Friday, December 18, 2009

Guest Chef Margie Lawson on Refreshing Sleep

Refreshing Sleep: Not an Oxymoron

Margie Lawson—psychotherapist, writer, and international presenter – applied her psychological expertise to dissect and analyze over a thousand novels. Her resume includes clinical trainer, adjunct professor, sex therapist, director of a counseling center, hypnotherapist, and trauma specialist.

Her psychologically-anchored Deep Editing tools are used by all writers, from newbies to NYT Bestsellers. She teaches writers how to edit for psychological power, how to hook the reader viscerally, how to create a page-turner.

In the last five years, Margie presented over fifty full day Master Classes in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. She also offers intense three-day Immersion Master Classes on Deep Editing from her home. She lives in a log home on a mountain-top west of Denver.

Refreshing Sleep: Not an Oxymoron

When is the last time you woke up refreshed?

Is sleep deprivation your norm?

If you are sleep deprived, your moods, relationships, productivity, creativity, health, and safety can be impaired. The cumulative effects of sleep loss are linked to an increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, heart attack, and stroke.

Just for fun, try this SHEEP DASH, and check your response time.

BEWARE – The Sheep Dash challenge is addictive. Limit yourself to a few tries – and come back to the blog.

Now – click on the link below to assess sleep deprivation by taking the Epworth Sleepiness Scale.

Now that you know more about your response times and your sleep debt, we’ll explore sleep dynamics.

If you’ve slept well, you have the potential to have a super productive, super creative, super happy day. Writers need all three going strong to optimize their success.

Do you have the gift of sleep?

Do you fall asleep within 30 seconds to three minutes of going horizontal?

Or – Does sleep elude you?
If it takes you less than five minutes to fall asleep at night, that means you're sleep deprived. If it takes you between 10 and 15 minutes to fall asleep, you're still tired enough to experience deep sleep, but you’re not excessively fatigued. You don’t experience periods of exhaustion during the day.
Why do we need to get decent sleep?

There are five top answers – and I consider all of them important.

1. Memory Booster – During sleep, your brain organizes memories, which helps you access them when you’re awake.

2. Learning Booster – When you learn new things during the day, sleep helps you process what you learned, locks in the learning

3. Mood Booster – While you’re sleeping, emotions, decision-making, and social interaction get a break. They rest. The more rest you have, the more you may be able to problem solve the next day.

4. Neuron Booster – Neurons that are used each day repair themselves at night. If you don’t make your sleep quota, your nervous system isn’t repaired. When we’re sleep deprived, it’s no wonder we feel like our nerves are fried.

5. Immune System Booster – If sleep deficient, our bodies are open to invasion. We’re vulnerable. Infection and disease take hold.

Our memory, learning, mood, nervous system, and immune system all function better when we get enough sleep.

How much sleep is enough?

Most adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. Refreshing sleep requires a good 7 hours to complete the sleep stages: Drowsiness, Light Sleep, and Deep Sleep, which includes Dream Sleep.

Some people seem to need less sleep, others seem to need more. If you’re sleeping more than 8 hours per night, it could be a symptom of depression. That topic is deeper than this lecture will go. Either talk to your doctor, pursue psychological therapy, or both.

If you consistently sleep less than 7 hours, you may have issues with weight gain as well as immune system problems. Work on improving your sleep patterns.

STOP and THINK. What did you just read?

If you don’t get 7 hours of sleep, you’re more prone to weight gain.


That piece of data may motivate some people to get 7 hours of sleep.

The impact of sleep deprivation hits hardest 24 hours later. If you only slept 3 hours on Thursday night, you may feel a little tired on Friday. You could get 7 hours of sleep Friday night, but feel beyond exhaustion on Saturday.

That’s why students and athletes are encouraged to get good sleep for the two nights leading up to a college entrance exam or a demanding sports event.

What if you have insomnia? Either you can’t fall asleep or you awaken after a few hours and can’t get back to sleep.

What can you do to improve your sleep?

NO NAPS! Or – no more than a 15 – 30 minute POWER NAP


CHECK YOUR IRON LEVEL – you may be low

GO AFTER SUNLIGHT EARLY IN THE DAY – or use one of those cool natural
sunshine lamps – sunshine will help regulate your bio-clock.

