Blog and Die Young!

I was chatting my with compatriot and fellow pro-blogger Abe yesterday near the end of the FNF Blogging and Podcasting workshop (for which we were both resource persons). Among the usual exchange of pleasantries like “How much did Google AdSense pay you last month?” and “So, what’s your latest project these days?” was the inevitable question.

“Did you get any sleep last night?”

And the response would usually be, “What sleep? I had to get here at eight in the morning!”

True. This was so, for the both of us. We would’ve slept our usual early pre-dawn bedtimes, but having to attend to regular real world matters in the morning, we opted not to sleep instead, because we would’ve felt more sluggish with having only an hour or two of shut-eye. It’s all about rhythm.

Perhaps this is also the case with other people who are in the business or profession of writing and doing other work on their computers. Whether one’s writing code, writing articles, designing web apps or websites, there is one thing in common among a good number of us who are considered to be creative types: we tend to be more productive when we’re alone, and that’s usually at night, when the rest of the world is asleep.

That’s when the magic occurs. That’s usually when we’re in the zone, and when we can keep the flow–at the peak of creativity, as some would say.

Watch your health!

Ahh! Sunlight! Nooo!

A fellow writer, Ruby, who was a participant in the workshop, joined in on the conversation. Having experience in the field of education research, she related that inadequate sleep actually had an adverse effect on how one’s brain grows and develops (especially with children). And of course, we’re already aware that we lose a bit of dependability in terms of our judgement and thinking faculties after several days of sleeplessness (or not having enough per day).

She told us that the problem wasn’t only in our lack of sleep, but what’s even worse was that our body clocks must be screwed because of our irregular sleep patterns. And she was right.

It’s a common misconception that you only need to complete the requisite number of hours of sleep per day in order to be healthy. However, sleep researchers would tell you otherwise. You’re bound to screw up your body clock if you don’t have a regular time off each day for sleep, and this even depends on what time you sleep, given the environmental factors such as sunlight and darkness.

Disruption to rhythms usually has a negative effect in the short term. Many travelers have experienced the condition known as jet lag, with its associated symptoms of fatigue, disorientation and insomnia. A number of other disorders, for example bipolar disorder and sleep disorder are associated with irregular or pathological functioning of the circadian rhythms. It has also be implicated in triggers of other disorders such as cluster headaches.

In addition, circadian rhythms and clock genes expressed in brain regions outside the SCN may significantly influence the effects produced by drugs of abuse such as cocaine.

The ability of light to reset the biological clock depends on the phase response curve (to light). Depending on the phase of sleep, the light can advance or delay the circadian rhythm. Illuminance must be greater than 1000 lux to reset the circadian clock in humans …

How to cope

“It’s been a hard day’s night.
And I’ve been working like a dog.”

So are we destined to die early because of our habits (or even worse, because of the career paths we chose to take)?

This doesn’t have to be the case, as long as we’re able to adequately overcome sleep-deprivedness. I’ve scoured the Web for some tips, and they usually involve rhythm, or sticking to routine. This conditions the mind and body to sleep at regular hours and intervals, so whether it’s daytime or nighttime, you would still have enough to ensure healthy living.

This article over at has a few suggestions. To quote a few:

  • Set a regular schedule to go to bed and get up.
  • Allow enough time to sleep, usually about eight hours.
  • Sleep in the same room and bed every night.
  • Keep the bedroom free of noise and disruptions like phones and TV.
  • Use the bed only for sleeping and sex.

Of course my favorite among these is using the bed for sex!

I’ve been trying these tips, too, and it pretty much works all right. Even when I have to sleep from early dawn up to noontime (usually the time when I have to pick up my kid from preschool), I would feel more or less refreshed as if I’d slept a regular night. Of course, it’s probably not as good as sleeping at nighttime, but it’s better than being mixed up and unproductive because of irregular sleep.

Still, I mostly get to blog at night up to the early hours of the dawn (when the sun’s shining on the other side of the globe, anyway). If it’s any consolation we can probably consider that the best Web apps, software, designs, and even blog articles today are products of sleepless nights and screwed up circadian rhythms.

Life’s short. Better make the most out of it!

* Images from Flickr and Stock.Xchng

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