So, I seem to be continuing on a bedtime theme here. It’s wishful thinking, no doubt. This chilly weather puts me in a mood to kick off my cloven sheep slippers and curl up in bed with a good book.
Ah, but I have sketches to catch up on! Missed another two days. Oh for shame! But wait, that’s right, there are no rules. No harm done!
Anyhoo, stop on over here and let’s see how the other SkADaMo participants have been doing.
Every now and then a journalist will ask me to reflect on a topic and then, for whatever reason, my thoughts are not quite germane to the story finally written and my words are swept aside. A few weeks later I'll remember the hours I put into answering the question and think, well, What are
Or this one, anyway.
And so today I share with you some thoughts I'd put together about what ultimately saved me from a terrifying bout of insomnia. I share this because sleep—its challenges, its blessings—binds us all, and because perhaps this will be helpful to one or two souls out there.Many years ago, I struggled with a terrifying bout of insomnia. I would go days without sleep, then catch but an hour or so before the cycle would begin again. I was a thin sheet of glass, always on the verge of fracture, and this went on for weeks, indeed months. Desperate, long nights of no resolve. Ridiculous home cures that did nothing but exacerbate the panic. Useless doctor appointments. It was as if adrenaline, and adrenaline alone, coursed through my veins, non-stop. Nothing seemed big enough to stop it. I was surprised, at the end of each day, that I was still alive.
You can’t really survive something like that. You can’t let it continue. From an utterly exhausted place, I had to find a cure.
And so I began to ask myself What if? What if those desperate nights were actually gifts? What if that moon was meant for me, and the night songs, and the play of shadows? What if I simply hadn’t been seeing what I should have been seeing all along? What if I stopped using that word “insomnia”—stopped trying to force myself to sleep, stopped looking at night as a curse? What if I re-purposed night, if only for a little while?
I made the decision, I’m saying, to move from despair to a sense of near expectancy. I began (at first with great deliberation but, quite quickly, with ease) to look forward to the night, and not to fear it. I began to think of myself as being not at war, but on a soulful quest. I started writing poems in those dark hours, something I had not done for years. I started, calmly, to think about metaphors—until I became eager to find them. I listened for music (outside my window, and in my own poem-making head) and settled, peacefully, into the sounds. And the funniest thing is that, once I’d decided to make use of those long nights, the nights became shorter—almost instantly. I’d settle in to watch the moon through a downstairs window, take out a pen to work on a poem and the next thing I knew it would be dawn. I had—miraculously—slept. Yes, I had a line or two of a poem beside me. But I had slept as well, for a couple hours at a time, and this was the beginning of my road back to health.
I'm still learning typography. It's starting to make a difference - I have favourite fonts now and I am starting to understand how to use them. But I do wake up in the middle of the night wanting to look at my font collection, or to check the kerning on the work I did in the evening. And I dream arcane and involved dramas about typefaces. Typefaces having trouble in school, growing crazy ligatures, getting divorced from their italics, running amok.
I made above drawing at six in the morning on my ipad because boyfriend was still asleep ( as I would normally be) and I didn't want to wake him up by booting up the computer to look at fonts. NO ONE NEEDS TO LOOK AT FONTS AT SIX IN THE MORNING.
|By the way, THIS IS A GREAT BOOK, as this lovely lady recommended. Thanks, Dee!|
Our guest blogger this week, F.M. Meredith, has the energy and know-how to get things done. If you have not read her blog at Acme Authors (Wednesday, March 23) please take a moment to do so. Her schedule is full and she has the capacity to be in several places at once! Perhaps she's a magician, a juggler at least. She is a great-grandmother! She is a wonderful author.
Since I just put my grandson down for his morning nap, I understand a bit about juggling a schedule. My daughter is getting married in two weeks, my husband and son have ventured into a business expansion and just two days ago I made a plethora of food for their Open House. I had a polka-dot party for my preschoolers at the library and judged our 2011, two day, Chess Tournament. Our Teen Book Club met and chatted about Dear America Books and our Teen Advisory Board has decided to send books to Taiwan. I was several days behind on my Bible Study, but went to our gathering anyway. I have yet to buy anything for my daughter's two bridal showers this weekend and I haven't a clue on what I might wear. And it's only Thursday!
