Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Sleep-Deprived Writer--by Joanne

The Sleep-Deprived Writer

“There is no hope for a civilization which starts each day to the sound of an alarm clock.”
--Author Unknown

I’m a little late posting this blog today because I fell asleep.
(Just kidding---I couldn’t resist!) :)

This past week, my son raved about a movie he recently watched entitled “Insomnia”. This movie was made in 2003. The lead actor is the brilliant Al Pacino, and the movie is directed by the just as brilliant Chris Nolan. The setting is Alaska, and Al Pacino is a cop who cannot sleep.
I won’t tell you what happens, as I don’t want to spoil the movie for those who haven’t seen it.
And although sleep deprivation is not insomnia, it is a very serious condition which can and does upset many people’s lives.

Sleep deprivation is defined as “the condition of being robbed of sleep”. Not getting enough sleep can lead to loss of energy, blurred vision, nausea and confusion. It is a risk factor for several serious illnesses including heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

In once recent article, “Sleep deprivation has become one of the most pervasive health problems facing the United States. It is estimated that people on average now sleep one and a half hours less than people did a century ago. Some experts are even beginning to wonder if widespread sleep deprivation is having an effect on America’s brainpower and creativity. They are advocating that sleep deprivation be recognized with the same seriousness that is associated with the impact of alcohol on society.”

Further on in the same article:
“A person who loses one night’s sleep will generally be irritable and clumsy during the next day and will either become tired easily or speed up because of adrenalin. After missing two night’s sleep, a person will have problems concentrating and will begin to make mistakes on normal tasks. Three missed nights and a person will start to hallucinate and lose grasp of reality. Someone who gets just a few hours of sleep each night occurs a large “sleep debt” and can begin to experience many of the same problems over time. A 1997 study found that people whose sleep was restricted to four to five hours per night for one week needed two full nights of sleep to recover performance, alertness, and normal mood.”

Our modern society promotes sleep deprivation, whether it be staying up too late to surf the internet or watch a favorite TV show, or getting up early to begin the endless tasks of our busy lives.

How does an author incorporate writing into an already packed schedule and still get enough sleep? Do we use a stopwatch while we surf, hire a maid, or enlist the help of our family and friends to carve out some much needed rest?

Please share your ideas. I do all of the above, except for the idea I like best--hiring a maid!

16 comments:

Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

I can relate to the insomnia thing, Joanne. When I was corporate, I traveled a lot, and had mega problems sleeping. Now, my characters sometimes keep me awake. LOL. But I've discovered if I stay away from caffeine after 1:00 PM, I'm okay.

Ciara Knight said...

I carry some form of writing utensil with me where ever I go. I plot while driving, cleaning, etc... I try to schedule 'writing time' where I simply put on paper what I've already created. I wrote my first novel during kids activities;TKD, baseball practice, football practice, etc...
If I try to sit down with out already creating the scene in my head it will be a painful writing session with little progress.

Mona Risk said...

Yes, sleep deprivation is my lot since I started writing. I become sleepiy around 10 pm, but don't go to bed till 1 am. What can I do if that is my best writing time? And once in bed I am wide-awake and start plotting!!!

Barbara Monajem said...

I'm really terrible at plotting, but since I'm awake a lot at night, I try to use that time to plan what should happen next in the WIP. The only problem is that often I drift off and lose my ideas... Ah, well.

Joanne said...

Dawn,
I can't have any caffeine after 6:00 PM, or I won't be able to sleep, either.

Joanne said...

Ciara,
That is absolutely brilliant. You don't lose any time that way, and probably are able to get a good night's sleep.

Joanne said...

Mona,
We've been friends for so many years, but I didn't realize you and I have the same writing habits. Like you, I am sleep-deprived!

Joanne said...

Barbara,
As you know, my plotting skills are non-existent. I heard somewhere that if you think of a problem scene before you drift off, it will be solved for you the next morning. Alas, this hasn't happened yet for me.

Jill James said...

My body is so used to a certain number of hours of sleep, if I miss just one or two because I can't fall asleep I am stupid the next day - literally. I can't think straight. I think I'm getting things done and at the end of the day, nothing is done. I need my 7 hours of sleep to function right.

Mary Marvella said...

Joanne, I am often sleep depraved. I'm a night owl and stay up way, too late, even if I must cram carbs into my face and chug caffeine. At some point my body rebels and forces me to get 9-? hours of sleep, so I can start the vicious cycle again.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

I cannot think much less write when I am tired. My eyelids just seem to slam shut and that is it - I am done. Then I crawl into bed and all these ideas and plans run through my head and I don't sleep. It is weird, but it seems to be my life these days. I've found that I need down time after I shut the computer off and hit the pillow. I admire those who can work late into the night or get up early in the morning. Maybe I am just a lazy being... :(

Joanne said...

Jill,
Seven hours of sleep is not that much. Like you, I find I'm not very productive if I don't get a good night's rest.

Joanne said...

Mary,
Like you, I'm a night owl. Cereal is my carb of choice, although I avoid caffeine after 6:00 PM, lest I'm awake all night.

Joanne said...

Paisley,
I've read that TV and computer time just before bed is the absolute worst thing you can do. The brain won't shut down and rest the way it should. I've had many a night when I've worked late on a manuscript, then crawled exhausted into bed. But, I couldn't sleep. It's beyond frustrating.

Clarissa Southwick said...

The best cure for insomnia that I know is simply routine, always going to bed at the same time in the same way every night. Your body recognizes the cues and it becomes almost impossible to stay awake.

Another trick that works is to raise your body temperature and then have it drop rapidly. Your body will naturally go to sleep. This is usually done with a hot bath minutes before going to sleep in a cool room. I hope this helps!

Joanne said...

Clarissa,
What a great suggestion for insomnia. I've heard about taking a hot bath, drinking warm milk, etc., but not immediately going to sleep in a cold room. Great tip!