Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Best of Seekerville from the Archives and First Five Pages Critique

The Writer's Guide To Insomnia by Tina RadcliffeYou are a writer. Your mind is constantly going.
Sooner or later insomnia is going to strike. Today I'll share some insight on insomnia and sleep, along with ideas on how to make the most of your insomnia.

Let's talk sleep.

A typical adult needs about 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night. You say you only need five hours of sleep a night, but researchers have found that this is true of only about 10% of the adult population.

The sleep cycle consists of four stages, going from light to deep sleep and finally REM (Rapid Eye Movement). The sleep cycle takes about 90 minutes. Adults spend nearly half of sleep time in stage 2, about 20% in REM and the other 30% is divided between the other three stages.

So what do you think? Are you sleep deprived?

Try this Sheep Dash test to find out. Remember, the sheep don't lie.

Besides the usual hints for a good night sleep, consider whether you are fighting your natural sleep rhythm. Try this test to see what your sleep cycle is. Knowing your sleep cycle helps you to understand your body's natural dip in energy and how to plan your day.

If you naturally have a 3 p.m. dip in energy it's not most optimal time to plan to write, but it is a good time to nap. And if your peak energy time is 5 a.m. until 11 a.m. don't waste those hours checking email or grocery shopping when you could be writing.

Curb Your Insomnia

Besides working with your natural circadian rhythm, try these tricks for a better night sleep.
1. If you nap during the day, keep it short. If you allow your naps to move past stages 1 and 2 of the sleep cycle the result is sleep inertia, where you feel worse (groggier) that before you began your nap. For more information on naps check out this great Boston Globe article.
2. Sleep Dex offers tips on sleep hygiene to help you get a better night sleep such as:
  • Maintain a sleep schedule and don't change it on the weekends.
  • Don't drink alcohol before sleep.
  • Avoid caffeine 14 hours before sleep.
  • Avoid nicotine in the evening.
  • "Wake up with the sun, or use very bright lights in the morning. Sunlight helps the body’s internal biological clock reset itself each day."
  • Keep the sleep area quiet, dark and at a comfortable temperature.
  • Avoid exercise right before bedtime.
Additionally SleepDex says:
"Don’t lie in bed awake. If you can’t fall asleep within 30 minutes, go to another room and do something restful until you feel tired. Don’t read in bed. If you want to read, get out of bed and sit in a chair."

When Insomnia Does Strike
Be prepared.
Keep a list of simple things you can do when you can't sleep. This list should be posted close to your computer. Two a.m. is not the time to create the list. It should be prepared ahead of time.

Here's mine:
1. Write letters (real paper and ink). Works well for contest judge notes.
2. Catch up on my world events on and US Magazine, and NewYork Times online.
3. Go to my library's web page and see the status of my account and put new fiction on hold.
4. Update my personal webpage, blog, Facebook and Twitter pages.
5. Go to eHarlequin and listen to editor podcasts.
6. Scour the Kindle pages of Amazon for good deals.

This is an excellent time for surfing the web. But have destinations in mind so your time is productive. I suggest an Insomnia Folder on your desktop. Here are some of the best things to do on the web when you can't sleep. And it's all related in some way to writing.
1. Read editor and agent blogs to find out the latest in industry news. Here's a few of my favorites:
2. Check out movie previews and what's coming out on DVD:

3. Checkout For less than eight bucks a month you can stream as many movies as you want. Even at two a.m. Recently, I watched, The Take Home Chef (Season 1) Each episode is only 20 minutes.Great research. Or watch a flick until you get sleeeeeeepy..... But don't forget to put your earbuds in.
4. The middle of the night is a great time to find new reads along with industry insider news.

5. And if you really want some just plain writerly fun, check out these sites:

What do you do when you have writer's insomnia??

This post first appeared in Seekerville April 1, 2009.

Don't forget...

Today is the last day to be considered for our weekly critique.
More info here.


  1. Am I the first to comment! Wow...that's a first for me! So the time stamp on this post is proof that I am sleep deprived. It all started when my second was born (over two years ago now!) and he had a horrendous time sleeping due to ear infections. Therefore, as a nursing mom (and a mom in general), I didn't sleep. For a long time. Now that he's got tubes and a regular sleeping schedule, it's like my body hasn't gotten the memo. I stay up too late pretty much every night. It's worse if I start reading at night. It's like it wakes me up even more. *sigh* I like your tips, though. I'm going to try some of those and make a better effort to make myself get more rest! Thanks, Tina! Blessings~Stacey

  2. I used to be a nurse on the night shift. That started it for me.

    Combine that with stories in my head and I sleep very little. Bleh.

  3. It is so sad that I'm up to read this.
    so sad.
    so sad.
    so sad.
    so sad.
    so sad.
    so sad.
    so sad.
    so sad.
    so sad.
    so sad.
    so sad.
    so sad.
    so sad.
    so sad.
    so sad.
    so sad.
    so sad.
    so sad.
    so sad.
    so sad.
    so sad.