Writing has been not only nudged off my plate, it's been dropped off the table of things to do. So, why did I wake last night at 1:15 and go downstairs and work on my writing for two and a half hours? I need my sleep. I'm exhausted, I need a mom to clean my house. I have guests coming in two weeks to stay at our home. Messy is the kindest word I can think of when I glance at the various rooms in my house. Okay, dirty too! I can see where I stopped cleaning when I attempted to put up Spring/Easter decorations. Three tubs sit in my dining room, half empty and taking up space. Yet, I woke with the urge to write!
The sensible me says, "Get a grip! You do NOT have time to write!" The writer sasses back by saying, "You've gone without sleep before. And besides, I need to do this!" Then I read Meredith's blog awhile ago and I feel energized, ready to trade sleep for writing production. Writing is part of who and what I am. When I don't make time in the day for writing, insomnia always sneaks in and makes me pay. I will write. One way or another I must write.
Thank you F.M. Meredith for sharing your insights with us this week. I know it takes determination and tenacity to become a successful author. You have proven hard work pays off.
Til next time ~
Imagine the moon like this—this bright in the sky. Imagine the blade of light that falls through the window now, slashes my glass desk, deflects at the touch of my hand, is not cool, is not warm, is not a weight, is yet alive.
There are reasonable people who claim the moon is nothing but dead, a stone in the sky.
There are those who like their words straight up, their stories quickened.
But I have the soul of an insomniac and the eyes of my mother, and I pour color down, where I can, where I am. Too old now to apologize for living my one life out loud.
FYI: the time stamp on yesterday's post was correct, but I didn't actually write it at 3:18 in the morning. I'm trying to take a page from Cynthia Leitich Smith's book (not her actual books, but the metaphorical one) and get ahead on my blog posts, so that I don't spend my new, regimented weekday writing hours trying to think up things to put on my blog, and instead use the time to get cracking into this book I've been itching to write for several years. Anyway, this post, which I probably won't put up until Tuesday, is actually being written at 3:20 a.m., because I still haven't gotten off that vampiric schedule we cultivated during Joe's vacation. So while he's tucked snuggly in bed, cuddling an utterly contented Scout, I've been wandering around a dark house reorganizing my books.
Yes, you read that correctly. I've been rearranging my books in the middle of the night, even though our alarm is set to go off in a few short hours and I promised Joe that I'd make sure he got up on time so he can start running his reports remotely from home while he's brewing coffee and taking a shower. This is not something that I regularly do - if anything, Joe's usually the clock-watcher trying to make sure I get to places on time.
But I digress.
Normally my middle-of-the-night organizing projects consist of things like going through magazine stacks that have spread from room to room, tearing out articles, recipes, and other things I want to keep. The goal is always to put them into clear plastic page protectors, organized by topic: cooking, cleaning tips, craft projects, etc. But usually the torn pages end up in white storage bins waiting to be catalogued.
Instead, my night took an unusual turn in that I climbed into bed, figuring I'd read a chapter or two before starting to do a face plant onto my current book's pages. Instead, I got sucked into this three-hundred-page novel that I wasn't even sure I would ever finish. The first fifty pages or so were tedious and hard to get into; too many bread crumbs dropped into too many directions. But then, out of nowhere, I couldn't put the sucker down. I finished it at 2:09 a.m., wider awake than I was before I got into bed in the first place.
So, I did what I usually do when I finish a book, and that is go try to pick out my next read. Only, nothing grabbed my attention right away. This is due to poor organization; all of my most recent reads were stacked in front of piles of books that I hadn't yet read, thus obscuring them from my view. Which meant I needed to sort. My sorting process, though, is kind of complicated in that I'm currently trying to streamline my personal library. One, because the books are overtaking the house, and two, because I need to refinish the two super-tall bookshelves in my old office so that I can move them into my new one (the still-unfinished craft room I've been
complaining talking about since August 2007). I started with the ones read in the past year, separating them into piles of books that will become a permanent part of my collection, books I'm not sure will be permanent additions but am not quite ready to let go of just yet, and ones that I have no problem passing onto someone else. Then I had to reorganize the to-be-read piles. My system for that involves separating titles into categories: books that I'm dying to read, books I know I should read but haven't had the desire to just yet, and books that I want to read but don't feel any pressure to read right this second. So there's a "short list" stack, meaning these are titles that I'll get to sooner rather than later. This is the pile I usually draw from after I've just finished a novel.
