Ani DiFranco once sang: “Nobody likes their job / Nobody got enough sleep.” Clearly she didn’t know many freelancers. We all love our jobs, all the time, right? OK, maybe not all the time. But we are able, at least in theory, to get enough sleep.
I love the flexibility that freelancing affords to write into the wee hours when I’m “on”—sans anxiety over unfinished business, looming early morning alarms or co-worker judgement about lunch time power naps. And I know I’m not the only freelancer who feels this way.
“I am here to tell you, the way to a more productive, more inspired, more joyful life is: getting enough sleep.” ᔥ Ariana Huffington
Turns out, we’ve got science on our side: 85 percent of mammals enjoy polyphasic sleep—that is, resting in multiple bursts instead of a single eight-hour block. Records show that humans practiced a form of sporadic sleep until relatively recently in our history. According to historian Roger Ekirch, before the 19th century, people tended to sleep in two four-hour blocks, with a break for prayer, reading or leisure activities in between.
In many places outside the work-crazed United States, nap time still comes first. During my caravan in Africa, many of my fellow campers kept a round-the-clock schedule, sleeping an hour or two at a time over a 24-hour period. And, of course, the Spanish have long since appreciated the virtue of a 20—30 minute siesta after the midday meal.
I don’t think I’ll be converting to a full-on polyphasic sleep regimen any time soon, but I have started thinking of “insomnia” as creative time (or “Hunger Games time,” last night.) I write late, I read late and I sleep late and/or power nap as needed the following day.
The Sleep Foundation points out numerous benefits to power napping: improved job performance, an increase in alertness, even a psychological boost from the “luxury” of napping during the day. The key is to keep naps short, to prevent grogginess, and early in the day, so they don’t affect night time sleep.
Still not convinced? Check out media maven Ariana Huffington’s TED Talk on the virtues of sleep.
Photo by tm-tm