I always sleep with a notebook next to me. Most of my stories stem from my dreams, and I’ve learned how to keep notes during the night without waking up the missus. This has also helped me with remembering my dreams the next morning when I write them down in more detail.
So, I was intrigued by this idea for a guest post, courtesy of Adam Kyle, a sleep expert at MattressReviews.net. A workaholic by nature, it wasn’t until his late twenties that Adam realized the importance of sleep for his health. At that point, he focused on learning everything he could about sleep. Now, Adam specializes in how his environment and his physical well-being affect his sleep. A San Francisco native, he finds the sounds of the city soothing and struggles to get to sleep in quieter environments.
How to Remember Your Ideas When You’re Falling Asleep—or Waking Up!
Here’s a writing scenario with which you’re probably familiar: You’ve hit your stride and the creative juices freely flow. Unfortunately, it’s long past your bedtime, and you can only fight sleepiness for so long until your mind starts to drift. But you start to lose that creative edge; you may even sleep type. Before you know it, you’re asleep and the creative high is gone.
You don’t want or need to lose your best creativity to sleep. In fact, sleep is your ally when it comes to writing, creating, and building a reservoir of future plots.
The Mechanics of Sleep, Memory, and Creativity
In a typical night, you experience five to six 60 to 90-minute sleep cycles wherein you pass through five sleep stages—stages one through four and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. The body performs vital functions in each stage, making each important to your overall health.
During the slow wave stages, especially REM sleep, your brain is almost as active as it is when awake. In fact, it actively replays new information. That helps you retain information while making new connections to the memories you already have. This process has been shown to enhance creative solutions like a plot point that doesn’t ring true.
So really, if you’re looking for a creativity boost, get some sleep!
Improving Your Creativity with Powerful Sleep
Your first step to hanging onto your most brilliant ideas is to get at least a solid seven hours of sleep by:
- Going to Bed at the Same Time: A consistent bedtime helps the brain recognize your daily patterns so that it can correctly time your sleep cycle. It also makes sure that you’re spending enough time in bed to get a full seven hours of sleep.
- Build a Bedtime Routine that Feeds Creativity: A calm, well-rested mind is one that’s clear of cluttered thoughts and open to new ideas. Develop a bedtime routine that feeds your creativity by helping your body relax. Meditation, yoga, quiet music, or reading are a few suggestions as to how you can bring your heart rate and blood pressure down at bedtime. Be consistent, and start your bedtime routine around the same time and perform each activity in the same order.
- Get Comfortable: When it’s time for bed, shut out all the lights as any light, whether it’s natural or artificial, can disrupt your sleep cycle. If you read in bed, an extra pillow or two to support your back and neck can help you stay comfortable as you drift off to sleep. Of course, your mattress should support both your sleep style preferences and body weight. Make your comfort personal with some aromatherapy by using lavender or jasmine, both of which have been shown to relax the body and act as natural sedatives.
Hold Onto Your Best Ideas
Let’s face it, as much as you prepare, there will be times that you drift off, and you don’t want to lose a powerful idea.
If you don’t already, keep a notebook and pen nearby at all times. A notebook on your nightstand for last minute ideas won’t go to waste and it’s there in the morning in case a dream sparks a new thought. There are even lighted pens so you don’t have turn on the light.
If your fingers don’t work first thing in the morning, a digital voice recorder or voice memo on your smartphone can be another way to store your ideas before they’re gone.
As a writer, your ideas set you apart and act as your greatest asset. With adequate sleep and a notebook nearby, you’re set to keep your ideas ready to go for your next great work!
Some great tips here, Nicholas. I’m terrible at not writing things down when I have a sudden flash of inspiration, so I’m going to make sure I have that notebook beside my bed every night. I wonder why it is that we always have the best ideas at the most inconvenient times? Inspiration comes to me while I’m driving, walking, in the shower, but never when I’m sitting down comfortably trying to come up with an idea! Great post, ad thanks for sharing.
Thanks, I’m so glad you enjoyed the post! Inspiration is such a fickle thing, isn’t she? 🙂
Great post. My night table is armed with pens and notebooks, lol. PS, Twitter wouldn’t work here?
Ha ha–not unless you’re also having a strong cup of covfefe 😀
Great post Nickolas. I am one of those people who have very creative dreams and I finally did put a note pad and pencil on top of my bedroom end table. I would like to ask, you seem to know a lot about dream stages; is there a notation about people who can continue a dream over a number of nights? I have had story dreams that continue for a week or more, each night, until the story as ended. The first book I wrote is based on an on-going dream.
this book is a series; unfortunately, the rest of the writing for this series is up to me, in daylight hours to write – no dream for far.
That’s amazing! I’ll wait for our guest poster to answer, but let me say that I, too, have had both recurring dreams and dreams which span months. I’d normally call them recurring but the plot moves forward, so there’s a progress not normally associated with recurring ones. However, they don’t come to me on a daily basis; they can be pretty spread apart.
Sleep’s a fascinating topic, isn’t it?
Thank you for sharing your suggestions on ways to remember dreams that inspire you. Sometimes I take a nap before I start writing as it gets me in the creative mood (It probably sounds counter productive.) I’ve also started writing a novel based on a vivid dream I recently had. Hope Perro gets his treat today.
I could use a voice recorder memo for remembering dreams as I wake up. Trouble is, if I wake up naturally, I remember anyway; if it’s the alarm, I’m distracted and forget before I can record it.
But I used to put myself to sleep writing stories; with a strict lights-out time I developed the ability to remember what I “wrote” word for word the next time I had a writing session. (The strict bedtime was because I’d been keeping myself up all hours TRYING to get it all written down every time an idea came.)
The technique can be learned!
Wow, that is so awesome!!! Very impressive 😮
Thank you for this info, Nicholas. I dream of writing plenty of times and have come up with new scenarios for a current MS. Sometimes I remember and sometimes I don’t. Other times what I write down isn’t as good as what I end up with but makes for practice makes perfect. Another way is to wake up and record one’s thoughts on a cell phone or hand held old fashion recorder. I still have two of them…somewhere. 😆
Awesome! The worst kind of dream writing is the one which sounds brilliant in your dream but turns out to be awful when you write it down 😀
I get most of my ideas when out on long walks with Ollie. So I don’t have to worry about not remembering them. 🙂
Best wishes, Pete.
That’s one way to do it! And a much healthier one, too 😀
Using a notebook means turning on the light, which affects my ability to fall back to sleep. I use my Google home mini. It asks me what time I want the reminder (I give it a few keywords) and the morning it will do it’s job.