Only, this time, I still couldn't find any tome I was willing to make a commitment to. I actually broke down and ordered a few things from Amazon last week, temporarily suspending my own no-buying-new-books rule, but I was able to rationalize the purchase. One of the ones I bought was Amber Kizer's ONE BUTT CHEEK AT A TIME, because Amber's part of the ALAN panel I'll be on this November (as is her mother, an educator, and my good friend Liz Gallagher), and I've been meaning to get Amber's book since Liz raved about it months and months ago. Another was IF I STAY, which is one of those buzzy books I should've read ages ago (even my agent mentioned it as a must-read). I also felt the intense need to order THE HUNGER GAMES, which I've wanted to read forever, but was recently reminded of because of everyone who went to BEA squeeing about its eagerly anticipated sequel. Lastly, Sarah Dessen's ALONG FOR THE RIDE is just about to hit the shelves, and I never make myself wait to read one of her books. NEVER.
[A bit of an aside: did anyone catch the HOLY WOW, full-page ad in this week's EW touting ALONG FOR THE RIDE, as well as the entire Sarah Dessen collection? I think my eyes just about popped out of my head. Super freaking cool. Also: when scanning Amazon to hyperlink the book, I noticed an "erotic romance" that has the same title (by an author named - get this - Michelle Pillow Think it's a pseudonym, or are women born with the last name "Pillow" naturally drawn to writing erotic romances?). I find the whole thing kind of hilarious. Two of my previous books, CONTENTS UNDER PRESSURE and ANYONE BUT YOU, were also shared titles, the first to a mystery novel by Edna Buchanan (although, now scanning Amazon, I see there are like 16 other books with that title as well - at least mine comes up at the top of the list) and the second to a very popular romance by Jennifer Crusie (she bests me in the Amazon title search).
Thinking about Sarah's new release got me thinking about PERFECT FIFTHS, Megan McCafferty's supposedly final installment in the Jessica Darling series. I was almost positive I had FOURTH COMINGS buried in my office, but I can't find it. Which means I either lost it somewhere in the house OR somehow managed to miss buying it in the first place. Which isn't like me, because I'm a huge Megan McCafferty fan. Then again, I didn't read FOREVER IN BLUE: THE FOURTH SUMMER OF THE SISTERHOOD until the first movie's sequel was released on DVD, because I knew I couldn't see the movie without reading the book first. Even so, I think I'd had FOREVER IN BLUE for like two years before actually reading it. Which isn't totally unlike me, because as I've said, I often lose things in my own house for ages and ages.
While trying to dig up FOURTH COMINGS, I found books missing dust jackets; dust jackets missing books; books that I'd borrowed, read, and never returned; books that I'd borrowed, never read, probably never will read, and should return ASAP; books that I want to loan to other people who may or may not read them, and who may or may not return them. I almost never loan out something that's part of the permanent collection, even to trusted friends, because you never know what will happen to those precious babies in someone else's hands. I learned this lesson the hard way, when my mom managed to seriously mangle one of my very first galleys; to this day, I always tuck one pristine galley of each book onto my special "I Wrote These" shelf. So in those cases - when there's a book I know someone should read but I can't loan out, I usually just tell them it's a must-read in an e-mail or something. My friend Carolee, who's great at using her local library, has no problem tracking down these titles on her own, and I love her for it. I myself am eagerly awaiting the grand re-opening of my local library, which was literally demolished a couple of years ago and had to be rebuilt from the ground up. It's supposed to be open for business by August, and just the other day we saw that they'd finally put in a parking lot where there used to be a pit, so I'm so super psyched.
