-proven fact that inadequate sleep can cause stress and anxiety, and minimise feelings of wellbeing – None of which are conducive to a good day’s writing.
We’ve all heard of those authors who work late into the wee hours, or get up at 4 am to churn out regular chapters of their ongoing oeuvre. But it doesn’t mean that kind of timetable should work for everyone or is even sustainable.
A study from the University of Pennsylvania revealed that even partial sleep deprivation can fuel feelings of sadness, anger and mental exhaustion.
Not only that, but not catching the recommended forty winks can blunt your focus and decision-making abilities, making it easier for you to step back from your laptop or decide that writing a book or blog was a bad idea in the first place.
Sleep and Creativity
Poor sleep habits also play havoc with your creativity. Again, science has shown that deep (REM) sleep, which involves heightened brain activity and vivid dreams, helps you make inspired connections and increases the capacity for creative problem solving.
In other words, being well-rested can make all the difference between figuring out how to segue into tricky topics on the page or staring numbly at a blank screen.
Strengthen the Creative Experience
And here’s the thing: Even if you can push through feelings of fatigue, irritability and inadequacy while pulling together the threads of your book or latest blog, why would you want to?
Writing is a wonderful creative experience and when you're in flow it can be so utterly satisfying in a way that many other activities you engage with on a regular basis are not.
Sure, it’s challenging, and some days will be better than others. But whatever it is you are writing, you're committing to contributing your voice and vision to the world. That’s pretty remarkable.
So, why would you hobble yourself throughout the process by being short of energy and then, by default, enthusiasm?
Instead, when creating a writing schedule, be equally determined about creating a sleep schedule. One that will help you write with a clear head and an invigorated will.
And if you’re not sure how to go about improving your sleep, some ways to start include:
- Making sure you get the recommended seven to nine hours of shut-eye nightly.
- Going to bed and waking up around the same time each night and morning (yep, even on the weekends.)
- Keeping your circadian rhythms in check by getting a good dose of daylight first thing in the morning and minimising your use of bright lights in the evening.
- Engaging in daily exercise. Even a 30-minute walk around the block each day is known to improve quality of sleep. However, be careful not to get a work-out in too late in the evening as that may perk you up instead of winding you down.
- Taking at least 30 minutes to kick back before bedtime.That means if you write in the evening, try and schedule in some relaxation between finishing writing for the day and hitting the sack.
If you're committed to writing regularly and you want to build up that skill, then you need to take care of yourself.
You need to get adequate rest and sleep to keep mentally and physically energised.
The bottom line, then, is this: strengthen your sleep routine and, for sure, you'll strengthen your writing.