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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Cut cut cut, think think think

I have two scenes that need to be cut from the script, I know it.  I just… have to figure out how.  There’s some pertinenent information in them that I’ll have to move elsewhere.

Today went well.  Cleaved off a few parts that were superfluous.  Hopefully my sleeping brain can help me find a way to do the rest tomorrow morning.

Big thanks to the VPD who answered my 911 call about a guy screaming at 5AM… they came by and picked him up and I got to go back to sleep.  I wasn’t even sure where he was, but they found him.  I phoned later to followup and thank them.  🙂

…Did I say something about posting more food pictures?  Well these ones are of TINY food, made of candy.  They were all really fun to make!  Enjoy.



Link to the album!

Cheers guys.

Heidi out.

Times When / Snowpocalypse

Times when I exclaim “What is this, the dark ages‽”
☐ When at a Renaissance Fair
☐ When India suspends its Polio vaccination program
☐ When the whole of Russia is in chaos over apocalypse fears
☑ When I am on a slow computer

Snowed a bunch here in Vancouver today.  I am continually amazed at how horribly the city handles it.  Traffic is a mess.  Whole intersections, like Cambie and Broadway today, turn into lakes.  Power was out to 50k people.  And the icing on the cake… our brand new bridge, the new Port Mann (2.46 billion dollar project), had to be shut down after it started raining down ice bombs on cars below, injuring 2, and causing 60 ICBC claims.

Thankfully I had the luxury of being inside for the day; I spent the morning at the cafe, leaving at 12:30 with a huge wordcount under my belt.  It’s going swimmingly.

Then I spent the afternoon doing Christmas present related things…  >:D  I love getting presents together.

Anyone playing Dragonvale (yes yes, I play Dragonvale) is likely just as excited as I am that currently *every dragon can be bought or bred*.  I can hardly decide which ones to try for first JK IT’S TOTALLY THE LEAP YEAR DRAGON GUYS.

Pictures today: what it looks like in an Amazon warehouse.

Hope everyone has a safe snowy time.  Stay warm and cozy, find something you love and get happy.

Heidi out.

26 Minutes.

26 minutes.

A lot can happen in 26 minutes.  Tomorrow, I do believe movie theatre audiences will be put to the test.

Is 26 minutes too long?

Are 26 minutes of ads and trailers too many?

The time from when my movie ticket says The Hobbit starts…

…to the time the The Hobbit starts.

Is 26 minutes.

The adverts and trailers will take 26 minutes.

26 minutes.

12PAX: Coming at it as a Writer

This was my first PAX.

For those not in the know, PAX is Penny Arcade Expo, a gaming convention.  It spanned the three days over the Labour Day long weekend, and had many things that interested me.

I went to a ton of panels with interesting people talking about interesting things.  I mostly tried to come at it from my perspective as an author.  It was nice; a lot of the talks really applied to writing, and not just in video games.

I wanted to share a bit about some of the writing related panels I went to, and the points I took away from them.  The speakers were engaging and humourous, informative and well thought out.

First up: Loving The Alien: Non-Humans in Fiction and Games.

This is extremely relevant to writers of science fiction and fantasy in particular.

The panelists were Erin Evans, author of Brimstone Angels and The God Catcher, David Noonan, lead writer of TERA, and referenced weekly in our D&D campaign, and Keith Baker, creator of the Eberron campaign setting in D&D, writer of two trilogies, as well as the creator/writer on a host of other RPG and computer games.

I know, right?  Writers makin’ it.  So good.

These good folks talked about non-human characters and the challenges faced by writers trying to flesh them out.  It was interesting, though I felt rather pretentious when I had the thought “I know all this.”  I DON’T know all this, but I guess it feels like that sometimes when you’ve spent time thinking about a topic.  …But then, I’ve been doing A LOT of thinking about this; I am in the throws of writing a novel where the main character is non-human.

The one point I hadn’t really thought about was, when you have non-human species, show them interacting in places where they’re forced together with other species.  You get to see all kinds of tensions, their differences, but also their similarities when you show where their borders clash.  Showing a non human character in their element is fine and dandy, but show them at odds with other species to really make them shine.


The next day, a panel that caught my eye was called Making Magic Work: Designing Magic Systems for Games and Books.  I was, unfortunately, behind the last person admitted.  :/  The Tabletop Theatre was consistently too small for the number of people that wanted to see the panels there.  I saw tons of people turned away from every talk there!  I hope next time they have a bigger venue for such interesting panels.  I found an interesting read if you’re into magic systems.

One good thing happened there, even without me actually getting into the panel: a girl in the line got a game going.  It was a simple game to learn, and a lot of fun.  It drew strangers together.  I purchased it post haste!  I ended up proliferating her idea, and started a game of it while waiting in another line up.  It was just a fun social interaction that left everyone feeling great.

