Intimate Details of the Sleep Habits of the Author of the Insomnia Apocalypse

I wrote a book about what would happen if everyone on earth stopped sleeping.

Every night I sleep with an app on my phone which records my movements and translates them into neat data about my sleeping habits.

I’ve always been fascinated by sleep.  I’ve had bouts of insomnia, usually to go along with hugely stressful times, and periods of anxiety and depression.  It laid the groundwork for a lifetime of being fascinated by, and appreciative of, sleep.

Being a movie-theatre Film Projectionist for over a decade let me see a variety of sleep cycles, both in myself and in others who worked in the whacky world of a Grindhouse; closing the booth one summer had me on 17:00-01:00 shifts, which wreaked havoc on my sleep schedule.  When I took over as Head Projectionist I got to make the schedule for the booth, and set myself up with 10:00-18:00 shifts that better fit with ‘having a normal schedule’.

I watched as coworkers and managers were sick constantly.  I saw many become slowly crushed by the job.  I’m sure some of it was at least partially due to the abuse they inflicted on what should have been their ally, their treasured companion in life: sleep.

Seeing people close-open (close the threatre at 1 or 2 in the morning, and have to be in to open the theatre the next day at 9 or 10) was totally crazy to me.  When people are tired, they get sick more often, are less happy, and, from a business standpoint, cost money in the form of mistakes.  In the projection booth, these mistakes could equal big bucks.  Scratched prints, dropped prints, mistakes when splicing reels together (in the correct order, please), adverts and trailers put in upside-down and backwards… the list of things that can go wrong in a booth is long.  And when you sleep-deprived people, mistakes cost customer satisfaction and money.

We know that sleep deprivation can cause impairment.

My fascination with sleep bled into the career I’ve been working towards my whole life: being an author.  It seems inevitable that sleep was going to be the focus of a book at some point.  All my past experiences aligned and I got a bolt-from-the-blue idea that set me off on the wildest journey of my life: writing a book about an insomnia apocalypse.  “What if the whole world stopped being able to sleep?”  I set about crafting a book to explore just what would happen.  I wrote it in the style of World War Z, so every chapter could showcase some new element, a new character, a new location.  This let me produce a book with many windows into an apocalypse, and effectively illustrate just how badly we need sleep.

Spoiler alert: we need sleep a lot.  Like, so, so much.

Here’s where I can share some nifty things about sleep: I have been sleeping with an app on my phone that records movement and translates it into sleep data.  For two years, I’ve been tracking my sleep.

I have data that spans the most massive changes in my life yet:

  • going through a divorce
  • moving to the other side of the world
  • publishing my breakout novel, fulfilling a lifelong dream

I feel like my sleep data is personal.  It clearly shows the ups and downs of my life.

Also interesting are the periods where I’m on meditation retreats, contrasted to the times when I’m living in town, in ‘regular society’ and not in the peace and quiet of a meditation centre.

By far my favourite data is The Longest Night.  To celebrate my book launch, I stayed awake for as long as possible, live on a Twitch stream.  I made it 80 hours before I called it due to safety concerns.  After those 80 hours, I slept for a whopping 16 hours and 43 minutes.

It was amazing.  The days following it are also interesting.

Want to see some neat graphs about all this?  Hold onto your butts, here we go.  I give you:

Intimate Details of the Sleeping Habits of the Author of the Insomnia Apocalypse

First, everything all at once. Check it.

And here’s each individual graph so you can see the appropriate values:

But wait, there’s context.  My life during the past two years has been WILD.  Lots of ups and downs; ups from living a beautiful new life, downs from processing the end of a marriage.  Here’s the data with a bit of timeline:  

My sleep quality has been very closely tied to stress.  Moving out on my own for the first time was great; it alleviated the crushing weight of a failing marriage and I slept so much better than I had in ages.  The dip in January was me nearly dying of a broken heart.

But hey I’m still here, thanks in no small part to some Epic Meditation.  It totally changed my life, and I’m so grateful to have it.  It really helped get me through some rough times.

You notice that green line of sleep quality dips as it approaches January of this year.  You may know that I’ve been working my whole entire life to become an author, and my first book, Sleep Over, was released on January 16th.  The stress leading up to that was enormous, and you can definitely see my sleep affected by it.

The next increase in sleep quality was relief from Sleep Over hitting the shelves, in print, from a bonafide New York publisher.  I was so happy to have it behind me.  This started off a two-month period of intense meditation retreats to help process this massive life event.