What if you wake up and you can’t get back to sleep?

BORE YOURSELF -- think of something mindless, like counting a mountain of cotton balls

LEAVE YOUR BED – read something bland, listen to environmental music, return to bed when you’re sleepy

SLEEP is a big topic with more areas to explore. There are dozens of things you can do to improve your sleep.

Here’s my TOP TEN LIST you can follow to set yourself up for refreshing sleep:

1. Limit caffeine -- none to little morning through mid-afternoon, and none after 4PM

2. Limit alcohol (none to one drink). Alcohol has a rebound effect. It may help you fall asleep, but you’ll pop awake 4 to 5 hours later, and have difficulty going back to sleep

3. Exercise 45 minutes each day, but not within three hours of going to bed

4. Give yourself a minimum of 15 minutes of TRANSITION TIME before bed. Read or do something simple or mindless before you go to bed.

5. Soak in a warm bath for 10 - 15 minutes before going to bed.

6. Drink warm milk (no chocolate) – OR -- eat turkey (on empty stomach)
That doesn’t mean have a turkey sandwich or turkey and dressing. Just a piece of turkey, plain.

7. Avoid over-eating at dinner time – AND -- avoid a sugar-loaded snack before bed.

8. Go to bed at about the same time each night.

9. Tell yourself five positive things before you go to sleep.

10. Give yourself FIVE minutes of STRESS FREE FOCUS TIME first thing every morning. Literally set a timer and think about how you’ll take charge of your day in a positive way. Knowing you’ve got this ease-into-your-day in your schedule each morning alleviates some of your subconscious stress at night. You’ll sleep better.


What do you do, or what can you do, to improve your sleep?

I will respond to posts several times today and this evening.

Anyone who posts a comment TODAY has a chance to WIN a LECTURE PACKET from one of my on-line classes

1. Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors

2. Empowering Characters' Emotions

3. Deep Editing: The EDITS System, Rhetorical Devices, and More

4. Digging Deep Into the EDITS System

5. Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues Like a Psychologist

6. Powering Up Body Language in Real Life: Projecting a Professional Persona When Pitching and Presenting

I’ll post the LECTURE PACKET WINNERS tonight, at 8:00PM Mountain Time.

In January, I’m teaching Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors, a power-packed on-line course that helps writers access their strengths—and empower creativity and productivity. Lectures from each of my on-line courses are offered as Lecture Packets through PayPal from my web site. Lecture Packets are $22; I donate $5 per Lecture Packet for ALS (my cousin).

Please visit and click on Lecture Packets to read the course descriptions.

If you’re interested in a sample of deep editing, I include Deep Editing Analyses in each issue of my monthly newsletter. To receive my newsletter, click on SUBSCRIBE on the home page of my web site,

A big THANK YOU to Debbie Kaufmann for inviting me to guest blog for the Petit Fours and Hot Tamales today.


Sally Kilpatrick said...

Margie--thank so much for dropping by! With your post on sleep, I'm beginning to think Someone is trying to tell me something.

I do have a question, though. My biggest problem is waking up on winter mornings. Do you have any helpful hints for crawling out of bed on cold, dark mornings? (See I want to go back to bed just thinking about it!)


Debbie Kaufman said...

I'm curious as to how well those daylight lamps work. It has been suggested to my adult son for help with his insomnia. Three of my four children have had sleep issues since early/pre-adolescence. Me? No caffeine and constant iron supplements for my Restless Legs syndrome. If I wasn't so tired, mornings would be my favorite time since my legs rarely bother me until after lunch or so. Lack of sleep definitely impinges on my creativity. The last month has been stressful and exhausting at my house for many reasons and I find I can't think to write!

Cyrano said...

I'm blown away. Wow! What an informative post.
I've always had trouble sleeping. My mind races and I toss and turn, but you've offered a slew of helpful hints along with a boatload of knowledge we can arm ourselves with, that I'm looking forward to the possibility of a restful night sleep after trying your suggestions.
Thanks so much for the links you gave us too!

We appreciate your time and your many words of wisdom. Thanks so much for stopping by.
Have a spectacular day,

Margie Lawson said...

