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romancewriter
05-09-2008, 07:14 AM
Unfortunately insomnia and I are old friends. Most of the time it's not too much of a problem and I can go several months without any serious incidents. For me that means that I'm not still staring at the clock at 4 am. However there have been times, not too recently thank goodness, when my insomnia has gotten to point I've had to go the emergency room in the middle of the night because I haven't slept in five nights.

Anyway one of my triggers is when I got too 'into' something I'm writing and then shortly thereafter attempt to go to sleep. I often end up lying awake for hours thinking about my plot. Where it's going, and maybe I should try this, and if I'm editing, hey, what if I phrase that paragraph like this . . . Of course the most logical cure would be to not write so late into the evening, but I work full time, have four children, and well, most of the time the only time I have to write is later in the day.

I have a story that's been requested that I'm trying to get submitted, but its not ready. And I've been somewhat dragging my feet about finishing it because of my schedule and my history with insomnia. I had one bout of insomnia last almost two months, and believe me, that is something I never wish to happen again. . . EVER!

So for the sake of my sanity and my writing career, does anyone have any tips? Or am I the only nutcase in the world that let's this get to me?

slcboston
05-09-2008, 07:22 AM
Other than talking with your doctor about potential causes and solutions, I have no advice. Perhaps shifting your schedule slightly, so you could get up earlier - easier said then done, I know, as I face a time crunch similar to yours - but then you would not be so hard pressed to work late into the evening.

You might also consider the fact that if you're not sleeping, the quality of your writing will suffer. At least mine does. :)

DWSTXS
05-09-2008, 07:25 AM
I take melatonin, to control the sleep cycles, also HTP-5, and I take valerian to help relax.....and when those aren't enough, I will take an over the counter sleep pill.

Kalyke
05-09-2008, 08:04 AM
Stimulated brain is a jumpy brain. Many caffeine addicts know you have to cut it off several hours before bed time. I guess maybe try to schedule your writing time for early morning or early in the evening don't stay up that late. Why not go to bed early and write in the pre-dawn hours, I hear it is a magical time. Take a brisk breath of morning air, listen to the meadow lark twitter, or the drunks stumbling home throwing beer bottles at the wall, whichever, and then write. Getting up out of bed to plop yourself in front of the computer at 4am sounds ideal-- cool, silent, no traffic noise, sleeping family. You can write till 8am. You will be be coffied up, and ready for work in the morning.

vfury
05-09-2008, 12:51 PM
I suffered from insomnia about this time last year to the point where it did affect my writing and career. I had to drastically rearrange my sleeping patterns and go to bed three hours earlier, and then get up earlier than I normally would. The first three weeks or so were horrible as I adjusted, but after that I started to look forward to it. I would have breakfast and write in bed for a while before my morning shower, and it was the one time of day where everything was quiet and I got a lot of work done.

I try to keep to the same schedule now, even on my days off, because I notice my body and mind both react badly to any changes in the routine. I would suggest talking to your doctor as well, however.

soleary
05-09-2008, 03:04 PM
When I can't sleep, I take Ambien. Works like a charm for me. You might also try meditation to clear your mind before sleep. Happy Zzzzs!

dirtsider
05-09-2008, 05:02 PM
Do some T'ai Chi after you write? T'ai Chi's been called the "moving meditation". The slow movements are very relaxing and since you have to concentrate on them, it might provide you a sort of "off switch". That or do what others have suggested - go to bed earlier and write in the morning.

Me, I've found that if I take a nap in the afternoons on Saturday, I can't sleep later that night. I might just use that time to write if that happens again.

jst5150
05-09-2008, 05:10 PM
Insomnia is tough. I get bouts of it. I'm going through a spell now.

Everything I've read recommends turning your brain off. Get it away from television and media. Find a quiet place in your house. Just breath. Work yourself into a position of tired. Then, get into bed. However, if you can't, you can't. And every recommendation I've read says get up if you're awake.

I find that I can sleep for six hours. And that's about it. For instance, I climbed into bed last night at 9:30 p.m. --and woke up at 3:30 a.m. And rolled around for three hours before I woke up. Your body is trained for whatever it needs.

However, the recommendation about turning your brain off and relaxing is big. No Tv and definitely no brainstorming before pillow time. :)

Phaeal
05-09-2008, 05:16 PM
If you possibly can, get a consultation with a sleep disorders specialist. Insomnia is no joke -- lack of sleep, as you too well know, erodes both physical and mental health.

inkkognito
05-09-2008, 07:30 PM
Here's one some of my clients have had success with (I use it myself too):

Conjure up a place that you are very, very familiar with. It could be your home town or a place you visit a lot. Myself, I tend to use amusement parks. Now, picturing yourself walking through it, and force yourself to notice all of the details. If your mind tries to wander, bring it immediately back to the task at hand.

In a sense, it's a more elaborate version of counting sheep. The trick is to keep your mind busy, but with something very detailed but mundane.

Good luck! I myself tend to drink too much caffeine before bed, so I know more about insomnia that I've ever cared to, and most of it is self-inflicted.

