Here I discuss the difficulties and frustrations of being an insomniac writer. I’ll go into why it hits creativity especially hard and maybe just vent a little … since I’m awake anyway.
Can’t sleep, huh? Even when I was a kid, I remember struggling to get a good night’s sleep. And for that reason, I’ve basically loathed sleep my entire life. Some people talk about sleep like it’s something they do for recreation, and this has never made sense to me. It’s like wrestling with someone I can’t possibly defeat.
I’m not a person who generally lies in bed and stresses, though I must admit I do that on occasion. It’s more that it’s like there’s a switch in my head that won’t go off, like I can’t go into sleep mode, so I lie there, empty-headed, trying to relax, but nothing happens. I would say that on most nights, I sleep less than five hours, often less than four. I can’t remember the last time I had a solid eight. I’ve tried most everything from sleep aids to getting away from electronic devices to various techniques, but I’ve not had anything that worked.
Boo-hoo. Well, this isn’t all venting (though that’s part of it). My inability to sleep is especially difficult as a creative person. For example, I know, for me, that I work best when I have a routine. That routine helps put me in the mindset to work, and I work best in the morning.
Problem is, no matter how effective my routine is, if I’ve only slept two hours the previous night (like last night), I will not be an effective creator. It takes a lot of energy to be a creative person. For me, I have to bring that to my work, so my inability to sleep destroys that, and I go around feeling like a zombie (BRAINS!) the rest of the day.
Insomnia destroys any continuity I have in my life, so that routine I was talking about … well, it becomes not so routine. My vision is blurred, and I struggle to focus, so reading can be difficult. Also, one of the first things I struggle with when I haven’t slept well for a while is with language and word recall. It’s infuriating, embarrassing, and difficult. It makes me feel like my brain doesn’t work properly.
I have a solution! Work while you can’t sleep! Yeah, that doesn’t work … at least, not for me. It’s not that I’m not tired at night. I’m exhausted. I’m desperate for sleep. I wish I could be productive in those dark hours, but I’ve not yet found a way to be. I mean, I can read to a certain point, but at some level, it depends how the previous nights have gone.
I’ve seen way too many 4:00AMs in my life, and I don’t believe there are many more lonely places than that. I know a lot of people struggle with this. When I see the routines of my favorite authors, most every one of them starts early in the morning and goes to bed early. I wonder how many of my writer friends have similar struggles, and I wonder if there is a flexible routine or a decent solution they could recommend.
Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleave of care
The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
Chief nourisher in life’s feast.
- William Shakespeare, Macbeth