I just looked at the clock on my laptop and realized it's almost 4 a.m. WHY AM I SO FREAKING WIDE AWAKE? This is probablematic not only because I have to make sure Joe is fresh as a daisy and out the door by 8:15 a.m., but also because my Monday to-do list is something like 17 items long. As many women will attest, when the spouse or spousal equivalent is on vacation, it's difficult to get your own stuff done. Why should we work when they get to play? This is why Joe and I have subsisted mainly on Lean Pockets or Annie's Naturals Shells and Cheese, both bought in bulk at BJs, for the past week. I've got a freezer full of things like beef tenderloin and boneless pork tenderloin and bone-in chicken thighs that need to be turned into minor culinary masterpieces, but even though I've had recipes pulled for a few weeks, I haven't had the energy/determination to make a shopping list for the missing ingredients. It doesn't help that obtaining said ingredients will most likely require trips to three different stores - Shoprite, which is just down the street, the Newark Farmer's Market, which is a little bit further down, and Trader Joe's, which is all the way up by my mother's house. That last stop is particularly pressing, as I'm down to the last few squeezes of their store-brand version of Tom's of Maine toothpaste that tastes like licorice (I have this weird mouth issue where I can't tolerate fake mint or cinnamon or even orange in my toothpaste - they make my tongue break out in tiny sores. Even at the dentist, when I get my twice-yearly cleanings, I have to ask for the strawberry or bubble gum flavored kid's polish, because everything else gives me those same sores).
So, yeah. Four in the morning and I'm only slightly sleepier than when I started reorganizing my book collection some two hours ago. This is so not good. I wonder if diving into Amy Koss's THE GIRLS (which is what I ultimately decided I will read next) might help. Then again, it might keep me just as awake as Joshilyn Jackson's THE GIRL WHO STOPPED SWIMMING did.
[MONDAY UPDATE: Didn't start THE GIRLS yet; opted instead for writing some silly Facebook quiz about "How Well Do You Know Lara?" Finally got sleepy at 6 a.m. and crashed so hard that I didn't hear the alarm go off in the morning. Joe, did, though, and was confused as to why I wasn't hitting the snooze button. He got me up at 8:15 so I could see him off, and I was determined to stay awake all day so that I could go to bed early and get back on a normal schedule. This resolve lasted until 2 p.m., when even HARVEST MOON couldn't hold my attention any longer. Took a three-hour "nap" in the living room before waking up and deciding to chuck all and climb into bed. Was woken up at 7-ish, when Joe, now home from work, slipped in behind me and pulled me close. I explained to him about the not sleeping thing, and then, because all I'd eaten the whole day was a peanut butter on whole wheat sandwich, I was starving. I grabbed the only quicky thing we had - a partial pint of ice cream - and after six spoonfulls felt so sick I ended up puking. AND I was still tired. So we climbed back into bed and took another three-hour "nap," waking around 10:45. Joe went into caretaker mode and heated up some soup and made me a toasted cheese sandwich. We watched the last 40 minutes of a PUSHING DAISIES episode we started two weeks ago before hitting our respective laptops. Well, I actually watched a hilarious MIGHTY B episode I'd DVR'd before coming to edit this post. Now it is 1:12 a.m. (so much for complying with our new house rule of turning all electronic devices off at midnight) and we both should be in bed, but of course the "napping" made things worse. Oy. So now I think I will go start THE GIRLS and try to get myself sleepy. This is all probably far too much information than anyone needed, but I seem to have diarrhea of the mouth lately, so ... it is what it is. Until tomorrow ....]
Rosalind D. Cartwright is Professor Emeritus of Rush University Medical Center’s Graduate College Neuroscience Division, and was chair of the College’s Department of Behavioral Sciences until 2008. In her new book, The Twenty-Four Hour Mind: The Role of Sleep and Dreaming in Our Emotional Lives, Cartwright brings together decades of research into the bizarre sleep disorders known as parasomnias to propose a new theory of how the human mind works consistently throughout waking and sleeping hours. In the excerpt below we learn how important it is to slow down and get the appropriate amount of sleep.
We live in a culture that values speed; fast foods, fast cars, fast service, and fast decisions. All of this takes a toll. Fast food is blamed for the epidemic of obesity, fast cars for motor vehicle accidents, and the wish for fast service and decisions for an increase in the general level of frustration when we are inevitably put on hold. This “hurry up” lifestyle also has an impact on sleep – it has notably shortened the number of hours we as a society devote to it. When sleep experts speak to general audiences, one question they are often asked is, “How can I spend less time sleeping?” Those who ask this question tell us that sleep is a waste of time. Not only is that notion wrong, but the attitude behind it is largely responsible for the increase of several major public health problems.
