Working While Sleeping

Richard Citrin Ph.D., MBA
Richard Citrin Ph.D., MBA

I’ve never believed people who tell me they work 80-100 hours/week. That would mean they worked 12 hours or more every single day of the week.

Highly improbable

This past weekend, however, I came across another model for how someone could work that many hours.

Working while sleeping

My wife, Sheila Collins, is working on her fourth book, The Art of Grieving. She is diligent in her work, heading down to her studio seven days a week to write. During the week, she conducts several groups and meets with numerous clients, as she has done throughout her long career as a professor, social worker, counselor and dancer.   In between, she is back at her writing, researching ways that the arts contribute to our experiences with grief and then pouring her heart and soul into the words that she hopes will inspire others to heal their grief in a new way.

The book focuses on how the arts, visual, movement, singing, and others help us understand and address our grief and losses more meaningfully and robustly. I never realized how much the arts already play in grief until I attended a funeral last year. I was struck by how many beautiful pictures, magnificent acapella singing, and incredible stories were shared in celebrating the beloved who crossed over.

This week, the chapter Sheila is working on concerns death and dying and how the arts can help in that transition. It is a difficult chapter to write, even for a grief expert, and she’s been challenged to find the best ideas to write about out of her many.

Recently, Sheila woke up and announced that she worked in her sleep. She immediately talked about the ideas she came up with to move her chapter ahead. Her sleep thinking (or dreaming) helps her integrate myriad ideas into more cogent thoughts.

I wondered if she might resent losing sleep time to work, but she told me it was stimulating and affirming to have her sleep partner involved in the book project. Her subconscious mind is undoubtedly doing the work it is meant to do, and she welcomes its full participation.

I’m beginning to think about how I can use my sleep to help me achieve more (beyond good rest)  and that it would be fun to have its alliance in solving real challenges. Here are some ideas I am working on:

  1. I love the question, “What excites me right now?”  It immediately gets me focused on the good things going on for me and not about what I perceive to problematic.
  2. I’m thinking that just one question on my subject matter would be good to focus upon and to frame it as simply as possible.  For example, I’m working on a new website and am struggling a bit with finding the right words to fully engage my readers.
  3. I don’t want to bring too many troubles to bed with me such as financial worries or complex family situations. These are anxiety-provoking and keep me up; These are better managed with daytime thoughts.
  4. I’ll be keeping a book on my nightstand where I’ll write down the question before I go to bed and then write down my ideas when I wake up.

I’ve got a good coach in my bed, and I bet she can give me other tips. After all, she is on it. 24/7

© Richard Citrin 2023

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