Sally --

Good question. Easy answer!

Put a lamp on a timer and have the light turn on about 15 minutes before your alarm goes off. Daylight cues your body in the summertime.

Or -- You can put bigger bucks into one of those alarm clocks with the light that mimics the sunrise.

Ah -- here's one that some of my clients use. I'll paste the blurb too. You can almost hear a violin and cello duet playing the soundtrack for the commercial. ;-)

Like a sunrise, the Soleil Sunrise Alarm Clock light/dawn simulator wakes you naturally and peacefully for the day ahead. The light alarm gradually increases the intensity of its special built-in light, simulating a natural sunrise. Your body wakes instinctively, as if waking with the light of the sun. This natural method of waking up leaves you feeling refreshed, energized, and in a better mood. Clinical studies at the National Institute of Health indicate that waking to light has been known to help people with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), various forms of depression, and sleep disorders to overcome their problems by increasing daytime energy, limiting winter weight gain, and allowing them to wake up easier.

Add the optional lamp controller to operate your own lamp in the same manner as the light alarm clock. Your external lamp will simulate the sunrise and sunset just as the Sunrise Alarm Clock does.


Or -- Add it to your Christmas list!

Cost - was $99, now $79!

There are others too. Here's the scoop on one more.

The Peaceful Progression Wake Up Clock -- creates a morning wake-up event: 30 min. progressive light, 4 choices of aromas, 6 soft nature sounds, you can add up to 10 of your aroma oils . . .


Interesting said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pam said...

Sleep has been a HUGE problem for me. I used to think I was a night owl. During NaNoWriMo, it became apparent to me that I am really a morning person with sleep issues! And your article has convinced me that I really need to do something about it. I have been fairly certain that lack of sleep has affected my productivity and creativity, but now I find out it might be contributing to weight gain, too? Thanks for all the suggestions. Dealing with this might be the best New Year's resolution I can make!

Tami Brothers said...

Oh man! You read my mind. I am that person who falls alseep the minute my head hits the pillow. My husband said I was getting toooo much sleep. Now I have a place to point to and say, "nope, it says it right here..." ...grin....

Thanks for blogging with us today, Margie. I love this new look on life. I think I might try to the 15 minute timer where the lights come on before my alarm clock rings. Maybe it will help me get up in the mornings.


Linsey Lanier said...

Margie, what a thrill to have you with us today! As always, your post is terrific and needful.

I know I feel better when I have eight hours sleep on a regular basis, but I have a full-time job and write at night. My problem is that once I get into a scene, I don't want to let it go and I often rationalize and cut off my sleep time to 7.5, 7, even 6.5 hours.

In others words, I feel very torn between writing and getting enough sleep. Any thoughts on that?


Margie Lawson said...

Debbie --

Light therapy is supposed to help with insomnia, depression, and Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Heliotherapy has been practiced for almost 100 years. Helios -- Greek god of the sun.

People suffered from insomnia and SAD in Hippocrates day too. When was that? 400'ish BC.

Sheesh! Some grad school factoids are locked in. :-)

Research results -- still mixed. Some specialists feel the success stories from use of light therapy are placebo driven. Others indicate light therapy cures insomnia and turns SAD people around in 3 days to a week.

Some research studies indicated light therapy and prozac had same efficacy. Light therapy is cheaper with no drug side effects.

Light therapy lamps usually run $200 and up. Walgreens carries them too, for as low as $129.

CAUTION: You want to be sure the light emits 10,000 lux (at 15"). Thirty minutes of light therapy in the mornings is considered therapeutic.

DEBBIE -- Long answer!

I'm guessing that your son doesn't chug Red Bull. :-))

Hope your big time life stressors are behind you -- and that you get to enjoy the holidays.

Dianna Love said...

Wonderful suggestions and insights on health and resting from someone who KNOWS. :)

Great to see you here today, Margie. Hope you're staying warm and enjoying the holidays.

Margie Lawson said...

Tamara --

Thank you! Glad you liked the post.

I bet my Top Ten list will make a difference. The toughest thing to do - is train yourself to turn your brain off. If you wake up worrying about something, write down bullet points -- what you could do to follow through. If you have no idea -- write down when you will make time to problem solve.

