One lesson I have to learn, over and over, is that without adequate rest, my whole house of cards come fluttering down. I had to learn this in law school, which was a working full time/in class five nights a week, four year marathon, and I’ve had to learn it several times since.
Now, we’re finding that sleep is when we get rid of those nasty amyloid plaques that are associated with Alzheimer’s. Sleep is when we shuffle information from short to long term memory. In sleep, we integrate complicated information with what we already know. The brain also uses sleep time to decide what information can be forgotten, allowing us to better grab onto important stuff.
I’m still not as skilled at resting as I’d like to be. I tend to have several book projects going at once. If I run out of juice on one, I can switch to another. If I run out of juice on all of them, I have website projects I can work on. Busy, busy, busy… and if all else fails, I can get on that infernal, perishing, blighted, benighted, rubbishing tread desk, and at least walk while I play solitaire.
In the back of my mind though, I wonder at this-near compulsion to be productive. Some of it comes from financial anxiety, some from a mind hitched to a restless imagination, but some of my hamster-wheeling is just an old bad habit.
I want to live a long, healthy, productive life, so I’m making an effort to protect my rest and get the hamsters under control. A few steps I’m taking:
I use the f.lux program to cut the blue light from the computer screen at sunset, so my brain starts getting ready to sleep.
I turn off all devices an hour before beddy-bye, and read a print book to signal that lights out is approaching.
I don’t use my phone for ANYTHING after lights out except to check the time, and if I must do that, I hold the phone as far from my eye-winkers as possible (at least fourteen inches, to keep the blue light input down).
I try not to set an alarm in the morning, if I can get away with that.
My friends and family know that short of a dire emergency, no texts or phone calls after 9 pm MY TIME.
During the day, I get up and get out of the writing chair regularly, whether to hit the tread desk, work in the garden, or meet a writin’ buddy for lunch. Sleep is only one kind of rest, after all.
Rest is too important to neglect. Without it, I’ll have no health, no imagination, no progress on my projects, and yet, few of us–women especially–are encouraged to make rest a priority. This is me, encouraging you: Make rest –all kinds of rest– a priority. You’ll be happier, less anxious, healthier, and ultimately more productive.
Are you getting enough rest? How do you recharge? To one commenter, I’ll send signed copy of A Duke and His Duchess, a story about two very tired young parents.