Michael Davis
05-09-2008, 10:48 PM
I have the same problem when I start writing a new book. When the story is firing off in my brain, I can't sleep. I get up at 3 or 4 and write till I'm exhausted. I've even keep a notepad and pencil by the bed so when I get a "wow" thought as I lay there, I can write it down. I script the idea in the dark so I don't wake up my mate, problem is reading my scribble in the morning (LOL).

My only solution is to just get it out of your system while the ideas are there. Thats why I'm on a three month refresh break. I'm burned out after my third novel. I know its a crazy process, but its the only way it works for me.

slcboston
05-09-2008, 10:50 PM
Stimulated brain is a jumpy brain. Many caffeine addicts know you have to cut it off several hours before bed time.

You know, back in college (many, many moons ago) I used to be able to get away with that cup of java at 9 PM and still sleep fine. Now, much past 4 and I start to have issues. I'm not sure if it's age, or if I just lost my tolerance over the years when I cut back. :(

joyce
05-09-2008, 11:08 PM
My insomnia is worse when I'm really into somthing I'm writing. I had to put myself on a schedule and try not to write anything past midnight. This seemed to give my brain an hour or so to calm down before I went to sleep. When this fails, I take a sleeping pill.

romancewriter
05-10-2008, 06:56 AM
Thanks so much everyone!!! For sharing your stories and for the advice. I've been considering doing some kind of meditation before bed so I will definitely try that. I switched to non caffeine soda a few years ago because of acid reflux problems, but I've found now that if I drink even the occasional one later in the day I'm awake for hours. So I totally get the stay away from caffeine advice. Maybe it is age.

I'm not much of a morning person but they may be an option if I ever intend to get anywhere with my writing. Even writing an hour or so before I have to leave for work would solve many of my late night sleeping problems. I haven't considered this, so thanks for the suggestion.

Don't even get me started on sleeping pills. sigh . . . I take way too many over the counter sleeping pills. Not that I'm taking handfuls at a time. But I do take one or two on practically a regular basis. And not always just because I can't sleep. I take them more so I don't lie awake for hours. Probably not a good idea. I've even been known to take additional doses if I don't get to sleep. Luckily I haven't had to do that too much recently, but . . .

I've heard the advice about not continuing to lie in bed if you can't sleep, and believe me, during the times when my insomnia is at it's worse I can totally see why. It really messes with your mind if you spend night after night lying awake staring at the ceiling. But that's another topic.

Anyway again thanks everyone. Truly. I tried posting on few groups for people with insomnia, and not to speak badly of anyone but a lot of those people have major issues. I feel a bit less awkward discussing this problem with people who get where I'm coming from, ie, other writers.

It's comforting to know I'm not the only who sometimes struggles with this.

thethinker42
05-10-2008, 03:47 PM
I don't have the kind of insomnia that's ever put me in the ER, but it's definitely a problem. Mine doesn't come in episodes like yours...it's every night (though after a couple of weeks or even monts, I'll usually have one night where I just crash for like 12 hours). I'm usually in bed for about 10 hours, and get maybe 3-4 hours a sleep (rarely is that continuous sleep). I simply...don't sleep. At least not until 3 or 4 am when I finally crash and burn for a couple of hours. This is causing a major bone of contention where I work right now...my boss changed my hours to accomodate someone else's childcare arrangements, so I have to come in an hour earlier, even though she *knows* how much that extra hour messes me up. Most people don't get it it. Seriously. But when you only get 3-4 hours of sleep, losing 1 hour is NOT good. (and I have seniority over this person...WTF? Anyway...)

So my problem isn't quite the same as yours, but lack of sleep is definitely a problem for me.

I do find that my writing can make it worse, and it becomes a vicious cycle: I do a bunch of writing, then I lie awake thinking about my writing, then I'm too damn tired to DO any writing, which frustrates me, and then I lie awake thinking about how much I WANT to write but can't focus on the screen because I'm just too tired. Growl.

I wish I had some advice/answers for ya. Insomnia sucks. Sounds like we have two different "brands" of it, but it still sucks. Most people don't seem to understand, and just tell me to take a sedative (that's a whole 'nother thread...drugs and I don't mix). In a twist of irony, the person with whom I've been able to commiserate the most is actually a narcoleptic...LOL...you wouldn't think we'd have ANYTHING in common when it comes to sleep, but we both wind up feeling about the same way most of the time (exhausted, aggravated, etc). Oh, sweet irony.

Anyway, I'm rambling. Probably because I'm F-ing tired right now.

WittyandorIronic
05-10-2008, 05:10 PM
Here's one some of my clients have had success with (I use it myself too):

Conjure up a place that you are very, very familiar with. It could be your home town or a place you visit a lot. Myself, I tend to use amusement parks. Now, picturing yourself walking through it, and force yourself to notice all of the details. If your mind tries to wander, bring it immediately back to the task at hand.

In a sense, it's a more elaborate version of counting sheep. The trick is to keep your mind busy, but with something very detailed but mundane.