Limit yourself to one minute of jotting a few words down - then think about a song or something pleasant while you fall asleep.

Thanks for chiming in!

Wendy said...

Motivating myself to leave my peaceful, guilt-free evenings and go to bed is really difficult. If I take DSDB, sleep is definitely an area I will work on.

During the dark of winter, I've used a lamp or night light on a timer for years. It makes mornings possible.

I used a "Happy Light" last year. It really seemed to help my winter depression. This year, I didn't get my typical September SAD, so am not using it.

Thanks for the reminder that I really do need to arrange my life to incorporate consistent, refreshing sleep.


Maxine Davis said...

We are so happy to have you as guest blogger today! Wow! I'm going to reread you post - so many wonderful hints.

I get up when my husband starts getting ready for work every morning (retirement is wonderful - if I could just sleep later.) I can do it for just so long, then I have to have extra sleep. Your ideas sound so wonderful!! Thank you, thank you!

Cat Schield said...

Margie, great post. I'm a firm believer in lots of rest/sleep. I'm sure it's one of the main reasons why I stay healthy all winter when everyone else is calling in sick.

Something I've been doing since the end of Summer is meditating. I found some wonderful free guided meditations on-line by the Australian Meditation Society and loaded them into my iPod. Now, when I come home from work, too exausted to do anything creative, I lay down, pop in my headphones and listen to a fifteen minute guided meditation. It calms my mind and refreshes me the way a nap would.

Since starting this I'm getting lots more done.

BTW-Love your EDITs system! It's really helped my writing.

Barbara Rae Robinson said...

Hi, Margie. Another thing that interferes with my sleep is eating sugar after dinner. Or too much fruit with dinner. I have a sensitive blood sugar level. If I eat any dessert at all, it has to be with lunch, not dinner. And not very much at one time.

I do need my eight hours of sleep.

I'll be seeing you in Portland in January!


Darcy Crowder said...

Margie, thanks for stopping by. Great information on sleep! I'll be sharing it with my husband this weekend - he definitely doesn't get enough. Personally, I'm going to try the lamp in the morning idea. I find it much easier to stay up than get up - I'm not a morning person. :) But I want to be.

And thank you for giving us those Deep Editing Analyses samples in your newsletter, I look forward to them every month. It's been great to hear from you again.

Stay well, stay warm and have a Merry Christmas!

Alannah Lynne said...

Hi Margie and everyone - sleep is a huge, huge, HUGE issue for me. I'm always tired. The doctor has prescribed me sleeping pills because without them I just don't sleep at all. But I hate them because I feel so hung over the next day.

One thing that helps me is the bath. If I skip that bath right before bed time, I lay there and toss and turn for what seems like forever. I usually skip it becaue I'm tired and I want to get in bed, but it never works out. I don't get to sleep earlier, I just end up laying there miserable.

I think exercise makes a big difference too and I've gotten away from that. I'm going to make more of an effort to get that in each day. Thanks for the nudge!!

Shelley Munro said...

I'm usually a good sleeper. The only time I have problems is when I'm stressed - usually due to work problems. When I recognize stress in my life I try to exercise during the day. If I do wake up and can't go back to sleep, I plot my latest WIP in my head. Writing makes me happy, so this usually relaxes me, and I fall asleep again. Luckily some of the plotting seems to stick as well!

Margie Lawson said...

Pam --

Making refreshing sleep a priority. SMART New Year's Resolution!

I'm being smart too. Getting healthy sleep is one of my resolutions. :-)

Margie Lawson said...

Tami --

Ha! Glad I included the piece about head-hitting-pillow-asleep. When you tell your husband -- study his body language. :-)

Margie Lawson said...

Hello Everyone!

I'm ready to drive home now. Will be back on-line in about an hour. I'll respond to posts then.

Chat soon!

Margie Lawson said...

Linsey --

Torn between getting decent sleep and meeting writing goals.

I'll be kick-myself-in-the-shin honest. This is my Number 1 SDB.

I'm working on it. Haven't chosen to master it. I can't fit everything I want to do in my days and nights.

