Things that eat my sleep

Five “work” nights in a row, and the first four ended in less sleep than I need.  Night five (tonight) is moving that way as well, so I am going to take a cheat and just use these silly sleep-eaters as my post.  (That way I can get to bed sooner, and hopefully lose less sleep.)

Here are the things that have nibbled at the edges of my rest this week:

– I received a call from a friend who is very much missed, and who deserved the nearly hour-long call that started just before bedtime

– Dance class and a project that needed to be done pushed back my evening routine, leading to a late bedtime.  Then I started reading (just for a few minutes) and suddenly I was an hour behind on my sleep!  (Books are dangerous like that.)

– I belatedly remembered that I had to make food for a potluck at work, which I combined with a late-night call to my sister.  The food and call started at bedtime and finished at “sleep time” and somehow I still needed to shower and blog!

– I finally got to bed early, put my book away ahead of schedule, and it looked like a promising night of catching up on sleep.  Then something unknown (a sound outside?  the dog licking my fingers?) woke me up at 3am, and the dog and my brain worked together to keep me awake for 45 minutes.  I think interrupted sleep is worse than shortened sleep.

And tonight?  I’m blogging at 10:45pm, 45 minutes past when I am usually in bed and reading.  Never trust a friend when he says “just a quick bite, it’ll only be an hour” – not going to happen!

There is a tiny writing lesson here.  If you need to prime a character to be in a bad mood because they haven’t got a lot of sleep, there are endless ways in which you can keep them from resting!


Writing Practice

It started quietly enough to ignore.   Gradually it grew stronger, and while the sound was not unpleasant, the increase in volume and repetition were soon irritating enough to require a response.

Her arm was already reaching for the source of the noise when she gained the awareness that comes with waking.  Blinking, she grabbed the phone and rolled back into her bed.  A touch of one finger silenced the alarm, and with the knowledge that she had ten minutes before it would start again, she closed her eyes.

A sharp whistle abruptly stopped her slide back into sleep.  For a moment she scowled before letting her muscles relax and trying again.  She took a single deep breath before a louder, more melodious whistle filled the air.  Immediately the whistle was followed by a rapid, repeated banging.  Sighing, she stared at the ceiling as an increasing series of sounds came in from her living room.   Clicks, trills, sniffs and the occasional garbled word left her with a dilemma.  If she closed the door, the room would quiet but would rapidly get stuffy, and her efforts to snooze would be wasted.  Leaving the door open, however, left her to the barrage of noise.  The choices were anything but restful.

With another sigh, she turned off the snooze and rolled out of bed.  The sounds from the other room slowed.  She shuffled down the hall and waited for a brief moment of quiet before peeking around the corner.  “Good morning, parrot,” she said, before heading into the bathroom to get ready for work.

Welcome Back, Mara!

Last night I had wicked insomnia.  This wasn’t the usual “brain won’t shut up” version that keeps me from falling asleep in the first place.  No, this was a middle of the night, panicked and guilt-laced litany of the things I forgot to do that were suddenly going to loom large.  Telling myself that I could deal with it in the morning didn’t help.  Even getting up to look at the list of deadlines (only one of which I missed; thanks for the exaggerated panic, brain) did little to still the hamster wheel.

As I usually do when I can’t get my mind out of a nocturnal loop pattern, I turned to my creativity.  Creating story or developing characters can be a great way for me to bring my flailing conscious back to a calmer, more focused place.  A quiet focus on one mental task is usually just what it takes to get to sleep.  (That’s why counting sheep has the reputation that it does; counting backward from 300 by threes is also a good one.)

Last night I had a pleasant surprise as I called upon my writing mind to help lull me into rest; Mara reappeared!  For the past six weeks, my brain has been so full of work and stress that my characters had run in fear.  I rarely needed to work on story to sleep – I was physically and mentally worn out – but when I did, the best I could manage was a rudimentary love story with characters so flat they didn’t even ask for names.  It was so nice to finally bring out some of the people who I need to continue my current project.  I even had some good inspiration for a scene in Mara’s tale!

It feels like I’m finally getting back to a place that will let me bring out my creative side more often, and Mara’s reemergence last night is a great sign.

Zombie Dreams and Some Alien Doctor

There are many benefits to having an active, vivid imagination.  One of those benefits is the ability to write stories, but there are others.  I can play out possible outcomes of a conversation, I can dream up new ideas for work, and I get very, very absorbed into books and movies.