Here’s more recent data in the same detail:

And again with some life events in the timeline:

And again, the separate charts for values:

The most interesting sleep, by far, is this one: The Longest Night, the night after I stayed awake as long as possible (80 hours!) for Sleep Over‘s release.  Check it.

Time in bed: 16 hours and 43 minutes baby!  Holy WOW.  Interestingly, I dipped into The Deep (deep sleep) my usual 5 times.  It was so good.  No sleep is ever going to top it, not unless something goes drastically wrong haha.

My previous Longest Night (and also one of the BEST ever) was the first night after I arrived in New Zealand, fleeing a life on fire and into the loving arms of so many helpful people.

Sleep is so helpful!  When things are hard it just makes life much easier and better if I can get the sleep I need.

Now, some nights in detail, just to show off what I know about my sleep cycle now, after observing it for 2 years.

My ideal night has 4 or 5 dips into deep sleep.  Whether I need 4 or 5 depends on how well rested I’ve been leading up to that night.  If all is well, I only need 4.  But if I’m totally knackered, I need 5, over 8 hours.

This is a recent sleep.  I’m super pooped from a new job.  As you can see, I have to be up really early, but it’s okay because I was in bed just after 7, leaving me enough time with my head on the pillow to dip into deep sleep those 5 times I need.

Now look at this one where I only need 4 dips and 7 hours:

Fun fact: on deep meditation retreat, I can be totally knackered but I only need 4 dips into deep sleep to feel well rested.  And I need far fewer hours with my head on the pillow.  The graph above is from an intense day on a 10-day vipassana retreat.  It was the hardest I’ve ever focussed and was totally in ‘the zone’.  (Absolutely MASSIVE days chockers full of sitting and learning vipassana).  4 dips woo!

Now a typical one from the heart of my month-long retreat:

I needed fully one hour less in bed than normal, and I was waking up naturally between 4 and 5.  I was often having a lay-down after lunch to get another hour with my head on the pillow, so some days when I only got 4 I was actually needing 5 (but it was too exciting to stay in bed, not when I could have the meditation hall all to myself haha).

Just to contrast these pretty great sleeps, here are some truly terrible sleeps.  The plateau leading up to the first dip means it took ages for me to fall asleep, and the plateau on the tail end means I was super restless coming out of sleep and didn’t want to get up, hoping I’d get another dip into good sleep, but not getting it.  This was the night after moving my things into storage and preparing to leave my friends and family.  A very disruptive time, and it definitely shows!  Only 3 dips into The Deep as I’ve come to think of it.

Here’s another bad one, where I wake up with anxiety twice in the night.

Nearing the end of my post, here’s a 100% quality sleep, from when I was helping do good in the world and feeling generally awesome.

So there you have it, some sleep data.  I always love sharing it in the hopes it gets people thinking about their own sleep health.

In conclusion, sleep is really important to me.  Its quality is critically linked to what’s happening in life, and how much stress I’m experiencing.

Questions?  Comments?  Have a gander at this reddit thread where I’ll be interacting to answer and chat!

And if you’re interested in a book about an insomnia apocalypse, Sleep Over is part of a Book Bub promotion this week- the eBook is only $1.99 across all U.S. platforms!

Or if you want to just toss me a gold coin, hit up Patreon.

Thanks for hanging out.  Cheers!

-H.G.

P.S. Sleep well ^_^

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BEST NEWS EVERYONE!

It is with great pleasure that I announce I have a publisher for my novel Sleep Over!

My first published novel will be with Skyhorse Publishing.  They have placed 33 books on the New York Times bestseller list; I hope to add one more to that tally.

I am working closely with one of their editors to get the manuscript where they want it (for a larger audience, more commercial fiction than literary fiction) and I am 10000% on board with getting it to be the best that I possibly can, to reach as large and audience that I can!

I have about 1.5 tons of work to do.  How much writing is that?  Many.  Many writing to do.  Notes on just about every chapter.  Many new chapters to write.

I am so excited!

I have been waiting to tell everything this news for… let’s see, I submitted my first novel to a publisher in 2002, then wrote 5 more books, then, carry the 1… yes, ten thousand years.  But more specifically I had to keep this news about this publisher and this book under wraps for so long!  I am so glad to get to tell you finally.

Hurray for me!  I have a publisher!

I will keep you posted on things to come.

Expect to hear such exciting news like:

  • crumbling under the stress of revisions 
  • tackling tough revisions with gusto
  • getting the final draft approved by my editor
  • getting an author photo
  • getting a back blurb
  • getting cover quotes
  • getting a cover!
  • the book going to print
  • a release date
  • and much much more!

