Why Creative People are Sleep-Deprived
and What to Do About it
“Creative-thinking people often suffer from insomnia caused by an overactive mind that just won’t shut down at night. But professional craftspeople, artists, writers and other creative people also lose sleep simply because they work too many hours a week.” – Barbara
“The amount of sleep required by the average person is five minutes more.” – Wilson Mizner, American playwright/entrepreneur (1876–1933)
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 and self-employed 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 interests and work. I’ve had insomnia all my life.
“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 and stopped stressing myself by worrying about my bouts of insomnia.
2021 Update and Sleep-Related Articles
FOR SOME EYE-OPENING STATISTICS (and more things to think about when you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t sleep), check “Statistics on Sleep Health.” My big takeaway from this article was (1) that adults over 65 need 7–8 hours of sleep, and (2) I’m in the 35.2% of all adults in the U.S. that are getting less than seven hours sleep a night.
Adding to the info in this article was one first published in 2020 and now updated for 2022: “54 Shocking Sleep Statistics and Trends.” Note the headline on the page: “Global sleep problems might be causing more damage than terrorism. Sleep on that.” This version of the article is much easier to study than the last version because it’s divided into four categories focusing on stats for general sleep data, sleep deprivation and sleep disorders, plus sleep aids and how people use technology to monitor sleep problems.
I glanced through this article last year and decided not to study it because I thought it might keep me awake thinking about what I’m doing to myself because I don’t sleep as long as the experts tell me I should. Throughout my life as a self-employed individual, I’ve rarely gotten seven hours of sleep. Even now in my “older age,” if I get 5-6 good hours of sleep, I consider it sufficient. Here’s something I learned years ago: If I get up and pretend I’ve had all the sleep I need, have a protein-rich breakfast, and get on with the day, I can work all day without feeling tired or sleepy. In short, having the right mental attitude has made all the difference for me. Since I’ve lived like this for decades and have excellent health and energy in my old age, I’m not convinced that lack of sleep has been harmful to my health. But only God knows what gave me breast cancer. (That story is told in this PDF report: Breast Cancer: What Women Need to Know.)
ARTICLES ON THE WEB offer tips on what we can do to help our overall health and improve our sleep while we’re at it, but sometimes our efforts to do those things do not necessarily give us a sound sleep every night.
70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders, and I think most of us just try to manage this problem on our own, experimenting with various non-prescription sleep aids to try to find what works for them. But if you have a severe sleep problem, be sure to talk to your doctor about it to make sure you don’t have Sleep Apnea or need any special medications.
If I’ve had two or three short-sleep nights in a row, I will give in and take an over-the-counter pill that works very well for me (comparable to Tylenol PM). And sometimes I take some Melatonin—paying heed to the usage/dosage instructions for older adults. (See these tips on the Sleep Foundation website.) In the past I’ve occasionally asked my doctor for a prescription of 30 Tamoxifen tablets (which can last me for a year), but I use one only when I’m desperate to get eight or nine hours of sound sleep. We can never “catch up” on lost sleep, but one great night of sleep for me is comparable to filling my energy tank. I’m good for days after that, even with only 6 hours’ sleep.
I’ve never been able to take a nap in the middle of the day and always envied Harry, who would lie down after lunch every day saying, “I’m going to study the inside of my eyelids for a little while.” He’d go out like a light and wake up about 20 minutes later, completely refreshed. If I ever give in and lie down after lunch, I’m apt to sleep for two hours or more, which will only upset my normal go-to-bed time.
IN SUMMARY . . .It’s not hard to link the above sleep statistics to how constantly changing technology and our growing need for it has impacted our daily life and increased our stress as we all try to keep up with it. In my experience, and probably yours too, the more stressed we are, the more our sleep is affected. I’ve published several articles on how I and others in my network have dealt with the problem of stress, and you’ll find them in the Time & Stress Articles category linked to below.
How Your Attitude Affects Your Life. Each of us has a choice about how we perceive our experiences in life and how our mind and body will respond.