We now turn to those whose short number of sleep hours is troubling enough for them that they seek professional help. This is not the case for all short sleepers; some manage to live productive lives and make significant contributions to society. These are the ones who occupy the extreme left-hand tail of a normal distribution of average hours of sleep needed to feel rested. Most of us will fall in the middle of that curve, needing between 7 and 9 hours, with an average close to 8. Short sleepers average 5.5 hours. Very few people are truly physiologically and psychologically healthy with only 5 hours of sleep on a nightly basis. Those who, as adults, were 8-hour sleepers but can no longer get that much sleep are in trouble. Some cannot get to sleep without a prolonged struggle, while others get to sleep but wake repeatedly. Then there are those who wake too early and cannot get back to sleep. Insomnia is a useful model to test the contribution of sleep to keeping us healthy in mind and body.
What is the definition of “short sleep”? Sleep experts are reluctant to answer this question by giving a specific number of hours. As noted, there is just too much variability among individuals in the amount of sleep it takes for them to accomplish the “rest and restoration” functions of sleep. When we are getting “enough” sleep, we wake up feeling physically refreshed, in a reasonably good mood, and able to function well throughout the day without undue sleepiness. All of us experience a down time around mid-afternoon, called the “circadian dip,” or sometimes known by the more colorful name, “circadian slump.” This is when our internal body temperature drops, bringing on a natural tendency to feel sleepy enough for a midday siesta. If you can get through this without falling asleep at your desk or in your car and then feel all right for the rest of the day, your number of sleep hours is right for you.
Another indicator of how much sleep is enough is the number of hours we sleep when sleep is unscheduled – that is, when we need not wake up at a set time, like on weekends and vacations. Since we tend to go to bed later under these ci
Since I don't have any new books to do an IMM post, I thought I'd talk about my writing, and how it's coming along.
I love reading. I have a huge imagination, and I'm easily transported into different worlds when reading. I also love creating stories.
On 2009, I was introduced to NaNoWriMo (this March is my three year bloggoversary!) and I loved the idea of it. In reality, it wasn't as easy as I'd thought it'd be. So, my story was left to gather virtual dust on my archive, and I always thought about going back to it, but I didn't know how to continue.
Turns out, I needed a plotline. I needed to write the entire plotline, before actually writing the book. So, last year, I set out to do just that. I wrote half a draft, and sent it to a Beta, because, once again, I was stuck.
And I had a lot of help! Tanya, my lovely Beta, was extremely helpful, and thanks to her, I now know exactly how and where I want my story to go.
But, let's face it. I'm no writer. I'm simply an amateur. But in the words of the awesome Maureen Johnson, you have to suck hard first
, to become great later.
So now, after having gone through tense changes, and from going to first person POV to 3rd to 1st again, this is where I stand:
My WIP is titled Insomnia. Its current word count is of 20, 938. I've written 72 pages. Which is more than I've ever written, and makes me so proud of myself for actually being in this place.
It's about Death and Life, literally. And of course, a romance thrown in for good measure.
My MCs names are Cora and Bl- Ben! Ben. I can't remember why I chose these names almost a year and a half ago, but now I can't think of them with any other names, they've become so clear in my mind, I actually see them in my mind's eye. I know exactly how they look, how they feel, what they like to wear and what music they're into.
The plot suffered a major change as well. Because, after reading Beautiful Creatures, I thought my WIP was very similar to it; why, I don't know, I hadn't even read BC before starting writing it! One day, I had a stroke of inspiration, and I knew what my book would be about.
I could have it finished by now, but I don't have the habit of writing every day. I guess you have to make that habit yourself.
And while I don't think about getting his publish the second I finish it, I do think about just finishing it! I'd love to have it printed and be able to pass it around my friends and family, and get feedback from them.
And then, maybe, just maybe, start with a new story.