    It's like counting sheep only depressed.

  4. I usually write best after everyone's gone to bed, but that usually means staying up until 3:00 or 4:00 AM and then being tired for 2 days.

    Would love to be considered for the first five pages critique!

    Ok, I'm going to bed, now.

  5. Yeah, sure you are, Jan.

    I went to bed three hours ago.

  6. Oh and I would love a critique.

    Tina P

  7. Hey my other post disappeared. Oh well, maybe it will show up later. I was trying to be funny, so maybe it's better for you all if it doesn't come through. Wouldn't want anyone to split a gut laughing so hard. Snort

    Tina P

  8. Avoiding caffiene 14 hours before bedtime.

    Are you kidding me?

    Please tell me that's a typo and that you meant 14 minutes.

    And there's one other thing i beg to differ on, but i won't mention it in public (not at this hour anyway).

    As always, I would love a critique.

  9. I'm with Walt. 14 Hours? So I can have soda... like... never?
    CLEARLY I have a sleep problem. It's 3:17 a.m. :p

    But I get on Seekerville, grab the current TBR, check e-mail, and sometimes I ever write.

  10. I hit all the sheep and am still an armadillo.


    I brought extra strength coffee for you insomniacs. And high protein/high veggie foods. Carbs are not good if you can't sleep. Too much energy-causing sugar breakdown. (this isn't one bit true, but it makes us feel more pro-active on our healthy diets. Dagnabbit)

    I obviously don't suffer from this. I could fall asleep happily at 8 PM and rise and shine at 4:00 and think the world is a wonderful place. Since that doesn't happen, I go to bed at 10:00 and rise at 4:15.... Sun stays up longer in the summer, LOL, but the birds join me in the morning. (and the mice but that's another story... stupid mice. Dead mice don't tell tales but they sure do stink up the place.)

    Love you guys. Happy Saturday!

  11. And that was me from the kennel account...

    What a dork.

  12. When you combine writer insomnia with "change of life" insomnia, it's a double whammy! I prefer to get up after tossing and turning with insomnia; however DH gets very upset if I leave the bedroom say 2 a.m. My latest strategy is prayer! (And I would love to receive a 5-page critique) jenna(at)jennavictoria (dot/com)

  13. Tina, you always provide such great info.

    I don't sleep enough. Need to take some of the tests you mentioned and determine how to get more sleep. Go to bed earlier, perhaps? :)

    Plus, I read in bed before turning off the light. Evidently that's a no-no! But it clears my mind and allows me to drift off to la-la land.

    Heading back to bed to catch some more z-z-z-z's!

    Just kidding!

  14. I hit all the sheep and am a bobing bobcat.
    Don't feel like one, though. :-)

    I know that daydreaming might be discouraged when you're supposed to be sleeping, but I either daydream about the books I'm writing, pray, or read my Bible.

    And exercising before bed?!? Oh no! That's the only time I have to exercise - and I almost fall off the treadmill when I try to exercise in the morning. It's like my body isn't awake.

    But I don't go to sleep right away. I usually walk on the treadmill and then go write for an hour before going to bed.
    Good sleep on those nights (if I don't have interruptions from the little folks who live in my house :-)

    Oh - and I'd LOVE to be in the drawing for the 5 page crit :-)

  15. According to the chart, I'm sleepiest from 2-4. So, why do I often wake up at 3 in the morning?

    Neat post! Thanks for sharing!

  16. Walt, that was my reaction exactly! How on earth do you avoid caffeine for 14 hours before bedtime? Not happening!

  17. Oh, and my clock is different in the summer than in the winter. My body seems to wake when the sun is up (not coming up, but up).

  18. LOL, Walt!!

    Avoid caffeine for 14 hours??? Uh-oh, so THAT's my problem -- I only avoid it for 13!!

    I suffered bouts of insomnia in the last few months while behind on deadline, and it reallllly got on my nerves until I got mad and did what you suggested about getting up after 30 minutes of laying there awake. I'd storm downstairs to my computer and work on edits or write, ANYTHING book-related to turn insomnia into productive time. Pretty soon I was excited about the insomnia, seeing it as a way to get more writing done. Only ... as soon as I developed that mindset, the insomnia left. Grrrr ....

    Happy weekend, all!


  19. I think this just proves that bio-rhythms are real and should be respected.

    My husband's a night owl. So he works a lot at night.

    I'm a morning person, hence the 4:00 AM wake up call.

    But it's SUPER HARD when you try to put a night owl into day jobs and vice versa. Tough on the body and those chemical ups and downs.

    The good thing was, we never wanted to kill the kids at the same time!


    Kids get to live and become productive adults.


  20. Oh dear, according to the sheep dash I am a sluggish snail. Perhaps it's the fact that I am an animal lover and cringe at the thought of sticking darts in sheep?