This process takes a crazy long time; don’t expect to see my book until 2017 (I think a January release was being tossed around- maybe I will get the best birthday present ever).

I will be sure to keep you posted.

Here’s a link to Skyhorse’s site.  Sleep Over will be under the Talos imprint, with their other great sci-fi, fantasy, and horror.  (For those that don’t know, publishing houses have “imprints” that handle the various genres they work with.)

I’d like to thank everyone who has checked in to see how things are going.  It’s a long process, and having your support has really made a difference to me.

Thanks for reading.  ❤

Heidi out.

Getting Close! And Check Out This Podcast!

Hello Dear Readers!

I am extremely excited to keep you updated with my progress in the quest to get a book published.  I have had offers from more than one publisher!  Now it’s a matter of choosing which one will be the best one for the job.  It’s a tough decision to make.  I’ll let you know when I’ve signed on with the publisher I choose.

In the mean time, I got to be a guest on a film podcast that goes in depth into a movie.  I chose “Children of Men” (2006) and Doug Ferguson and I talk about it for an hour.  If you want to check it out, listen to it here.

I really love Children of Men; it’s one of my favourite films.  Nerding out with someone else who loves it was a real treat.  If you haven’t seen the film, there are spoilers in the podcast, but we do say “spoiler alert” before things get spoilery.

Here’s the trailer for the film if you are wondering if you are interested:


But after hearing Doug and I talk about it like we do, how could you not be interested in it!

I’ll keep you posted regarding upcoming publishing excitement.

Thanks for stopping by!

Heidi out.

How I Started Reading More: All it took was a change of font

I have been wondering how to read more.  It sounds silly, I know.  I have bookshelves of books I would like to read.  They’re all right there.  My nightstand has a few books on it to remind me to read.  But there they sit, unread.

Being a writer means being a reader, right?  Reading is a necessity in honing your craft, seeing what else is out there, and has the side benefit of being immensely enjoyable if it grabs you.  That’s how it’s supposed to be.

But for me, it wasn’t.  It was like pulling teeth.

Graphic novels are another story- those I would devour.  I can spend hours reading graphic novels.  So why was it so hard for me to read books which were text only?

I thought maybe if I switched up the format it would help.  My husband got me an ereader for my birthday, and I was excited to play around with it.  It’s a fantastic piece of technology, and I think its portability, size, and weight, will go a long way to helping me read more.  I can actually hold it in one hand and the thumb of that same hand can turn the page!  This leaves my other hand free to be clamped over my mouth in horror, or languidly propping my head up while I relax and read.  It really lets e sink into the story.

It was all that.  But I still wasn’t really reading as much as I’d like.  It was still hard.

I’ve written dozens of short stories and five novels; it can’t be something to do with reading.  I am editing a novel right now, and I can spend hours at a time focussing on it.  I know, it’s a different mechanism; reading and editing are not the same.  So what gives?

I played around with the text settings on my ereader.  (It’s a Kobo Aura, if you’re wondering- there’s some really great YouTube reviews that compare ereaders if you’re wondering which is right for you!)

Changing the line spacing was a blessed relief.  I write and edit in double-space, so there’s tons of white on the page.  I also write and edit in the full-screen, composition mode of Scrivener, which is nothing but the words on the page (no menus, no sidebars).

Then in the fonts, I was playing around to see what was on offer.  Pretty standard fare.

But then: some font called Dyslexic Open.  I switched to it, and it was like a being slapped in the face.  It was initially very odd looking; the symmetry is all messed up, the look of letters has them leaning and weighted all over the place.

But I started reading.  And let me tell you, I‘ve never read so fast in my life.

I never went back.

Here’s what it looks like.  Don’t be too put off; it’s one thing to look at the pieces individually, but entirely another to have your eyes dance over them in a sentence.  Entirely another thing to have the font melt away so all you see is the story. 

Now, I don’t think I have Dyslexia.  But this new font makes it much easier for me to read, so I’ll go with it regardless of who it’s for.  If you’re having trouble staying attached to the business end of a book, I suggest you give it a shot!  Here’s their site, where you can download it for free.

As an aside, we’re still in the “waiting excitedly” phase with my book; hopefully I’ll get a wonderful phone call from my wonderful agent soon, and then I will The Best Post Ever to share with you, my dear readers.

Thanks for stopping by!

Cheers.

Heidi out.

My X-Files Message in a Bottle Reply in the News

So last week I posted on reddit about how I used to throw messages in bottles over the side of the ferry, and when I was 11 someone from the X-Files responded to one.

