There's so much evidence lately that lack of sleep is bad for our physical and mental health. Performance in everything we need to do can be affected, largely because of less efficient concentration and coordination. For this post, I am wearing my psychologist's hat.
A glance at tweets first thing in the morning throws up a number of problems with sleep - can't drop off, waking in the night, tired in the morning. Waking in the night may be due to outside disturbance, e.g. from young children, neighbours, snoring partners, all of which are hopefully transient. Tired in the morning may be due to disturbed sleep, but also to ...
Difficulty Getting to Sleep
People whose work depends on thinking skills may have particular problems with this. My theory about writers is that their creative minds just keep on, well, creating. Their work output is dependent mainly on creative thinking, and Twitter timings show that they may be planning, writing or editing at any time of the day or even night. Simply trying to switch off the buzzing brain will not work.
One good way round this is to change tack and concentrate instead on unimportant, mundane things which will allow the brain to wind down slowly. Another is to visualise taking concerns out of your brain and into a safe place where they can await your attention. Here is one of my own devised methods for each approach.
This involves visualisation and simple addition. Think of the supermarket you visit most often. Then imagine collecting a trolley outside, and walking up and down the aisles in your usual order. As you go, pick up any items you like or tend to buy, and place them in the trolley. Estimate their price in multiples of 50p, e.g. cauliflower £1, bananas £1, baguette 50p, Toblerone (my favourite) £2.50p, and so on. Keep a running total as you go (£5.50 so far, zzzzz).
When I've used this, I have never got as far as the checkout before falling asleep. However, it only works if your brain is already whirring.
Pile Them Up
This works well if you have multiple writing-related to-do things on your mind, especially decisions to make about various writing matters. It is less rousing than switching on the light and writing notes. The issues could be sourcing or researching, character name/trait, resolving a plot problem, when to submit, what to enter for a comp, how to phrase the next blogpost even. But it also works for other nagging matters such as choosing someone's gift by next Wednesday, whether to buy an omega 3 & 6 supplement, or which book to start reading next. Here goes:
Imagine a large room, lavishly decorated (for some reason this helps me) but otherwise completely bare. Smooth, antique oak floorboards. You enter the room, carrying all these to-do things as objects in your arms. Take the first, most pressing item, think about it briefly, and then carefully place it on the floor. Walk away slowly, and do the same with each item you are carrying. This should be mentally relaxing, and - oddly - the dumped items seem to be readily accessible in the morning.
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Well I hope one or other of these methods might be of use when you feel tired but can't stop the words and issues buzzing in your brain. I'd love it if anyone would comment, and maybe let me know if either of them helped.