Because I have plenty of ideas.
ps: Are you an aspiring writer, or may
Kai Meyer's The Wave Runners is the first in a fantasy trilogy. It's perfect for any children who are fans of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
14 year old Jolly is a pirate (and is named after the pirate flag, the Jolly Roger). She was bought in a slave market as a young child and has been brought up by the dashing pirate Captain Bannon. During her years aboard the Maid Maddy she has learnt many of the necessary pirating skills that she needs to survive, but her greatest talent is one she has had all her life: Jolly is a polliwiggle, someone who can literally walk on water. She believes that she's the last of her kind still alive. When the crew of the Maid Maddy are ambushed and everyone else is killed she starts to wonder if the real target of the attack was herself, rather than Captain Bannon and his crew. She manages to escape from her ship and is washed up, nearly dead, onto a small island where she is rescued by a young boy named Munk who, it turns out, is also a polliwiggle. However, in spite of their remote location someone discovers the truth about the pair. After Munk's parents are murdered by an entity called the Acherus, the two polliwiggles decide to try to discover the identity of whoever is behind the attacks. They soon find themselves in the middle of a swashbuckling adventure where they meet up with a number of unusual characters, including the mysterious Ghost Trader.
I enjoyed this story. Jolly and Munk are interesting characters, as is the explanation for their ability to walk on water. The tale is set in the 17th century - but I suspect it's an alternate universe to ours (though I confess I've not found the time, yet, to check out that theory). The Ghost Trader is also a fascinatingly mysterious character - I hope we'll learn a bit more about him in the later books.
This story was originally written in German but it's been beautifully translated into English and manages to maintain a sense of adventure and excitement throughout the story. Kai Meyer has an English website here. This book was received for review from the publisher, Egmont, and it's out in May. It's also available from Amazon.com, but in the US it is called Pirate's Curse (The Wave Walkers).
This post comes to you because I casually mentioned that my insomnia had been cured and immediately got an avalanche of letters saying, “Tell! How? I must know!”
So now I tell.
It’s not easy and it doesn’t work for everyone. In fact, the sleep doctor who put me on this regime said that the vast majority of his clients cannot stick to it and thus never find out whether it works for them or not. That’s because it’s very difficult for most people. Especially those with children. On top of that there are a (small) set of people who are addicted to their lack of sleep and the drama of it, but cannot admit that to themselves, and thus cannot undertake a systematic change of their sleep habits.
With this regime you have to change your sleep habits and make them regular, which is really really hard:
- You are only allowed to sleep in bed—no reading or writing or anything else.
- You’re not allowed to sleep during the day. Not even the teeniest, tiniest nap.
- You go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning—to start with make them at least five hours apart.
- An hour before you go to bed have a hot bath. This is to raise your core body temp which will then drop in the hour before you go to bed. If you don’t have a bath do some not-too-vigorour exercise for half an hour to raise your temperature. Don’t take a shower because that will wake you up.
- You need to get up in the first hour of dawn and go out and walk or run around in the sunshine for at least 15 minutes. This is to set your something or other. Can’t remember what you call it.
- If you can’t sleep when you go to bed, get up, and do something until you get tired again. Then go back to bed, if again you can’t sleep, get up, and do something else. This can go on until it’s time to get up. You then have to get up cause you’re not allowed to sleep during the day.
There you have it: that’s what cured my insomnia. If you stick to it it’s very likely you’ll be sleeping again.
As I said, though, sticking to it is the hard part. Did I mention how difficult it is?
I was in the ideal situation to try it: I was living with people who were not disturbed by my getting up at 5AM every morning, who were also not disturbed by my being up half the night, and my being shitty all day long when I couldn’t take a nap to cope with not having slept the night before.1
I was also a research fellow at a university where I had no fixed office hours and taught no classes. My duties were to research and write and publish. Undertaking this regime is a lot harder if you work nine to five or even longer hours and if you have children, pets or other responsibilities.
On the other hand, if your insomnia is really bad anyways this regime is probably not a whole lot worse than what you’re already going through.
When I started out I went to bed at midnight and got up at 5AM. The first week I did not sleep more than an hour or two during designated sleeping hours, but after that my sleeping crept up to three, four and then the full five hours. Then I expanded my sleeping to six.
I stuck to the regime for a few more months. First I experimented with not doing the bath thing and was still able to sleep. Then I let myself sleep longer than six hours and miss the dawn walk. When that didn’t affect my sleep I started going to to bed when I felt like it not at midnight every single night. Eventually I was back to normal.
Now—almost seven years later—I sleep fine. I do occasionally have sleepless nights. But they don’t freak me out the way they used to. I’m not afraid of insomnia any more—I’ve had long bouts of it since I was a kid. I now know what to do if an extended bout happens again. It’s a good feeling.
