Some writers are able to craft wonderful prose come what may be they drunk, knackered or in the midst of crisis.
I am not one of them.
Failure to use the correct fuel may result in premature wear…
I require energy to be creative, drink leaves my inhibitions alone and goes straight for my brain and crisis makes me turn, by stages, into first a volcano and then a glacier, with neither state particularly conducive to either poetic prose or a coherent yarn. In recent weeks, therefore, it was frustrating to have my writing first slow, before stalling altogether, as my energy levels crashed. This happened before the wedding as well but at the time I chalked it up to being stressed at the life event looming towards me like an immovable object. No such excuse this time.
It was embarrassing. To be clear: we’re not talking a bit yawny, I mean bone tired, falling asleep at the keyboard, unable of stringing even a couple of words together after 9pm. It was concerning. I have little excuse: yes, my day job is stretching on occasion (and this was a full on time) but I do have colleagues under similar amounts of pressure – not to mention with families to raise and hobbies to keep going. I am not a special case.
By the same token, I know what unusual tiredness can mean. My family has known diabetes, cancer and heart disease. I’m not stupid. Yet: I’m not overweight (anymore), I exercise regularly (indeed, I’m fitter than most people I know), my blood pressure is low, didn’t feel ill other than tired and while I was working hard I wasn’t stressed.
It’s good to talk…
Exasperated, and unwilling to brave the local surgery after the last time (Of Which We Will Not Speak), I was willing to entertain the only sensible thing* left: I turned to Twitter to get a sense of whether this was normal.
The result was interesting.
For a start, people were far more forthcoming than I thought they would be given the stigma that seems to go with admitting you’re shattered. It seemed I wasn’t alone by any means in feeling myself crash in the evening with most people reporting tiredness to some degree and there was a definite trend amongst those who described themselves as light or broken sleepers. Perhaps this is unsurprising but it rang a bell with my own experience.
Once you eliminate the impossible…
I am a notoriously light sleeper. A gnat farting can wake me. Moreover, once I’m awake that’s it: my body will not entertain a further wink if I know I have to get up in an hour or so. Yet my sleep had always been broken, I couldn’t understand why it would have gotten worse in recent weeks or why it hadn’t really been an issue while I had been away as the hotel had not been particularly quiet. I like my psuedo-science. I decided to experiment.
The first night I made sure I closed the window to avoid any street noise. It made no difference. In fact, if anything, it was worse as the lack of fresh air left me feeling even groggier on waking, allowing me to sport an interesting array of bruises as I stumbled across the room, and that first night I woke at least three times. The second night I placed my alarm on the other side of the room, my alarm is my mobile, and I reasoned that it would at the very least help me get up on time and that might help me get a routine going again. It didn’t help but I did notice as I got up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom that the screen was on, a push update having ignited its little back light. I didn’t think much of it at the time.
The next morning I couldn’t shake that image of my phone flashing in the silent dark like some ineffective lighthouse amongst the choppy sea of my discarded laundry. I may have overshared there. Anyway. I long ago disabled the sound as I went to bed because I know people on three continents and the damn thing goes all night long otherwise with emails, push notifications and what not. Just for fun I left the mobile in another room the next night, relying on other mechanisms to wake me up.
Slept like a baby.
And the next night.
To sleep perchance to dream…
Turns out that at least some of the waking was down to the phone but more interesting, to me anyway, is that though I still wake sometimes my quality of sleep has been so much better that I seem to have more energy for longer despite only racking up the same amount of hours. I wake feeling like I have actually slept. Best of all since my sleep has improved I’ve found myself actually writing again and at a volume that would have been unthinkable on my previous energy levels. A couple of thousand words a day is achievable again.
And I don’t have as many bruises as I don’t seem to trip over as much.
You may well be skeptical about whether or not my mobile was really responsible. That’s OK. A few weeks ago I would have been as well but whether it’s just psychosomatic or an actual physical disruption to my sleep it won’t be sharing my headboard again. It works for me. It might for you.
* Our definitions of sensible may, I acknowledge, differ somewhat on this point.