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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Hello and Welcome to the New HG!

Hello Dear Readers.  Personal post ahead!

Thanks so much for still sticking around with me.  It’s been a doozy of a time, a real top-notch shitshow for me personally.  The past 2 years have been awful.  But things are great now.  The Coles’ Notes: I was with my husband for 14 years, and now we’re getting divorced.  I had a home and two cats, now I no longer have a home or cats.  I was in Canada, now I’m in New Zealand.  I was awesome, now I am EVEN MORE FRICKIN’ AWESOME.

(Here’s me at my own private “Polar Bear Swim” at Tahunanui Beach in Nelson, January 1st, 2017!)

I love life.  I have had the best time of my life the past few months.  It’s hard to go through something as disruptive as a divorce, but I’m doing well, and have a new improved outlook on life, the universe, and everything.

I wanted to share some things about me and keep you in the loop.  As this blog is primarily about my writing career, you’ll be pleased to hear that my novel, Sleep Over, is coming out soon!  I am beyond excited that I’ve come this far and will finally get to see one of my books in print, from an amazing publisher.  (More updates to follow of course!)

(Here’s me in the shuttle being driven further into New Zealand to the Wangapeka.)

As you can see, I have opted for a new name.  H.G. Bells reporting for duty!  I picked a new name that I think will be easy to 1) pronounce 2) spell and 3) remember.  I hope to hit the ground running when Sleep Over comes out, and my new name will hopefully at least not completely hobble me when it comes to being the new kid on the block.

And it has the added benefit of being similar to one of the ‘fathers of sci-fi’, H.G. Wells.  I hope to follow in his footsteps and contribute to sci-fi as he did (ambitious much Heidi?  Baby you know it!).

So my next few posts will be about me in New Zealand.  It’s so beautiful here, and it’s been an incredible place to begin healing my poor broken heart, meet amazing people, and generally expand my horizons.

(Me up at Omahu at the Wangapeka… the most beautiful place.)

Writing-wise, I will say that going through a divorce was incredibly disruptive, surprising no one.  What did surprise me, was my ability to complete a major set of revisions for my publisher during the worst time of my life.  I have to tell you, when I got the email that my draft had been accepted it was such a huge weight off my back.  It made me realise that I have spent so much time and effort honing my craft that it was still functional while my whole world was being burnt to the ground around me.  I can still perform as a writer while my world is on fire.  I honestly didn’t think I could do it, and, while I was struggling to get the final draft done during those dark times, I thought for sure it was the end of my writing life.  But I have emerged from that process with a deeper appreciation and confidence in my work, my process, and in myself.  I built the foundation of my craft strong, and I built it to last.  Thanks Past Heidi, you did a real good job there.  (Future Heidi if you’re reading this: hi!  I love you!)

Also, I am strong as fuck.  If there’s a thing on this earth that can break me, I sure as hell don’t know what it is.  (ATTN gods of fate: this is not a challenge, pls leave Heidi alone for a while k thanks bye.)

But, while I am strong, I am tired as hell.  I would love it if Sleep Over could come out and do well so I can breathe a little easier.  I know it’s not easy establishing oneself on the world stage of authordom (and realistically I expect to need several published books before I can count myself as successful), but hopefully Sleep Over will be a good start.  And then I can really shine.  Because, while I can keep up with the process while going through hell, my best work has been while I’ve had a stable and happy life.  I hope to get back to something approximating that some day, and can continue on with a vague life trajectory.

We make all these plans, and then life happens.  We assume we will be the same, but we’re all changing all the time.  Things change, we change, and here I am surfing a big change.  Yeehaa!!!

So that’s me.  Thanks for reading my most personal update yet.  I truly cannot express how grateful I am to still have you with me, for your kind words, your support, your love.  As I’m rising from the ashes of my former life I can see so much to be grateful for, so much to love, so much to feel.  And through it all, be it from the sidelines or holding my hand, is you.

Much love,

Continually Yours,

Heidi Grace Bells

 

P.S. You can email me at my snazzy new email address:  heidi {at} hgbells {dot} com  And as you may notice, my website has changed to match!  hgbells {dot} com is the new me!

A good week!

It feels really good to be deep into working on Sleep Over again. It also feels good to have a timeline nailed down. I didn’t put events in order because I wanted the narrative to mirror the confusion of the insomnia apocalypse, where time gets distorted and it’s really hard to tell when things happened or how long anything has been happening. Now that I’ve done it both ways (no timeline and now a solid timeline for revisions) I think I can have the best of both worlds.

