A Surprising Key to Creativity: Sleep

Rest & Creativity

What does sleep have to do with creativity?

When I think back on my creative life, I can come up with about a zillion times that lack of sleep has accompanied my creative process. You’ve likely had this experience too.

You’re writing that piece with a deadline looming. It’s the night before a show and the program isn’t finished. You’re full of inspiration, immersed in a project and simply can’t sleep until it’s done!

In these moments, your adrenalin and the need or desire at hand come together to take you through to the other side.

The intensity can be thrilling.

But there’s another side to this story. You’re probably familiar with it too.

How many times have you done less than your best work because you were exhausted? How many times have you sat looking for inspiration and stared at a blank, blank, blank screen or page or canvas with dead-tired eyes? How many times have you ploughed through to completion and then found yourself sick as soon as you’re done?

Can getting enough sleep serve your art?

For the longest time, I refused to even entertain the possibility that sleep was important to my creativity! “Getting enough sleep is lame!” “Man, I must be getting old!”  “I don’t need sleep; I have enthusiasm!”

As long as sleep felt like a demand, a limitation, a “should,” I refused to attend to it – even if I ended up sick and exhausted.

And I often ended up sick and exhausted.

Eventually I just started to get (no pun intended) tired of it. I live in a city where the only two answers to “How are you?” seem to be “busy” and “tired.” After hearing it and saying it a zillion times I thought, “This is ridiculous!” For this one problem, unless you struggle with insomnia, there’s a simple solution: sleep.

Slowly I started to reframe my thinking. Two seemingly contradictory views were key.

One: Sleep is luxurious

Sometimes it just feels so good, so luxurious, so decadent to curl up in bed early and close my eyes. What a gift to have a comfy bed, a warm comforter and a cozy pillow – to simply be able to sleep. How delicious to snuggle in and let go of the day, letting my body get the rest she needs and deserves.

Two: Sleep is natural

I started to notice how often at the end of the day I would hear myself complaining about being tired. One day it struck me as completely weird to complain about something that is a daily part of life. It’s perfectly natural that at the end of the day we get tired and want to go to sleep. We’re designed that way. Instead of complaining, what if I just noticed?

When I was a little girl, I didn’t have a bed time. My mom just let me go to sleep when I was tired. It felt like freedom.

When you tend to your needs with compassion, you can show up to your creative life, whatever it looks like, energized, refreshed and ready to begin.

After years of coaching aspiring, emerging and established creatives, I know that we are our most valuable resource. By attending to your own needs, especially basic ones like sleeping, you are tending to the most valuable asset in your creativity bank: your self. Sleeping honours your self, your life and your creative work.

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