Here's my plan. I'm striving to be mindful of how often I cut back on sleep. My goal is to pull one to two late nighters on the laptop (past midnight) a week. Not back-to-back.

Everything's relative. That's an amazing improvement for me. :-)

We all know writers make sacrifices. Sometimes we sacrifice refreshing sleep. I think the trick is to not lose so much sleep that you jeopardize creativity, productivity, good moods, relationships, health . . . .

I hope you find a balance that works for you. :-)

Margie Lawson said...

Dianna --

Great to see you too. ;-)

Kudos to you and Mary for all your BREAK INTO FICTION success!

Margie Lawson said...

Wendy --

Ah! Thanks for sharing that the lamp or night-light on a timer -- and light therapy for SAD -- worked for you. Very cool that you didn't need it this year.

Thanks for chiming in!

Margie Lawson said...

Maxine --

Thank you. Glad you liked my suggestions. Have fun implementing them. ;-)

Margie Lawson said...

Cat --

Kudos to your for using meditation to give your brain a break and energize yourself. Excellent!

I added a big section on meditation for my January class, Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors.

You know how to analyze your scenes with my EDITS System. Cool! Maybe I'll see you in one of my advanced editing courses. :-)

Margie Lawson said...

Barb --

Excellent point. For some people, sugar interferes with their sleep. You're so smart to know to have your sugar with lunch.

Yay! I'll get to work with you for two full days in the Deep Editing Master Class Weekend in Portland. See you in January!

Margie Lawson said...

Darcy --

Hello! Great to connect again. :-))

Try the lamp-on-timer idea. I bet you'll ease into your days with smiles.

THANK YOU so much for sharing that you look forward to the Deep Editing Analysis in my newsletters. Yay!

My December newsletter will be sent tomorrow. My Deep Editing Analysis features Stephen White's THE SIEGE. Amazing writing.

Thanks again!

Margie Lawson said...

Alannah --

Sorry sleep is so tough for you.

Glad taking baths works for you. I bet you keep those baths in your night-time ritual.

Glad this blog gave you a take-care-of-yourself nudge. ;-)

Margie Lawson said...

Shelley -

You're brilliant! When stress whomps your sleep, you turn the intrusion into a plotting opp. Plus, you go back to sleep. Excellent!

Thanks for sharing how you manage your stress-induced insomnia. :-)

Margie Lawson said...


I literally wrote all the names on slips of paper, folded them, and put them in my new puppy's little doggie bed. I stirred them around -- and drew this name:


Cat -- You won a Lecture Packet!

Please e-mail me ( and let me know which one of my six lecture packets you would like. I'll send the lectures to you as e-mail attachments.

THANKS TO DEBBIE KAUFMAN for inviting me to guest blog today. I enjoyed your questions and comments.

Keep in mind, my Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors course has over 320 pages of lectures. I've added several new sections and added new material to several current sections.

If you want to learn how to play off your strengths and turn 2010 into a take charge year, join me on-line in DSDB in January.

Please visit my web site to read a detailed course description and for registration information.

Thanks again to all who visited the blog today!

Happy, Happy Holidays!

Margie Lawson said...

PS -- from Margie!

You have more chances to win a Lecture Packet!

I have two holiday contests on my web site. Go to Read about them on my Home page.


If you scroll to the bottom of my Home page, you'll see photos of my 8 week old miniature dachshund, Calypso.

Beware: Cuteness overload!

Sandy Elzie said...

Hi Margie,

I'm chiming in late (out of town most of yesterday), but wanted to leave a note on just how great the post is. Fantastic information. I can see myself and hubby.

With him, the light switches off within 15 SECONDS and he sleeps 7-8 hours without a problem. (Gotta hate the guy:>))

I'm passing on the information to my kids since they fit into some of your mentioned categories.

thanks for sharing time and information with us today.


Free Your Creative Mind! said...

Hi Margie!

I missed this yesterday but thanks for a great post. I'm a big believer in adequate sleep for maximizing creativity. I also use dreams to help me resolve plot problems and come up with ideas.

My best way to ensure a good night's sleep is to go to bed at the same time every night and get up around the same time each morning. Not always possible but I've found I sleep better that way.

Thanks for being here!
Kelly L Stone