Sun and moon, rise and shine: the importance of good sleep

February 3, 2021

Sun and moon painting collage by Ruby

Ruby Ardizzone explores the effect light, dark and creativity can have on our sleep-wake cycle

During these past months – well coming up for a year now – I’m sure most of you will identify with some changes in your sleep patterns. With all this uncertainty, the lockdowns, and much more pressure to manage our own time, our sleep-wake cycles will no doubt have been disrupted at some point.

I’ve definitely had to find different ways of giving purpose to my life and creativity has helped me. I study fine art at uni so I am familiar with using various media to express myself. However, working with Exposure has given my art another dimension, having to think about how and why creating stuff nourishes me and exploring this with both words and imagery.

Light and dark have dramatic effects on our sleep, regulating our natural biological rhythm, our melatonin (sleep hormone) production, and, in turn, our sleep cycle.

There are some new theories you can check out in We Heart magazine, that explain why sleep promotes creativity; how dreaming and the phases of sleep help us connect the dots and think outside the box.

With this third lockdown – in the depths of our dark, wintery season – many of my friends and I have turned day into night. I haven’t found this change very productive and I’ve noticed that my irregular sleep patterns impact negatively on my mood, motivation and focus.

I know it’s classic behaviour for teens-early-twenties to go to bed in the wee hours and sleep into the day, when possible.

Acrylic sun painting and collage by Ruby

However, what I didn’t fully realise is that our circadian rhythm (our brain’s natural sleep-wake schedule), like an internal clock, shifts toward later sleeping and waking times in adolescence.

These sleep cycle disturbances are inevitably being exacerbated during this pandemic. So I started to explore this problem visually, maybe not even consciously at first.

Inspired by the graphic symbols for day and night, I began to paint, using acrylics, my interpretation of the sun and moon. Then, using a collage technique popularised by Kensuke Koike, I created my own pixelated pieces.

Koike is a collage artist who completely changes images without removing or adding any components to the original. In an interview, Koike says that altering images conjures a new story and curiosity for the viewer.

Using Koike’s technique I cut up and rearranged my sun and moon paintings. Making the first cuts was daunting. As I continued, I became curious to discover how the manipulation was adding a new dimension to the images, creating more intensity and movement.

I have manually lowered the resolution of my images, pixelating them by hand and not digitally. In this day and age, I feel it’s refreshing to combine inspiration from digital art with more traditional methods, rather than keeping them separate.

Acrylic moon painting and collage by Ruby

I know that working on a computer late into the night isn’t very conducive to sleep. So many of us look at our phones, laptops or screens regularly, right up until our head hits the pillow. But, according to the National Sleep Foundation, the blue light that’s emitted from our electronic devices can delay the release of melatonin.

Sleep is also disrupted for young people with early starts t school, college and uni. SleepFoundation.org finds only 11% of teens get the sleep they need.

When only exposed to natural light, a person’s circadian rhythm becomes closely synchronised with sunrise and sunset, staying awake during daylight and sleeping when it’s dark.

When our sleep-wake cycle is balanced, our mind flourishes. Sleep is a non-negotiable biological necessity. I keep my sun and moon images pinned up in my room to remind me of the importance of this.

Sleep disruption negatively affects our mental and physical health: our metabolism, immune system and even our creativity.

If you need support getting your sleep back on track, check out these 12 tips from Matthew Walker, author of ‘Why We Sleep’. Also, you can read, in Everyday Health, suggestions for resetting your sleep routine.

Rise and shine!

Sun painting with acrylics by Ruby

Ruby is 19 years old and studying Fine Art at Leeds Arts University. She enjoys using collage and painting as media to express herself. She loves listening to music which inspires her artwork. 

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