Well maybe I can find the kind-hearted person who wrote to me from my favourite show!

BuzzFeed did an article about it, and today I’m in the Province!



And just for you dear readers, a bonus pic. The photographer from the paper didn’t even notice it (or maybe he did and just kept on walking).

It’s the photo on Agent Mulder’s badge when he and Scully make an appearance on The Simpsons, in case you’re wondering, and in case that makes it less weird that this is virtually the only thing on the walls of my apartment.

In writing news, the last of the revisions are off to my fabulous agent, Beth Campbell, and maybe I can start sleeping properly again, now that I’m not having to tinker about in a world where the insomnia apocalypse is ravaging humanity.

That’s all for now folks!

Thanks for stopping by.

Heidi out.

I Have An Agent

I am extremely pleased to announce that I have signed on with Beth Campbell over at BookEnds.  She will be representing my novel Sleep Over.

It has finally happened.  I have an agent.

I have been waiting to say those words for a long, long time.

Beth has just switched over to helming the representation of scifi and fantasy over at BookEnds.  She wants an author who isn’t just a flash in the pan.  She loves my manuscript, and my head is still swilling from all the gorgeous things she is saying about my writing.

And the writer’s head grew three sizes that day hahaha.

I won’t be able to share too much about the process of finding a publisher as it’s happening (super secret stuff), but you can bet your butt you’ll hear it loud and clear when I have signed with a publisher for Sleep Over.  My only hope is that it takes a bit of time, as that’s a good sign that more than one really, really wants it.

Meanwhile, I will keep on posting for you, my dear, dear readers.  I am so glad you could be here with me when I was finally able to give this good news!  Your support has meant so much to me over the years as I continue on this wonderful journey to authordom.

I will continue to share a great many and varied things with you. Including, if you’re interested in the details, How I Got a Literary Agent.

In addition to my fantastic announcement, here are some more things just! for! yooou!!!

Episode 7 AND episode 8 of my Oddcast, Forgotten, are up! Episode 8 took the longest of all of them and had so many outtakes.  I’m really pushing the form to the limit, and “the voices” really had a tough time of getting this one to work.  It’s getting better as it goes along, and I’m really happy with where it’s heading!

We’ve also got more videos from my husband’s Wild Gears Creations channel.  Are you ready to see something wild? This one is crazy!

And are you ready for parallel lines?

 

Something else fun: the tale of my Message in a Bottle which was answered by The X-Files (4 images in album- clicky).

Also, here’s a little comic I made about how I make coffee.

That’s all for now, dear readers.

I think we’ve entered into a new and exciting phase of my career here. I am one step closer to having a major work published, and hopefully soon I can share that with you too.

Cheers.

Heidi out.

House of Leaves

Just “finished” House of Leaves.

If you don’t know it, it’s a novel that plays with the basic form of the novel itself.  The word “house” is blue wherever it appears.  There are footnotes, and footnotes in footnotes, on every page (most of which are completely useless).  Sometimes there are sections of text in boxes, backwards, upside down… whole pages left nearly blank.

The take on the form was very interesting to experience.  There was a lot of flipping back and forth between pages, a lot of manhandling the large book all around to read the different planes the text was on.

The pacing of some segments was manipulated entirely by having the text on the page a certain way.

I’ve never before uttered a shocked explanation out loud at a book, and then read the exact thing I had just said out loud, on the page in front of me.  It was typed out exactly as I had said it.  That was spooky.  I put the book down.  I stared at it.  That was some Never Ending Story stuff right there.

So it was a unique experience, I’ll give it that.  Quite a refreshing thing, to see the age-old text-on-paper get a makeover.

But, I cannot say I enjoyed it.  I skipped over vast swaths of the B story line.  I just didn’t care, and wanted to get back to the much more interesting Navidson account.  Vast swaths of even that had to be skipped over though; the readable/bullshit ratio was way high for this book.  I would have stopped early on (as had the previous person who’d taken this copy out from the library- their hold slip [their bookmark] was wedged into the spine at page 71), but the form of the novel was too compelling to ignore.

So I skimmed.  I’ve never skimmed a novel before.  I feel… kind of gross.  Like that was bad and I should feel bad for doing it.  But damnit I wanted to see what was up with that weird blue box of text, the nearly-blank pages, the text scattered all over the page.

In conclusion, House of Leaves was neat, but frustrating.  I wish I had figured out what I wanted out of it sooner; would have saved me some time.

Tonight: Godzilla.  Next Week: the second half of my novel revisions.  (It’s going well!)

Cheers.

Heidi out.