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In praise of sleep by Robert Genn

In praise of sleep
by Robert Genn

After a week of wildness and goofing off while at art school, I stayed up for 48 hours to complete a particularly tough assignment. My classmate and best friend, Jim Ferron, on the other hand, had stayed off the streets and worked at the project in a measured, systematic way. Jim aced the job while my effort earned me a trip to the registrar's office. "You look like a hoot owl," said the registrar, "Explain yourself."

Current research indicates that most people need seven hours of sleep--no more, no less--for best mental sharpness, effective workdays and long-term avoidance of dementia, stroke, etc. This was recently disclosed to 4,000 delegates who attended the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Vancouver, B.C., Canada. In this conference, sleep was mentioned frequently.

RLZ is a system suitable for creative people. "Regulated Life Zones" permits folks to go for days or even weeks in steady and energetic creativity. Also paying dividends in growth and productivity, the idea is to sleep regular hours, eat moderately, minimize social events and not move far from your work area except possibly for exercise.

The RLZ program fizzles when outside stimulus is once again needed. Self-understanding determines time and duration. All artists need to know their own speed.

The prospect of solo shows, like the meeting of school deadlines, need not deflect this sort of regularity. Work goes best when it is paced, contemplated in good time and infused with focus and the internal excitement that the work itself evokes. Going to bed about the same time every night sets the inner clock to coincide with the next dispensation. Good work and a satisfying, simple lifestyle induce efficient sleep.

Mental sharpness studies also show that the seven-hour rule applies when part of it is a midday nap. Many artists report "two days for the price of one." Rising again in midday they are revived and refreshed. I recommend snoozing in a quiet sanctuary outside the studio where you can rest undisturbed. The use of mechanical alarm clocks in the morning or afternoon is the only reason I know of for the carrying of firearms.

Best regards,


PS: "Extreme sleep durations (too little or too much) may contribute to cognitive loss." (Elizabeth Devore, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston)

Esoterica: When the registrar asked me to explain myself, I unfortunately let out a little hoot. Come to think of it, it's amazing this was not my last day at Art Center. I told her I now realized the marathon thing was not working for me, and I was too tired to explain why. But I told her I was one hoot owl who would change its spots. Looking back, it was an important moment in my art career. Jobs worth doing are worth doing well. Take the time and love the work. The monk-like lifestyle has lots of epiphanies. Be as sharp as you can possibly be. Get sleep.


Robert Genn has given ARTAZINE permission to post from his twice-weekly newsletter. For more of his artistic insights, visit his blog at www.painterspost.com.

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