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Why Creative People are Sleep-Deprived—and What to Do About It

by Barbara Brabec

PICTURE THIS: It's 3 a.m. and I've been awake for two hours. After going to bed at 11:30 thinking about all the things I had to do the next day, I woke up at 1 a.m. to go to the bathroom and my overactive brain immediately turned to my mental list of things to do. I went back to bed, of course, but I knew it was hopeless.

I finally got up at 3 a.m. and began to empty my brain on paper, something I've been doing for years when I can't sleep. Sometimes after doing this I can go back to sleep; other times, like this particular morning, I only get myself more excited by what I've put on paper and end up losing the whole night. I finally got up at 6 a.m., made some coffee and went to work while my husband snored on, oblivious to my restless night.

Creative-thinking people often suffer from insomnia caused by an overactive mind that just won't shut down at night. But many also lose sleep simply because they work too many hours a week. Theoretically, "normal" people work eight hours a day, have eight hours of leisure time, and sleep the other eight, but it doesn't work that way in the home business community where 60 to 80-hour work weeks are common. When you add time normally devoted to family or social activities, it doesn't leave many hours for slumbering.

The research I did for my Make It Profitable book confirmed that professional artists, craftspeople, designers, and writers either sleep less than the average person, have little or no leisure time, or both. And, awake or asleep, their creative brains never stop clicking. I figure a survey of the average home-business owner or Web entrepreneur would yield similar findings. As for writers like me, everything we do, see, or hear is fodder for our writing, so it's no wonder that I've never been able to draw a clear line between my personal and professional lives.

"It's an entrepreneurial characteristic to think about your business 100 percent of the time," confirms business consultant Paul Orman. "Entrepreneurs even dream and think about their business during non-waking hours and often wake up during the night to jot down a flash of inspiration."

I used to worry about not getting enough sleep, but several years ago I decided that worrying about my inability to sleep was probably more harmful to my system than lack of sleep itself, so I changed my attitude about sleep. I discovered that if I got up and pretended I'd had a good night's sleep, had a hot breakfast, and got on with the day, I was able to do a good day's work and sleep like a baby that night. In short, having the right mental attitude cam make all the difference.

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