Good luck! I myself tend to drink too much caffeine before bed, so I know more about insomnia that I've ever cared to, and most of it is self-inflicted.
I use a meditation similar to this when I can't shut down, but I don't have insomnia so I can't attest to it's use for that.
It is kind of hokey for some parts, but for me, nothing works finer. My body is so set to fall asleep when I do this that often times I don't get through a third of the whole meditation. The best tips for it are DETAIL, DETAIL, DETAIL. That is the whole point of meditation.

I picture a star falling, and my POV is from just behind the star. I see the earth getting closer, the cloudy atmosphere, the continents becoming clear. I try to picture in detail the path the star would have to take falling from the sky, over the US (obviously substitute where you live, lol), towards the eastern seaboard, closer and closer. Finally it is a google's eye view (heh, couldn't resist) over my city, then my neighborhood, then my apartment building. Finally the little star enters my window and I see my bedroom in detail. My husband asleep beside me, the dressers, my writing station.

The star gets to me and starts at my head. It slowly sinks into me, and as it does it leaves behind a golden warmth. SLOWLY it moves over my head, each muscle relaxing as it is infused with light, over my face, my neck, and my shoulders; all completely relaxing as I go. I breath in the golden glow and infuses my throat and spreads over my inside as the same time as my outside. (I rarely stay awake past my shoulders, lol).

I originally read this in a book. I think it was this (http://www.amazon.com/Maiden-Mother-Crone-Reality-Goddess/dp/0875421717/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1210424821&sr=8-1) book, but I don't remember for sure. Hope this helps.

Claudia Gray
05-10-2008, 07:22 PM
I've definitely had exactly this problem in the past, but unfortunately the only cure I found was training myself to shut down when I quit writing, and to be sure that I quit writing at least half an hour (preferably an hour) before bed. It's not that I don't still think about scenes, ideas, etc. when I lie down, but it tends to be more general mulling than driving fascination by that point. (And you don't have to worry about forgetting stuff/getting up to jot it down -- I find that our memories for events just before sleep are very strong.)

You have my sympathy -- this is a very difficult thing to struggle through.

A. J. Luxton
05-11-2008, 08:53 AM
Someone upthread mentioned 5-HTP, I just need to drop in a warning: it will help your sleep cycles when you take it in the morning -- it supplies serotonin, for the awake phase of the serotonin-->melatonin cycle.

I made the mistake of taking it when I wanted to get to sleep once. That was fun. I had weird half-awake dreams. But I didn't get any real sleeping done.

L M Ashton
05-11-2008, 04:45 PM
Yep, long and painful history of sleep problems here. My suggestions echoes what others have said - get thee to a sleep specialist and a sleep lab for a proper analysis of what's going on. That's the only way for sure to know what's going on.

Problem with labelling something like this as insomnia is that it might only resemble insomnia, but might actually be OSA (obstructive sleep apnea) or any of a host of other sleep disorders that have even more serious side effects than just sleep deprivation, although severe sleep deprivation is a pretty serious problem in its own right.

Nothing else that we can suggest will have any validity until you get a proper diagnosis by an expert in the relevant field.

Straka
05-11-2008, 06:51 PM
I know so people get up early to write instead of late at night.

For me if I got a good flow going it's hard to stop. So even if I have to work in the morning I'll get going way past midnight. And even then my minds so active that I'll lay in bed and not be able to close my eyes. What I learned to do is almost file away my thoughts, idle down my imagination, and clear my mind so i can sleep.

mario_c
05-12-2008, 07:00 AM
Here's one some of my clients have had success with (I use it myself too):

Conjure up a place that you are very, very familiar with. It could be your home town or a place you visit a lot. Myself, I tend to use amusement parks. Now, picturing yourself walking through it, and force yourself to notice all of the details. If your mind tries to wander, bring it immediately back to the task at hand.

In a sense, it's a more elaborate version of counting sheep. The trick is to keep your mind busy, but with something very detailed but mundane.
You're describing a variation of self-hypnosis. I went to a therapist for awhile and he showed me how to do this. You bring yourself into a still calm state of mind by using familiar sounds or imagery. Meditation is very close to the same technique.
Days when I'm really productive I sleep like a stone. I don't mean running at work or doing errands; I mean I've worked on writing or music or animation or just had a really good read online, or all of the above. A crappy day where I've been threatened by customers and sat in traffic, I can't go to bed.
On that note....

GeorgeK
05-12-2008, 08:59 AM
I have insomnia from neuropathic pain and write as a diversion. That's different from the need to write keeping me up. It sounds like there's something that needs to come out. Diphenhydramine maybe with some herbal tea (but avoid chamomille if you have autumn hayfever since ragweed allergies will sometimes cross react with chamomille) along with meditation would likely be safe things to try. If you had some bad event in childhood that is resurfacing around the same ages of your kids, then couselling might be in order. Writing is often a form of self treatment, in one way or another. One thing to be careful about with insomnia is alchohol. Some people are helped by a nightcap, but often it will disturb the sleep cycle. If you are having to go to the ER becuase of this you should at least mention it to your family doctor. If you don't have a family doctor, get one. That's much cheaper than an ER visit, and more reliable because they will know you. At the ER, a sleep deprived person can easily forget some important medical information.