Writing Across the Curriculum/
Writing in the Disciplines
Getting regular, quality sleep is a great way to make writing easier. Sleep is natural, free, and it feels awesome—if it were expensive or illegal, I suspect that we would cherish it a lot more. Research has shown over and over that being sleep-deprived robs us of creative ideas and makes us more likely to make silly mistakes. I have to remind myself of this when I’m faced with the choice of watching “just one more episode” or “playing just one more Xbox game sequence” when I should be going to bed. Going without sleep for a long time can have the same effect on your brain as being drunk! No wonder all-nighters result in some pretty iffy papers.
In addition to helping you avoid weird typos and half-supported arguments, sleep is a great way to work out writing problems. Research confirms that people who think (but don’t obsess) about a problem they can’t immediately solve before going to sleep often wake up with the answer. That’s because your brain wants answers, so it can naturally work on the problem even when you’re not consciously thinking about it. Sleep is also necessary for storing permanent memories of the things you’ve learned and encountered throughout the day.
Sleep is effective for learning and writing because it can lower stress and thereby make it easier for you to locate all of the good ideas you already have. There are plenty of other ways to lower stress, too. When I was teaching regularly, I’d always tell my students—not in a creepy way, I hope—to take a shower if they had a writing problem they couldn’t work out. They would always giggle when I first told them because it sounded so weird, but then they would often report back that something about it helped them sort out huge problems that had otherwise been making them miserable. Yelling while watching sports, particularly outdoors where you can just go wild, does something pretty similar. Moderate exercise produces the same relaxed-yet-alert feeling that has a magical way of focusing your brain.
If you need more reasons to love sleep, consider that scientists have shown that people who get more sleep are rated as more beautiful. With the help of sleep, you can look awesome while writing awesome papers—what’s not to love?!?!
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