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The Importance Of Sleep For Indie Authors

The Importance of Sleep for Indie Authors

Headshot of A A Abbott

British thriller writer A A Abbott shares what she's learned about the power of sleep

At this time of year, many countries change their national time-keeping in the middle of the night. Last night in the UK, where I live, for example, we moved from British Summer Time to Greenwich Meantime. As welcome the bonus of an extra hour's sleep as a annual treat, now is a good time to reflect on the benefits of proper rest for the creative process that fuels all authors, whether writers of fiction or non-fiction, self-published or trade-published. In a special seasonal post today, English thriller writer A A Abbott, who always seems full of energy, makes the case for the importance of restorative sleep.

Is sleep for wimps?

Surely time spent sleeping is time wasted. We’re forgoing a chance to socialise, write another two thousand words and earn more money. Margaret Thatcher, former British Prime Minister, famously managed on four or five hours a night, without power naps, even, so why can’t everyone? Imagine how productive we’d be with all that extra time.

While it’s a seductive argument, follow its siren call at your peril. Not everyone needs the same amount of sleep. If you’re built like the blessed Margaret and can stay awake for twenty hours a day without feeling tired, that’s marvellous. If you’re not, read on.

Sleep – A Miracle Pill

If the advantages of sleep could be packaged and sold, you’d pay a fortune for it.

  • It restores the body, as you’ll know if you’ve ever had a paper cut and discovered it’s healed overnight.
  • Your brain cells benefit too; fatigue saps your energy and creativity.
  • REM sleep doesn’t just bring dreams to entertain you (and who knows, maybe the plot of your next novel), it enhances your cognition when you’re awake.
  • Best of all, it’s free.

How to Get More Sleep

So, if you want to awake relaxed and refreshed, bursting with new ideas, all your problems solved and your memory sharp as a pin, how can you get enough Zs? At the risk of stating the obvious, here are my six top tips:

  1. Cover of The Vodka Trail by AA Abbott

    Sorry, folks, vodka's not one of AA Abbott's top tips for sleep – this is her latest thriller!

    Don’t feel guilty. FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is pernicious, especially if you live in a manic, experience-filled city like New York or London, have small children, or a looming deadline. Yet you’ll give much more to yourself and others if you take time to replenish your energy. Self-care isn’t selfish.

  2. Want to get to sleep quickly? Wind down before bedtime. Leave the smartphone, tablet, PC, TV alone for the last hour before turning in. A dedicated ereader’s different: it’s been designed to mimic a book, and its electromagnetic waves don’t interfere with Circadian rhythms the way other devices do. (Thank you to confidence coach Ann Hobbs, who told me about this. It certainly worked for me).
  3. Avoid caffeine after midday. Not everyone’s sensitive to it, but by cutting it out in the afternoon, you’ll find out if you are.
  4. Have a warm bath or a hot drink (without caffeine!) in that hour before lights out when you’re not tapping away at a keyboard.
  5. De-stress. Mindfulness doesn’t have to mean twenty minutes meditating every day. Mindfulness teacher Jackie Hawken, a Buddhist, taught me a one-minute deep breathing technique. It works before bedtime, and also on waking during the night. Others swear by colouring in, so why not try it? It costs very little to get kitted out with a picture book and a rainbow of pencils.
  6. Plan ahead to give yourself enough time. If you really need eight hours, put it in your diary so you won’t over-commit yourself. Of course, stuff happens, but if you stick to eight hours more often than not, you’ll stay resilient and cope with a broken night or two.

Now, to make sure I don’t end up writing late into the night, I’m using my laptop on a train – travelling from home on Sunday afternoon so I’ll start work in London bright and early on Monday morning. Trouble is, I’ve been thinking about sleep so much, I can’t stop drifting off. Oops, was that my station back there?

OVER TO YOU Have you more sleep tips to share? Has your creative life been transformed by changing your sleeping habits? Join the conversation via the comments box!

#Authors - self-care isn't selfish. So get more #sleep! @AAAbbottStories tells us why and how. Share on X


How to Fend off Indie Author Burnout



Author: AA Abbott

AA Abbott, also known as Helen, writes thrillers full-time for six months of the year, and otherwise gets cash and inspiration from temporary work in the corporate world. Her latest thriller, "The Vodka Trail (a sequel to "The Bride’s Trail" that can be read as a standalone novel too) features a tussle for control of a vodka business and the realisation that your enemies may not be who you think they are… Find out more at www.aaabbott.co.uk


This Post Has 9 Comments
  1. I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to get eight hours of sleep each night (I do on the weekends), but alas I have three teens, two of them high school students. One has special needs and has to be readied for school then delivered to the bus stop by 6am. The other is in a magnet high school and must be driven to arrive at school before 6:45. Fortunately as an author, I’m no longer working outside the home so I don’t have to get up at 4:15 anymore. Still eight hours sleep means getting to bed by 9pm. LOL. I’ll sleep when my nest is empty.

  2. There are a lot of things I can do when I’m tired, but writing well isn’t one of them. I like to work hard on a piece, then set it aside. I always see ways to improve it after I sleep.

  3. Thanks, AA.

    The Cognitive Shuffle works well, too. Think of any word. Let’s use “novel” as an example. Close your eyes and think of all the words you can that begin with each letter:

    N: next, never, noon, nil, nullify, Norman, nix, nauseous, noodle, normal, name
    O: over, organize, omniscient, omen, oven, obelisk, oxen, Oz, ordinary
    V: violet, violin, voila, voice, vermin …

    etc. You probably won’t reach the last letter before you fall asleep. If you do, use another word and begin the process anew.

  4. Fascinating generally. I realise that you were quoting the example of Margaret Thatcher as that of someone who needed little sleep rather than overall commendation, but as a Brit who remembers the 1980’s it took an effort to read on after that.

  5. Informative post. While I agree in principle that everyone, including busy indie authors, need to look after their health including through sufficient sleep, I also feel your comment about Prime Minister Thatcher is telling. On my side of the pond, a memorable New York Times piece many years ago covered the many late hours President Clinton would spend in the White House, poring over policy briefs. I am not a world leader with equivalent responsibilities but I am the breadwinning co-parent in a two-household family (divorced) and I have a five-year-old son who I would not want to neglect in order to pursue writing. As a result, my writing requires even more time and so sleep must be the sacrifice. Many things are about context, so I believe any writer’s decision about sleep must come down to personal choice. Jay

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