I still don’t want my readers to know how long anything in the book takes, or even how long the insomnia lasts; I want it to truly feel like time has no meaning, and confusion casts doubt on any times given.

But now at least my publisher will have a better idea of the timeline, and they can better ask me for specific things they’d like to hear more of for the next round of revisions.

Hurrah!

Here’s some pictures for stopping by. In case you don’t know, if there’s a large version I will make them clickable! My site can only handle images so big. Cheers!



London police officer proposes during Pride:

And a video of some Irish fans serenading a baby on the tube.

Would You Rather / Hateful Ace / The Witness

Hello dear readers!  Things are going well; I am waiting on my editor at Skyhorse to have a look at the final draft of the MS.  From there it’s line and copy editing.  I can’t wait until I can share the cover with you!!

In the meantime, I wanted to share a few neat games with you.  For one you will need nothing but people, for the other you will need people and a deck of cards, and for one you’ll need the game itself and a thinking cap!

I played a game called Would You Rather on New Years Eve, and it is fascinating.  It’s a game where one person posits a question to the group, and each person has a go at picking the thing “they would rather”.  The devil’s in the details though; the best ones are the ones that divide the group in half.

Here are some of the “would you rathers” that stuck with me.

Would you rather: never have eggs again, OR never have berries again?  (To clarify, “berries” are things that are berries in common parlance, not any technical bullshit like “tomatoes are berries” or “strawberries aren’t berries, they’re aggregate accessory fruits”.  And never having eggs again includes anything that eggs are in.)

Would you rather: Whenever you encounter stairs, you don’t know what they are or understand what they work, and to use them someone must explain them to you, OR have every article of clothing you wear jingle like it’s full of a ton of loose pocket change?  (To clarify, you don’t remember you don’t understand stairs; every time you encounter them is like the first time, and you simply cannot use them until someone helps you grock what they are.)

Would you rather: Have your mind in a gorilla in a lab being experimented on, with the knowledge that you will eventually be retired to a sanctuary at the end of your life, OR have your mind as it was at 4 years old, in a horse, working as a trail-ride horse.  (To clarify: as a gorilla, you are you with all your experience and knowledge.  You may have a chance to communicate with your captors, or a chance to escape, but only after years of failed attempts.  As a horse, you are you as you were at 4 years old.)

It yielded some interesting discussions.

Another game you will need a deck of cards for.  It’s called Hateful Ace, and it’s a neat party game as well!

BTW there’s a huge market for collectable decks of cards right now; Kickstarter has been a boon for designers!

So, grab a deck of cards and shuffle it up.

The game is about trying to guess how good or how bad something is, according to the person talking about it.  Good things are red, not so good things are black.  High cards are more, low cards are less.  So a red ace is best, a black ace is worst.  A red 7 is pretty good.  A red 2 is just barely ok; black 2 barely not ok, and a black 7 pretty bad.

So someone goes first and draws a (secret) card.  They look at it and formulate something to say that will enable the other players to guess the card.

Say I draw a Jack of diamonds-

I’d have to think of something I thought was pretty good.  It could be something that happened to me, or something in general that I made up.  I might say something like “…When you see your book cover for the first time.”  And one by one, the other players guess what card I have.  If someone nails it bang on, guess stops, and they’re awarded the card as their point.  If no one gets it, it goes to whoever is closest.  In the event of a tie, you can do either carry the point over, or do a tie breaker question with another card.

When it’s someone else’s turn, I won’t know what card they have and have to guess it using their clue.  So if I said to you, “Seeing someone achieve their lifelong dream of becoming a published author, and you really dig their book,” what would you guess?  I’d have to guess

because to me that’s pretty damn good.  (By the way, that 10 of diamonds comes with 3D glasses; it’s a set of 3D playing cards!)

The last game I want to mention quickly is “The Witness“.  It’s a puzzle solving game where you wander around a beautiful island and solve puzzles.  I can’t say too much without it feeling like spoilers, so I’ll just show you some pictures, and then a link to a video review from one of my favourite content creators right now, Justin MacElroy.

So it’s pretty beautiful and beautifully pretty!  The puzzles are fun and challenging, and truly there are some innovative things to stump you until you have a lightbulb moment.  I really recommend this game if you like solving puzzles!

