Sleep Routines for Writers

I’ve had significant sleep problems for a while now, so how one gets good sleep has been on my mind. One common recommendation is to have a regular sleep routine, and today we’ll talk about some options that you can incorporate in your routine to enhance your writing, reading, and entertainment life as well as your sleep.

Reading

First off, let’s talk about reading. Many people read before bed to help them go to sleep, and if this strategy works for you, then it’s a great way to get more reading into your life. Some questions to consider if you want to explore this option are:

  • What type of reading enhances your sleep?
  • What length of time will you read for?
  • Can you stop yourself and actually go to bed?
  • Does reading before bed make you sleepy?

Some people can read only nonfiction before bed so they don’t get too involved, and some people read only fiction because nonfiction gets their brains moving more. And if you struggle to actually stop on time, then short stories and (short) poems might be good choices.

I find that reading in any given genre wakes my brain up and doesn’t enhance my sleep, assuming I don’t just stay up and read. So, much to my sadness, reading just isn’t part of my sleep routine.

TV and Movies

I wouldn’t advise you to try watching TV or a movie as part of your sleep routine because of concern that the light from the screens can disrupt your circadian rhythm.

However, I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t tried watching Netflix while getting ready for bed, and I know that some people swear by falling asleep to the TV, so I thought the topic merited a mention. While I haven’t noticed my sleep being affected by the light, watching a show does engage my brain in the same way reading a book does, so I’ve ruled this option out too.

If watching something before bed works for you, then I suppose you get the benefit of more storytelling in your life. However, I would proceed with caution and probably try sleeping with and without the screen time.

Podcasts

If you listen to a podcast before bed, you can get some more stories or other information into your day, plus you won’t have to look at a screen much to do it.

However, if you, like me, find that listening to podcasts just gives your brain more to chew on, then probably avoid them.

Basically, I’ve learned that I need to cut off my brain’s supply of information for optimal sleep.

Music

Depending on how you relate to music, it might wake you up instead of help you sleep. If you analyze music when you listen, then maybe avoid this input too. I also doubt that fast-paced music will help the average person calm down, but you do you.

Personally, I can often play soothing, fairly gentle music while getting ready for bed, but I still like to be careful about sensory input and avoid songs that get my brain whirring.

White Noise

White noise and repetitive background music is a go-to for me because it helps me meditate, so I often have it on when I try to fall asleep. (I use the timer feature on Insight Timer.) I find that the repetitions help me slow my breathing and fall sleep. And even if I can’t actually sleep, being in a meditative state helps my body rest. (The oft-given “get up and do something quiet if you can’t sleep after 20 minutes” advice does not currently help me at all.)

However, if you need silence to fall asleep, then of course don’t play white noise. You can always try both ways if you’re not sure what your preference is.

Plotting

As one of the lovely people of Twitter pointed out on one of my Wellness Wednesday posts, you can plot books and such while you do tasks like brushing your teeth to get a little more creativity in.

If this strategy works for both your writing and your sleep, then I’d say go for it. Just know I won’t be joining you because I like my sleep routine to gradually starve my brain of information and because I plan more efficiently on paper.

Writing

Finally, we come to another strategy that works for me: journaling. While journaling is a form of content creation and does require brain use, I find that getting my thoughts out on paper makes them real to me in a way thinking doesn’t. Journaling before bed helps me clarify my thoughts, get what happened that down out of my mind, and get some anxiety out of my brain. This exercise is kind of like morning pages, only at night (and definitely on actual paper because screens).

If you’re not into journaling, then you could try doing your other creative writing. Making your writing part of your sleep routine could help you make time for it, and if working toward your goals and making time for your own interests gives you peace of mind, then maybe writing will help your sleep too.

Just watch out for artificial light from laptop screens, counterproductive alertness, and the temptation to never go to bed.

Do you integrate your word goals and your sleep routine? If so, how?

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