The game is “Spot-it” if you’re interested.  Colours and shapes; you’d think it was easy.

Anyway!

Later that evening, I attended “Setting the Mood”, on what makes a good RPG.

I was pleased to see Keith Baker again; he had a lot of interesting things to share about his experience with RPGs.  Also on the panel were Will Hindmarch and Logan Bonner.

These guys had a lot of RPG experience between them. They went over many great ideas, from using music as an aid, to party cohesion, to dealing with problem players. It was all about steering the story in the direction it should go, helping players play their characters, and just having a good time.

Ok, not explicitly about writing, but it was about storytelling.  It was a lot of anecdotes, some good Q&A, and just a lot of fun.

On the third day, I went to a panel called “Sympathy for the Devil: Creating Killer Villains for Games and Books.”

This was a lot of fun too.  It was hosted by, again, the fantastic Erin Evans, as well as Susan Morris (author of Writers Don’t Cry, five books, and D&D for kids!) and Philip Athans (author of several of the Forgotten Realms books).

What this panel made me want to do was just talk with them about vilains.  Interesting panels have this effect.  It sometimes causes the Q&A to get a little dumb (we’re here to hear the panelists, not you, random audience member).  But my friends, who were also listening with me, and I had some great discussions afterwards about villains and villainy.

It was interesting hear the panelists talk about their favourite villains; my friends and I made observations about them based on which villains they identify most with.  I completely agreed with Erin Evans, who said the her favourite, Ozymandeous, was not actually a villain.

One of the most interesting points they made was to have someone trusted turn out to be the villain.  Guy keeps supplying you with weapons?  Arms dealer bent on destabilizing the region for his master plan.  Sometimes it’s easy to have a stereotypical view of villains.  But the best villains have good ideas, make you want to join their cause, help them carry out their grand plans.  It just so happens that they’re going to kill millions of people in the process.

The more human you make your villains, the more compelling they are.

So, that was PAX from a writer’s perspective.  There were a lot of other interesting things going on, and I think in my next post, I’ll write about it from the perspective as a gamer.  Good times.

…Especially when the creative team from Ubisoft joined our gaming session in our hotel on the last night.  Wow.

But more on that in my next post!

Thanks for reading.

Heidi out.

When it’s Not Hip to be Square: Aspect Ratio Madness

It’s everywhere, and it causes me physical pain.  Yes, Projectionists around the globe are being tortured every day by being exposed to incorrectly formatted aspect ratios.

Sports bars are the worst for this.  Many broadcasts are not meant to be viewed in widescreen format, but the widescreen TVs stretch the program to fit its dimensions.

Absolutely terrible.

A brief warning: if you continue reading this, you too will see the atrocities being committed in plain sight on TVs around the globe.  You might not be able to unsee.  However, I feel like if enough people know about this, we might be able to change it, and get all TVs displaying programs in the intended aspect ratio.

That out of the way, let me begin by sharing one of my favourite frames from a film.

This is from Fight Club, and it depicts Tyler Durden, the most famous Projectionist, pointing up at a “cigarette burn”.  These are markings on the film that tell the Projectionist when to ‘changeover’ and switch between the projectors that are showing the film.  They are at the beginning and end of every reel of film.

Now, let me show you the image as it is printed on the actual piece of film running through the projector:

Notice that, while it’s width is still the same, the height is greater?  Notice that the previously squashed and oblong cigarette burn is now (almost) a perfect circle?  Notice how Tyler Durden’s anatomy is grotesquely deformed and stretched?

I am Jack’s bursting aneurism.

See, film comes in two formats (mostly- there are others, but odds are, if you’re at a regular theatre, you’re seeing one of these two): flat, with an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 (for every 1 unit tall, it’s 1.33 wide), and scope, with an aspect ratio of 2.39:1 (often called ‘widescreen’).

Projectors have two lenses.  The flat lens shows the film as is, no stretching or distorting. The scope lens stretches is to the proper widescreen aspect ratio.  The images above would represent scope film; the first image as seen projected through the correct scope lens, the second image projected through the incorrect flat lens.

Right!  A few more fun examples before I move on now:
        

The image on the left is how the film actually looks in real life.  The image on the right is adjusted to show how the lens would stretch it, creating the correct widescreen aspect ratio.

Huge difference, right?

Right.  So, back to TVs.  Seems there’s quite a mix of formats being programed.  TV used to be filmed in 1.33:1, the aspect ratio of old cathode ray tube television sets.  Almost a perfect box, right?  A little wider than it is tall, but not by much.

But now, programming is being filmed in widescreen to take advantage of the successor, the widescreen television.  This is great!  Widescreen presentations shown on widescreen televisions are wonderful!  Widescreen TVs are 16:9, or 1.77:1.

The problem comes in when non-widescreen programming is presented on a modern widescreen TV.  Then you get things like this:

        It’s not so bad, right?  WRONG!

