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Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Edison Factor - Artists and Sleep


To take the rest afforded by a suspension of voluntary bodily functions and the natural suspension, complete or partial, of consciousness; cease being awake.

Enter this darkness of sleep shrouded mystery and find your soul hidden in the shadows

I've written before that my partner and I have been experimenting with sleep. Being blessed with the ability to keep our own schedules and being primarily nocturnal in our work habits, we've spent the past year or so trying to find a pattern of sleeping and waking that works best for us.

I would not say I suffer from insomnia. Believe me when I am ready to sleep I sleep! But I suffer from something that many creatives suffer from. I call it "Brain Zapping". From the moment I wake, even if its to stagger bleary eyed to the bathroom, by the time I return to bed, my mind has woken up. Its so sudden that I rarely have time to tell my brain to go back to sleep. Suddenly I am flooded with ideas, concepts and thoughts. Sometimes it starts prior to even waking, filling my dream state and waking me up with that intense need to record the idea before I can rest again.

Some of my best ideas come from this dream state and I've learned not to ignore it. But it makes it very hard to get a full 8 hours of rest.

Thomas Edison was infamous for his lack of sleep and his forcing his employees to do the same. I've been to Edison's lab in New Jersey. Amazingly preserved exactly how he left it, I was amazed to see that this huge building was littered with cots. They were stuffed in corners, under stairwells and in midst of the mans labs right there with the contraptions he was working on. Edison literally would work until he nearly dropped and then take a short cat nap and be back at it again. He drove his counterparts crazy because he expected them to keep up with him and quite literally they would drop from exhaustion trying to do so.

Now I am not comparing myself to Edison's mind, so please don't get the wrong idea. But I think I am beginning to enter what I term the Edison Factor. Over the past several years I am more and more finding myself able to function little sleep. If I force myself to bed too soon I just lay there with "Brain Zap". More and more often I find myself just going back into the studio and continuing to work. I am at the point now where I sleep for a period that may be 15 minutes and I am awake again and ready to go and feeling refreshed. A more normal period of sleep seems to last about 2-3 hours at the most.

Here is an example. In the past 24 hours I slept from 9-11pm. Again from 3-6am and once more from 9-10am. It is now (at the time of this writing) 11pm in the evening and I have been awake since waking at 10am. When I tire I will sleep again for a short period.

The tiring points are unpredictable. I may go 18 hours straight, or I may only be able to go a few hours. But when it occurs its drastic. I am suddenly so tired that I can barely stagger to the bed.

I am not advocating this for other creatives. I have no doubt its probably not all together healthy for me to do this, but since I stopped trying to force sleep and just let it happen when it will, its taken a weight off my mind. I stopped struggling to stay within the bounds of what is practical. Now when it happens, it happens.

I've always been a productive artist. I am a multi-tasker that can juggle ten things at once. For example while writing this blog entry, I am also working on a sculpture. I write a sentence or two between drying times for various parts of it. While I am doing so I am also taking photographs and writing a tutorial on how I am creating the piece and sharing it step by step with fellow artists online. I am also reading articles that come through my email every few minutes on happenings around the world and in the world of art.

I am not bragging, I am simply saying that this sleep pattern coupled with my already bizarre multi-tasking habits have turned me into an artists with a blindingly ridiculous amount of output.

So is it truly healthy or not? I doubt it. The medical evidence backs up the theory that humans need a minimum of 8 hours a day of sleep to be at their peak. I may be shortening my life with this pattern if I do so over an extended period of time. I accept that risk.

There are some that do not seem to need a lot of sleep though. It may just be who we are. I cannot say with any authority. I am going to inquire though as I have a doctors appointment next week and I want my MD's honest opinion of this. I suspect he will not have nice things to say and will be concerned that it might effect the HIV and my immune system in a way that is not healthy. But we shall see. I can't say its effecting my judgement or my ability to think creatively (at least I don't think it is). But it is making me a better artist and I am content with that.

To be continued.........


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