I think part of what used to happen when I was locked into crap sleep patterns was that I’d be so wound up about not sleeping that it made everything worse. I’d lie in bed for hours waiting for sleep to come, getting angrier, and more depressed, and less likely to sleep. At the same time, in a weird way, I was addicted to not sleeping. It felt romantic to be up in the early hours writing when the rest of the world was sleeping. I was convinced that I wrote my best stuff when I couldn’t sleep. I even thought my red eyes and pinched insomnia face were romantic. After all lots of famous writers have struggled with sleep. Writers are meant to be miserable and tortured, aren’t they?
Having learned how to beat my insomnia, I also beat those stupid romantic ideas out of myself. None of my fiction written while suffering from insomnia has ever been published. All my published novels are the product of a happy well-slept author.
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Did you sleep last night? I did, but only because I took NyQuil. It is estimated that one in ten people suffer from Insomnia- and Jack D. Edinger and Colleen E. Carney have written a guide that can keep you from suffering alone. Overcoming Insomnia, in our Treatments That Work series, has two editions, one designed for therapists and one designed for patients. Below is an excerpt from the patient workbook, which provides essential information about healthy sleep and the reasons for improving sleep habits, and then introduces a behavioral program designed to address that patient’s specific sleep problems.
-Select a standard rising time
It is important that you choose a standard rising time and stick to it every day regardless of how much sleep you actually get on any given night. This practice will help you develop a more stable sleep pattern. As discussed in the previous chapter, changes in your sleep-wake schedule can disturb your sleep. In fact, you can create the type of sleep problem that occurs in jet lag by varying your wake-up time from day to day. If you set your alarm for a standard wake-up time, you will soon notice that you usually will become sleepy at about the right time each evening to allow you to get the sleep you need.
- Use the bed only for sleeping
While in bed, you should avoid doing things that you do when you are awake. Do not read, watch TV, eat, study, use the phone, or do other things that require you to be awake while you are in bed. If you frequently use your bed for activities other than sleep, you are unintentionally training yourself to stay awake in bed. If you avoid these activities while in bed, your bed will eventually become a place where it is easy to go to sleep and stay asleep. Sexual activity is the only exception to this rule.
- Get out of bed when you can’t sleep
Never stay in bed, either at the beginning of the night or during the middle of the night, for extended periods without being asleep. Long periods of being awake in bed usually lead to tossing and turning, becoming frustrated, or worrying about not sleeping. These reactions, in turn, make it more difficult to fall asleep. Also, if you lie in bed awake for long periods, you are training yourself to be awake in bed. When sleep does not come on or return quickly, it is best to get up, go to another room, and only return to bed when you feel sleepy enough to fall asleep quickly. Generally speaking, you should get up if you find yourself awake for 20 minutes or so and you do not feel as though you are about to go to sleep.
- Don’t worry, plan, or problem solve in bed
Do not worry, mull over your problems, plan future events, or do other thinking while in bed. These activities are bad mental habits. If your mind seems to be racing or you can’t seem to shut off your thoughts, get up and go to another room until you can return to bed without this thinking interrupting your sleep. If this disruptive thinking occurs frequently, you may find it helpful to routinely set aside a time early each evening to do the thinking, problem solving, and planning you need to do. If you start this practice you probably will have fewer intrusive thoughts while you are in bed.
- Avoid daytime napping
You should avoid all daytime napping. Sleeping during the day partially satisfies your sleep needs and, thus, will weaken your sleep drive at night.
- Avoid excessive time in bed
In general, you should go to bed when you feel sleepy. However, you should not go to bed so early that you find yourself spending far more time in bed each night than you need for sleep. Spending too much time in bed results in a very broken night’s sleep. If you spend too much time in bed, you may actually make your sleep problem worse. The following discussion will help you to decide the amount of time to spend in bed and what times you should go to bed at night and get out of bed in the morning.
At night I keep
watch over my own
heart grinding, hands
winged out like a sylph
to muffle the sound. You
wouldn’t die either,
unaware. You would
stand by affirming blue,
you would remember
the plummeting pink
of the sun that was
caught in the blur
of yesterday’s train,
the shroud of your face, too,
in the scratched glass,
and in the rocking.
Hands over heart,