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Becoming a Better Artist #1004: Get Some Rest
“Hey J, I stayed up all night last week waiting for your next tip on Becoming a Better Artist, and you never posted it. How come?”
I know, I know, I apologise. Tip #1003 spoke about consistency; FIND THE TIME, MAKE AN EFFORT, and DO IT AGAIN, I said. And then – bammo! I break it.
So sorry. But actually, not sorry! Because more importantly than anything, it is important to GET SOME REST! There are many ways you can rest but in this post, I am going to focus on sleep.
And a couple of weeks back when I started this post, that is what I did. I went to bed. I caught some good old fashioned shut-eye.
It was around 11pm that night, I sat down with the laptop to write this post as I wanted to get it out the next day. A self-imposed deadline. If I had hit the deadline, what would I have changed? Probably not much. The world would have continued spinning on its axis. And if I missed the deadline, then the world would also have continued spinning on its axis.
However, the primary difference would have been I would have had less sleep and probably spent the next day a little grumpier and a little slumpier.
Don’t get me wrong, project planning and deadlines are important, and in some workplaces, deadlines can be the difference between life and death, and on other occasions, the success of a project can rely on hitting a deadline.
With any project, my intention is to hit targets and to demonstrate to clients and colleagues that I am reliable. But sometimes, the deadlines imposed on us and the deadlines we self-impose can be unrealistic. And this can create stress. On top of that, you can end up pushing yourself, working late, eating junk to keep yourself going, and overall, feeding your body and mind with the exact opposite of what it craves, which is SLEEP.
Now I’d be a hypocrite to say I get 8hrs sleep a night on a regular basis. On average, I probably get 5 nights a week of around 6 to 7hrs sleep, and 2 nights a week of around 5 to 6hrs sleep. And on some occasions (maybe once every 2 weeks), when I really get carried away and into the flow of things, I maybe get 4hrs of sleep. So overall, not enough for sure (but I’m working on it).
And why do I want to get more sleep? Why do I want to rest more?
There are many reasons why it is important to rest and I’m still learning about the benefits of sleep. Below are some of the findings of which many come from the following book, which I highly recommend:
I’ve also cross referenced the data in the book with other sources, as with everything in life, it is always a good idea to find multiple studies on a subject.
So, here are some of my takeaways from the book and from studying additional resources (which I’ve added throughout the doc).
Learning and Creativity
So this was a big one for me: sleep helps you learn and be more creative.
Here is an extract from Matthew Walker from the above video on the topic:
“First, you need sleep before learning, to actually get your brain ready to initially soak up new information…
But you also then need to sleep after learning to take those freshly-minted memories in the brain, particularly in a region we call the hippocampus, which you could think of almost like the informational inbox of your brain, but it’s very good at receiving those sort of new memory files. But you need sleep after learning to take those new memories and then essentially hit the save button on them so you don’t forget those informational pieces of the puzzle.
So sleep before learning to get your brain ready, to acquire new information. Sleep after learning to hold on to those individual facts.”
It is during NREM (Non Rapid Eye Movement) sleep that connections are created. However, the hippocampus can only store the memories for so long, and it is again during sleep, that the files are transferred to the long term memory site, the cortex. As Matthew Walker states, this is like the “hard drive”; a permanent storage bank.
So by keeping your hippocampus well looked after (via sleep), you’ll be able to learn more, and getting some shut eye after learning will help you maintain the information learned. How cool is that!
Sleep Deprivation and Concentration
Sleep deprivation affects how you commit new information to memory. It’s like the new information bounces off the hippocampus when deprived of sleep, so it is both difficult to take in new information and then transfer that info to your long-term memory.
Sleep deprivation also reduces your ability to concentrate. I used to drive in and out of work, and on most occasions, it was a 3hr round trip. However, sometimes, it was a 6hr round trip. On many journeys I was fine, but on some, looking back now, I should not have been behind the wheel. In the US, fatigue-related drowsy-driving causes one death every hour. I’d rather not get caught up in those statistics. I remember one occasion where I had to be on set and the night before, I had the worst sleep (if any) ever and woke up feeling like junk. On that day, I just called in and said I won’t be coming in. I’ve got a family, so for me, what was more important was very simple.
And how did the shoot go? It was all fine. The team was good to go. They had been well-trained. We did not have a bottleneck where without this one person, the whole thing would fall apart.
And nowadays, if I do feel a little tired, I’ll use public transport. Yes, it does take longer, but not only will I be able to get some extra sleep on the journey if I need it, but it is also better for the environment. Win win.
Not only does sleep deprivation affect your concentration, it has a pretty devastating effect on the mind and the body and is linked to Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety, depression, suicide, cancer, diabetes, heart attacks, weight gain, and so on. It’s pretty damning how a lack of sleep can affect so much of your being.
We could look at other benefits of sleep such as how it can improve your blood-pressure, restore hormonal balance and so on. But once again, I will point you to the work of Matthew Walker as he is the expert in this field, so please do check out his book.
To conclude, I’ll leave you with the wise words of William Shakespeare, extracted from Henry VI, Part II:
‘O sleep, O gentle sleep, Nature’s soft nurse.
Until next time, night night 😉
- Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker – Matthew Walker is a professor of neuroscience and psychology at UC Berkeley, the Director of its Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab, and a former professor of psychiatry at Harvard University.
- The Body – Illustrated: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson – If you’ve ever wondered what really goes on inside your head, heart and beyond, Bill Bryson will help you understand the miracle of our physical and neurological make up.
- What is NREM Sleep? A breakdown of the different stages of sleep.
- Why REM Sleep Is a Key Factor of Brain Creativity – The purpose of dreaming according to four experiments.
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