The original image looks like this:

As you can see, the ‘stretched’ version grotesquely deforms the actors in the frame, squashing them down, distorting everything.  Check them out side by side:

Booooo!

In most cases, the solution is as simple as pressing a single button: the “zoom” or “wide” button on the remote is the one you’ll need.  Press it, and it will cycle the TV to display another format.  Keep pressing it, and it will take you through all the aspect ratios the TV can display.  Many TVs have this set to widescreen, and what they should be displaying is auto.

TVs know what to display things in; let them do their damn job.

This way, 1.33 content won’t get squashed.  It’ll have black borders on the left and right.  2.39 content will get black bars on the top and bottom, because widescreen TVs are 16:9, an aspect ratio of 1.77, not quite as widescreen as scope films in the 2.39 format.

Oh gosh, this seems like a lot.  Basically: hit the zoom/wide button until people don’t look squashed.  You will be doing all viewers a favour.  If anyone protests, please step on their face.  Aw, that seems a little mean now that I’ve said it.  Perhaps whip out a pen an paper and illustrate what you just learned?

Nope, stepping on their face is easier.

You made it to the end!  Bonus pics for you, and you, and YOUUUUUU!

Note: no film prints were harmed in the making of this blog post; I used my collection of trailers.

PSA Image! (Large version here.)

Thanks for reading.

Heidi out.

My Journey to Becoming an Entomophage

I’m going to just go ahead and post this.  There’s a huge negative bias towards eating insects in our western culture, but the reality is that they are nutritious, packed with protein, and, as I recently discovered, *delicious*.  Over 80% of the world are Entomophages!

Would you like to know more?

So, below is my journey to becoming an entomophage.  I hope you’ll be inspired to take the plunge; if we can get over our squeamishness, the whole world can benefit from eating insects.

My package arrived after being held up with Canadian Boarder Services.

I put my grasshoppers in a container and froze them.

I was making tortillas, and decided it was a good time to take the plunge.

I fried them up with butter,

heated up my tortilla with some cheese,

and added the Main Event!

Tortillas assemble!

After everything was ready I dug in.

If my face is confusing, it’s because this is perhaps the most conflicted meal I’ve ever eaten…  It was a mix of “oh god this is good” and “oh god dont’ think about what you’re eating.”

It was delicious!  The hoppers tasted nutty and nice.  The texture was a little… different.  It was a little crunchy, but not in the hard or sharp sort of way.

The biggest thing to get over was that I was eating bugs.  I was a little squeamish, but I got over it pretty quick when I tasted how good it was.

My husband, Aaron, and our friend Matthew came home shortly thereafter from a workout at the climbing gym.  I told them of my adventure, and Matthew was pretty enthused about it.  I cooked up another batch of hoppers, and he tried a Grasshopper Tortilla too!  He really liked it.

…Aaron is not there yet.  He tried one grasshopper hot out of the pan, and liked it.  But it goes against his “not eating things with faces” guideline.  We’ll see.  Matthew’s boldness and subsequent enjoyment of the dish was really an inspiration.

Hope you get to try some some time; it was a neat experience I will be repeating.

The sticker of doubt

I met my sister to discuss wedding decorations.  That was nice.

 

It’s a beautiful day.  People are smiling.  There are bare arms everywhere.  Everyone’s lookin’ good.

 

Took the 135 downtown.  Went to that bastion of sewing and crafting supplies, Dressew.  They’re fantastic.  I got a different ribbon for my corset.  Then, outside, as I was waiting for the bus in the glorious sunshine, I looked up and saw a sticker.

“Humanity is Fucked” it said.

“Naw brah,” I thought, “we’ll get through it.”  I smiled to myself, optimistic in the gorgeous spring sun.

The bus came.  The driver stopped the person behind me.

“No no, stay out there, I don’t want smoke on my bus,” he said, gesturing to the smoke wafting around the person.

“It’s not smoke, it’s speed,” she answered, getting on the bus.

:0

My eyes were drawn to the sticker as the bus pulled away…

 

“It’s fine, it’s fine,” I told myself, trying to shrug that sinking feeling you get when you realize that Humanity is Fucked.

I went shoe shopping.  Always an ordeal for me.  I usually wear men’s hiking boots, size 11.  I’ve never really had dress shoes I’ve liked.  But, I’m getting married, and not in hiking boots.

I found some!

Apparently, when I’m walking around the store trying to determine if a pair of shoes is right for me, I look like an employee.  I even helped the guy to the right section for his size.  Then I changed out of my new shoes, smiling, as he walked by me, chagrinned.

 

I whistled as I got off the skytrain.  I bought groceries, I bought three pina-colada bars to have for desert while Aaron, Matthew, and I brew for the evening.  Apple Cizer, you’re going to be delicious.

 

Happy Spring.

Thanks for reading.

Heidi out.