So that’s all for me for now.  I’ll keep you posted about the progress of my book, Sleep Over.  I hope to update here more regularly, even if it’s just to say hi and to show you neat stuff I’ve found, writing or otherwise.  🙂

Thanks for stopping by!

Heidi out.

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.

Right On Track!

The thing about being rejected NOW, with an agent, is that it feels like nothing at all.

At this point we’re looking for the publisher that wants the book, that thinks the book will be the right fit for their brand.  Ultimately I want a publisher who thinks Sleep Over is perfect for them, and will put it out there with enthusiasm.

I’m not phased by rejection at this point.

I’m pretty pleased with how it’s all going.  This being my Birthday, it’s a good day to take stock and see how all my plans are shaping up.  I’m happy.

Google doodle surprised me today.  How sweet!

Want to know some cool stuff?  You can go to the url at the end and find out the same (and more) about you, based on when you were born!

Since I was born, I (read: our galaxy) have travelled nearly 600 trillion km towards the Great Attractor.  The population of humans on earth has grown by 2 billion, 422 million and change.  (World population is now at 7 billion, 288 million and change…)

My heart has beat one billion, 95 million, 841 hundred thousand, and change times. Mmm, good ol’ heart.

The moon has only orbited the earth 401 times since I was born???  For some reason I am surprised.  I think I need to learn more about the moon I guess.

Anyway, find out all this and more, about you!

So that’s all for now!  Just didn’t want to have complete radio silence until the BIG NEWS that will come (soon hopefully).

I’ll leave you with this image of what Andromeda, our closest neighbouring galaxy, would look like in our sky if there wasn’t light pollution.

Doesn’t look so far now, does it.  Oh wait what?  We’re going to collide with it in 3.75 billion years‽

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.

Checking In While Waiting for Good News

Just wanted to say Hey.

Whatcha thinking bout.

Me?  Oh not much.  I haven’t written anything for a few weeks.  A strange feeling.  I’ve trained myself so well that it feels really odd to not be writing.  Like petting a cat the wrong way.  But I needed a break.  And it’s good.

My manuscript is out with several agents now.  It’s a wonderful feeling.  “Waiting while hopeful” is a different sort of anticipation than the previous bouts of waiting.  Not that I wasn’t hopeful those other times, it’s just… several full manuscript requests.  From amazing agents.  I just… it feels like I’m really close here.  I hope I catch one of them by the heartstrings enough to go to bat for it.

There’s a few funny things below, and after, some Original Content of my trip to the Vancouver Aquarium!

Tales From IT, part one and part two.  A good and terrifying read.

Someone has been waiting literally 20 years for me to get this joke:

And a good ol’ knee slapper:

Also, last night I went to a preview performance of The Tempest with my friends. It was great! The Tempest holds a special place in my heart, because it was the first Shakespeare that I studied. I was worried my opinion of it would be tainted by nostalgia, but this latest viewing of it proved that it stands the test of time. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and would recommend it. Bard on the Beach never ceases to amaze.

The portrayal of the sisters Stephana and Trincula absolutely slayed me. I was in stitches. You ladies nailed it!

And now, some pictures from my recent trip to the Vancouver Aquarium!

The Octopus came out to say hello!

It’s MEGA big. Like, I got Deep One vibes off of him.

Coelacanth!  I made a post in /r/Dinosaurs about this specimen, with more pictures.  

And, one more of the Octopus.  He was the highlight of the trip!  More photos of the octopus can be found in this album, right here.  

Aaand, a kitten picture.  Lemon sleeps with her leg splayed out weirdly sometimes.  

That’s all for now folks!  While I play the waiting game, I’m playing Minecraft again, the Apocalypse Server of course.  I’ve only been senselessly killed half a dozen times so far!  My little farms are going well, and I’m digging a *huge* inverted pyramid, which I will name something like “Monument to Waiting”.

Just didn’t want you to think I’d forgotten about you.  Hopefully good news soon.  😉

Thanks for sticking around.

Heidi out.

Titles Are Hard

You have to pick a title.  You can’t start querying without a title.

Did you get your friends to suggest some to you?

Wait wait, you started querying before you had a good title?

I feel like an idjit.

But now I have a better title.  I even wrote it in the book.  Why didn’t I see it.  Man. Outside perspective- it’s almost like it’s super important or something.

I am one of the four, for sure, like, totally.

In other news, I love my friends.

Sleep Over.  

 

Forest, trees.  Trees, forest.  There.  We’re all comfortable around each other?  Great.  Now let’s keep querying, but this time, you know, better.