The biggest downside I’ve found is sleep. More specifically, my imagination often prevents sleep, or interrupts it.

I find that my brain processes my day when I’m trying to fall asleep.  Sometimes that means an endless running of the work-related hamster wheel, with problems and stresses keeping my brain rattling.  Occasionally it will also mean that something I’ve watched or read earlier in the day gets replayed, in pieces or in its entirety, while I am trying to drift off.  I’ve found this is particularly the case with certain television shows, including one with a time- and space-traveling doctor and a phone booth that I’ve been hooked on lately.   Combine a mini-marathon (thanks, Netflix!) with caffeine after 8pm and I am not having a restful night.

Even when I can fall asleep, my imagination sometimes runs wild in my dreams.  Most often they manifest as generic “action-adventure” dreams, which don’t leave me with specific memories so much as a feeling that I spent the whole night running, thinking, and not resting.  Last night I had a zombie dream, which doesn’t really fit within my usual fiction-related habits.  I’ve watched a grand total of one zombie movie in my life, along with a couple of viewings of the zombie episode of Castle, and none of that has been recently.  I don’t even remember the zombies from my dream; I just know that when I woke up I was sure there were zombies involved.

Due to the sleep-affecting nature of my brain, I’ve learned to avoid horror (books or movies) and developed some coping mechanisms to help resolve some of the above.  I wouldn’t give up my imagination for anything, but it does make itself a pest from time to time.

Writing Practice

Haven’t done one of these in a while…

She slipped her bare legs between the fresh sheets, reveling in the feel of the crisp cotton on her skin.  Falling back, she let out a sigh as her head met the pillow, the plush mattress taking over the task of supporting her body.  She breathed an audible “aah” as she was relieved of the burden of being upright.  For a moment she lay still, the smell of clean linens and the gentle pressure of the blanket cocooning her.

Without lifting her head, she stretched her arm to the fullest of its length, reaching for the nightstand.  After a few attempts, the tip of her middle finger found the switch for the lamp.  The dark was immediate and her relaxation deepened.  Three heartbeats later, she pulled her arm back and snuggled further into her nest of comfort.

It only took a moment before her ever-active brain began chasing the details of her day, endless laps disturbing her rest and resurrecting her stress.  She briefly wondered if insomnia had come to visit once again.  Fortunately, it had been a very physical day, and it wasn’t long before her exhausted body took charge and quiet reigned.  Her mental gymnastics had been washed away by the rising tide of sleep.

An Overnight Adventure

In my family, the word “adventure” is used to describe a situation that doesn’t go exactly according to plan.  If we get lost going somewhere new, “It’s an adventure.”  If a plane is delayed and schedules have to be rearranged, “It’s an adventure.”

Last night, I had an adventure, as my mom called it when it happened.  I was driving back to South Dakota from visiting my family and got caught in the big snow storm in Iowa.  After spending nearly 4 hours traveling 5 miles (most of the time was spent in park with the car shut off), I got to sleep on the floor in the breakfast room at a Super 8.  Sharing that space were 15 strangers and a dog.  Thanks goodness my animals weren’t with me!

It wasn’t an adventure I’d like to repeat.  I only got a few hours of sleep, and there’s nothing quite like wearing the same clothes for 26 hours.  (A shower was high on the priority list when I did make it home, right after taking care of my bird and putting away perishable food.)  It wasn’t the most stressful sleeping arrangement I’ve had – that would probably be the downpour and cold front in a tent in the Chisos Mountains – but it also wasn’t restful.

To top it all off, I started getting sick Saturday night (a possible sinus infection) and sleeping on the floor with earplugs in made all the junk in my sinuses drain into my ear.  Pain was part of the reason for the lack of sleep.

I made it home this morning, though, and have showered and taken a nap.  I’m heading to the acute care clinic shortly to address my sickness, and I have tasty goodies leftover from the bridal shower (why I went home in the first place) to eat.  In case you hadn’t guessed, I’ll be heading to bed early tonight.  🙂

Aren’t adventures fun?


Heavy head
half-mast lids
limbs that resist movement

Slow thoughts
quiet mind
emotions lost in a sinkhole of apathy

Exhaustion sneaks up
Kept away by action
Let in by comfort

I don’t want to get up from my chair
even just to go to bed


Previous Older Entries