Sleep Your Way to a More Creative Life

The phrase “let’s sleep on it” might actually have significance – other than helping you end a long meeting.

Neuroscientists believe that while you’re sleeping, you continue to work through ideas that were planted in your mind when you were awake. So essentially, you can keep creating cool stuff while your body gets its beauty rest. Ahh. I love the sound of that.

There’s a particular type of sleep that’s most beneficial for our creativity, too. According to this study, REM sleep helps the brain connect unrelated ideas, which in turn helps our creative problem-solving.

Fun facts about REM sleep:

  • What does it do? This type of sleep increases brain activity, promotes learning, and creates dreams.
  • When does it happen? It takes place after you’ve been sleeping for around 90 minutes.
  • How long does it last? The first cycle lasts about 10 minutes, and the length of each cycle increases with time. It can last up to a full hour in the phase right before you wake up. Basically, the longer you can sleep, the more REM you’ll get!
  • How does it affect us? According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a study depriving rats of REM sleep significantly shortened their life span, from two or three years to five weeks. (Yikes! So a deep sleep might even help you live longer?)

During the REM phase, when you’re in a dream state, your brain is busy making sense of your thoughts, memories and experiences. And these connections often prove inspirational. Steve Jobs was noted for saying, “creativity is just connecting things.” And we can definitely do this in our sleep.

In order to capitalize on your dreams, keep a notebook by your bed. As soon as you wake up, write down any thoughts that come to mind – even if they seem nonsensical at the time. They will be ideas worth mining!

In addition to dreaming, it’s important to get a regular amount of sleep each night. By establishing how much sleep you need (for me it’s 8 hrs) and sticking to a routine, you’ll create a rhythm for your body. A rhythm that will help you think more clearly, aid your memory and make creativity flow more freely the next day.

Author Stephen King King believes a regular sleep pattern encourages our wakeful minds to unlock the similarly creative imaginations we access in our sleep. He said, “as your mind and body grow accustomed to a certain amount of sleep each night, you can train your waking mind to sleep creatively, and work out vividly imagined waking dreams, which are successful works of fiction.”

Whoa. Coming from a master of mysterious, bone-chilling novels, I’d say he’s on to something. That dude has quite an imagination.

So as you begin to work on your next creative project, seriously consider “sleeping on it!” And then take notes the next day.

Before you lull into a creative slumber, though, I’ll leave you with some of my favorite quotes about sleeping. >>

XoXo,

-Kate

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How to Start the Perfect Bedtime Ritual

You know the saying “laughter is the best medicine”? Sleep might be a close second, if not a tie for first.

After a good night’s sleep I feel like a new person. I’m more alert, creative, and able to take on challenges. It’s such a magical thing, yet I’ve read that Americans are more sleep deprived than ever. Our tired bodies and minds need to rest – and heal.

There’s no time like the present (which also happens to be National Sleep Awareness Week) to look at our sleep habits.

Improving our sleep starts with our bedtime ritual.

I created a little acronym to help us…START >>

{S} Soften the landing

This lovely bedding is from Crane & Canopy. #affiliate

First and foremost, your bed should be the center of attention. Make it as cozy and welcoming as possible so when you enter your bedroom, all you want to do is kick off your shoes and sink down in its soft embrace.

Here are a few ways to make your bed more special:

  • Splurge on your bedding. We {should be} spending at least 8 hours a day here, so it’s worth the investment. Pick out the most beautiful pattern with the softest thread and treat yo’ self.
  • Layer on the softest blankets and pillows so it’s like a cozy nest every time you land.
  • Make the bed every morning so at night it feels like you’re entering a new space.
  • Freshen up your sheets by washing them at least every two weeks. Once a week is ideal.

{T} Take care of your body

Right before bed is the perfect time to check in with yourself. You’re already brushing your teeth and washing your face. What else needs attention? If your muscles are tight, maybe do some gentle stretches. Here are some yoga poses that are wonderful before bed.

If your mind won’t settle, try relaxing in a hot bath with epsom salts. The magnesium in the salts will help lull you to sleep – among plenty of other great benefits. Pair that with a cup of almond milk or camomile tea, and you’ll sleep like a champ.

{A} Adjust the air

The best way to appreciate a warm, cozy bed is to set a cool temperature. In fact, the suggested bedroom temperature is between 60 and 67 degrees to get the best sleep.

Another thing I like to do is make my room smell nice. (You know me and my thing with smells.) I spritz my pillows with fresh lavender water right before bed. The fragrance is so relaxing, and the recipe is super easy. >

  • 2 cups distilled water
  • 1/4 cup Vodka
  • 10 drops of lavender oil
  • Mix all of the ingredients together. Pour into a spray bottle (or two). Store in the refrigerator.

{R} Remove distractions

Your room should be a quiet, calm space that you can retreat to when needed. Clear off your night stand, add fresh flowers to make it pretty, and (…here’s the tough one) put your phone away at least an hour before bed.

This is non-negotiable, though, if you want a more restful night. Research shows spending time with smartphones late at night is contributing to a national epidemic of undersleep. Yikes.

Ideally, we’d leave them in the next room so we’re not tempted to answer texts, emails or Facebook notifications. Since I use my phone as an alarm, I keep it next to the bed – but with the ringer off. It’s still hard to ignore sometimes. #workinprogress

{T} Thank the day

Taking a moment to feel grateful at the end of the day has been a game changer for me. Instead of focusing on what went wrong and playing conversations over and over in my mind like a bad song on replay, I try to shift my focus to what went right.

What did I love about my day? Even if it was a crapper, what redeeming qualities can I dig up? Did I get to hug my kids? Did my dinner taste delicious? Does my bed feel good?

Making a commitment to writing these things down in a journal or on a piece of paper that goes in a gratitude jar can literally change our lives for the better.

That’s a START, anyway. I’d love to know what other bedtime rituals you have.

Until next time, I’m wishing you sweet dreams.

Kate

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