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Sleep and Creativity

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This relates to the common spiritual practice of praying, before bed, for the solution to a problem, or to the self-help practice of writing a question on a piece of paper and slipping that under your pillow before bed.

So what stops you from getting a good night's sleep? How do you sabotage your efforts? Over-work? Television? Internet surfing or gaming? Food, drink or other substances that make it difficult to sleep? Irregular sleep habits?

Here are the five things that work best for ME for getting a good night's sleep.

1. Turning off the computer and television one hour before I'd like to be asleep. This gives me time to wind down, quiet my thoughts and prepare myself for sleep.

2. Getting out of bed early on the weekends. This means I don't stay up too late or sleep in too long on the weekends. I try and keep my bedtime and wake-up times within about an hour of what I do during the week. Otherwise I spend half the week getting re-adjusted and life's too short!

3. Giving up caffeine. Even before I gave it up completely, I really had to limit my caffeine and "just say no" anytime after about 5:00 p.m. or else the caffeine affected my sleep that night.

4. Breathing techniques and other relaxation exercises. Just a few minutes of deep breathing can calm me and send me right off to sleep.

The simplest tips are to focus on breathing from the belly (diaphragmatic breathing) and to focus on long exhalations (exhalation is associated with the parasympathetic nervous system, responsible for relaxation).

5. Setting the scene with music. I use music both as I'm winding down and getting ready for bed, and as I'm going to sleep. I've experimented to find the music that best does the job for me; this is obviously a very individual choice.

I recommend either instrumental music or vocal music that is either without words or sung in a language you don't understand (so you're not mentally caught up in the words as you're trying to fall asleep). Wind instruments (I like the shakuhachi flute) are nice since the natural breaths and pauses that the musician takes can mirror your own deep, slow breathing.

Have you ever woken up in the morning (or in the middle of the night!) with the solution to a problem, a new idea for a song, or another creative spark? That sounds like the work of a good night's sleep!

This article was originally published on the Muses Muse Songwriter's Resource website (January 2005) www.musesmuse.com.

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Linda DessauLinda Dessau helps artists enhance their creativity by addressing their unique self-care issues. More »

3/14/05