    Or maybe it's because I am a sluggish snail and I don't have problems getting to sleep...or staying asleep...or taking a nap...or falling asleep in front of the computer...

    Actually I've discovered my perfect sleep's 24 hours!!!! Just call me sloth! :-)

  21. I started the Freerice thing and am up to level 50 with 2040 grains being donated. Does anyone know what that translates to in pounds?

    I'm an "ambling armadillo" on the sheep thing. Says I need to improve and get a cup of coffee. lol.


  22. I'm up to "rocketing rabbit" now. ; )

  23. Okay, it's nine am in Denver and I am awake..and seriously, my first thought at seeing 23 comments already on a weekend..was.


    hahahahahahahahahah, fell over laughing at my own silly joke.

  24. I slept fairly good last night, but I was exhausted from a week of long days that bled into the night.

    Kav, that's too funny about being a sloth. Yes, that's my natural rhythm too! I'm a sloth all day, and then toss and turn all night.

    If I can't sleep, I do a lot of things on the list. Check email, balance the checkbook, write, especially things that are on my mind and need to get done.

    Then, I can rest better.

  25. I haven't had a good nights sleep in ... lets see my son turns 15 in Sept, so it's been at least that long.

    Sleeps nice and all, but it can have disturbing side effects. Last night I had a dream I can't shake. My husband and I were living the life of hobo's. We followed railroad tracks and when we got hungry we looked for a church having a pot luck.

    One Sunday we found a church serving chicken dinners. The chicken breast were the length of a man's arm. They said we could eat but we would have to sing for our supper. We told them we would sing Victory in Jesus but it kept coming out Amazing Grace. They said we sounded terrible but still fed us.

    I woke up hungry this morning.

    I would love to be considered for the first five pages critique!

  26. Gosh I'm hungry after hearing your dream. LOL

  27. Ok, Jamie. At the mention of a dream you couldn't "shake"... You just made me want a milk-shake!

  28. Glad to hear that I'm not the only one who wakes up at various hours of the night and can't get back to sleep!

    I have the entire afternoon blocked off to work on revisions so I'd better get to it!

    PS. I'm a bobbing bobcat on the sheep game.

  29. Not that I don't want you people to sleep, but I'm glad to know I'm not the only one not sleeping! We should start some kind of club...No Sleep Anonymous; CDS (Counting Depressed Sheep) or perhaps collaborate on a new book "How to Write Your Next Novel in 30 Nights of No Sleep!

  30. Flash!

    Derek Jeter just became the only New York Yankee to get 3,000 hits! He did it with a home run!


    P.S. To Point:

    “Insomnia’s no crime,”
    said the body to the mind.
    “While you’re going to heaven;
    I'll be dead a long time.”


  31. I just saw that about the Jete!!!

    Wonderful news!!!

  32. Now I want a milk-shake :) Aren't milk products good for putting one to sleep? perfect

  33. Oh Lord, Ruthy will never be the same! Can we just scrub Vince's comment about Jeter before she sees it?

    Wait, leave it up...

    Maybe if we give her Jeter to talk about, she'll STOP talking about the dead mouse!

  34. Great links, Tina! I read most of them.

    Jan, I can so relate to staying up too late, wide awake, reading or writing, then paying for it for the next few days. I need my 8 hours to function.

  35. In honor of Jeter (and Ruthy) I went and watched youtube videos of Jeter in action. The man is amazing.

  36. I can't tell you the last time I actually got into that deep sleep stage. My biggest sleep issues is tossing and turning between pain in my shoulder (still remainder from surgery three months ago) on the left side and sciatic nerve issues on the right side.

    Even though I'm finally back to editing during the day, I find my process slow because of being in that perpetual fog state due to lack of sleep. Sigh.

    When I get back to sleeping the night through and without pain, I know I won't take a good night rest for granted anymore.

    Hope you all get some rest. :)

    Jodie Wolfe

  37. Ruthy had the TV on and the radio on the porch while she sprayed Round-up on a huge part of her pretty English Ivy that is inundated with poison ivy... I actually got to SEE the first hit and the home run that made 3000!


    Crackerjacks, anyone????

    And his Dad looked so proud... so happy.

    Delighted. ;)

  38. Congrats, Jeter! 3000 hits, that's amazing. Glad you got to watch it, Ruthy.

    Jamie, I'm hungry. Milkshakes are always good : )

    And what's up with the caffeine? 14 hours? Really? Why, that would be STOPPING before noon! Are they crazy?

    AND, I played that silly sheep game...over and over and over again...and will forever remain a sluggish snail.

    I'm okay with that.

  39. First time on this blog but just had to write about the sleeping thing! How can I be happy that there are so many other writers who suffer from a lack of sleep? Yet, there is comfort there. My head starts turning, the story comes to life, the characters start talking and then, and then...I get up to write and I am too tired! And I keep thinking about the 3 to 4 year olds that I have to teach the next day so...warm milk is one of my night time companions.
    Would love to be considered for the first five pages.