My fellow bibliophilic insomniacs, I know how it feels … believe me. You’re falling down a bottomless tunnel of books, vicariously living through new plots and characters almost every night, your brain constantly on book adrenalin, and regular sleep seems hopeless. Truth be told, I wish we could all do away with sleep. Just imagine the number of novels we could read and write in our lifetimes!
But, back to reality.
As an author, I’m deeply touched by your reviews about being up all night with my novel, PELICAN BAY or CAPTAIN SHELBY, or other novels by authors you enjoy, but I want you to get a good sleep tonight. Really. Heck, I want myself to get a good night’s sleep(!).
Here are ten ways I’ve learned that come from countless articles I’ve read, as well as pamphlets from the doctor’s office (you know, after he’s written you that sleep medication prescription).
1. Stick to your sleep cycle.
There is a condition known as Sleep Phase Drift. This has to be the worst culprit when it comes to insomnia. I really hate this one. Unless you’re Einstein and plan to sleep 20 minutes every few hours, give it up already. It doesn’t work. When you take those little bibliophilic naps, they are sucking the life right out of you. The same thing happens when you sleep late. Stick to the SAME schedule no matter what. If you’re exhausted right now after reading ten books this week, DO NOT take a nap. Fight it out. You’ll thank me in the morning.
2. Don’t drink fluids after 8pm.
I’m notoriously bad about this one, treating myself to a soda while I’m reading my Kindle. Don’t do it. If you must have little sips of water or milk, but not too much.
3. Try melatonin to see if you have a slight deficiency.
I would just start with one tablet (no more than 300mg), and see how it goes. This does not work for everyone. After all, you may not have a melatonin deficiency at all.
4. Try meditating for 30 minutes before you go to sleep.
If you’re experienced with yoga techniques, that’s great, but it’s not totally necessary. Just lying in bed and breathing deeply, even 15-20 minutes before sleep, can make a big difference in sleep quality. I see a circle in my head and visualize myself kicking out anything that is beyond my control. You’d be surprised how few things are left (I use red balls for the things I kick out, and blue balls for the things that stay). I highly recommend bestselling author Nora D’Ecclesis’s book, MASTERING TRANQUILITY.
5. Do some form of exercise daily.
No, bibliophiles, this does not mean turning pages in a book! You don’t have to be a gym rat. Doing something as simple as a 20-minute walk in the fresh air can do wonders.
6. Watch your caffeine intake after 3pm.
I’m super caffeine sensitive; if I drank a cup of coffee near bedtime, I might as well not even bother putting pajamas on. Not all of us are caffeine sensitive, but it’s a nice thing to possibly rule out.
7. Avoid an LCD-type computer screen just before bed.
Sorry, my fellow Kindle-addicts. Did you know that the light from LCD screens actually robs you of melatonin and serotonin, both vital elements to successful sleeping? Well, now you do. I would recommend switching to a paperback (yes, they still exist, he he) an hour before bedtime.
8. If you get up during the night, do your business, return to bed, then act like Vivian Leigh from Gone With the Wind .
Often for us bibliophilic insomniacs, our brains are our enemies. I used to eat Cheerios in the middle of the night and write poems on Facebook. And I’d awake with raccoon eyes. Don’t do it! When I’m back in bed, I always do a quick little meditation again, telling myself, “You can think about this tomorrow. You’re just cheating yourself and others you care about by not respecting your own health.” I’ve read that thinking about a dream you were having not only puts you back to sleep, but right back into that dream. I don’t advise this for Freddie Cruger dreams.
9. If your brain won’t stop, write it down.
I get all these weird quote and poem, sometimes even story ideas while lying in bed. Doesn’t the Muse know to leave me alone right then? I know the awful danger exists of my brain going wild, so I jot the ideas down and say, “I’ll get to these tomorrow.”
10. Do everything possible to enhance your sleeping ambience.
I’ve read of many things that work, the main ones being sound, temperature, and comfort. I use earplugs (after all, I live across the street from the fire department, and have an annoyingly brilliant Siamese cat). If you don’t like wearing earplugs, try one of those pleasant sound machines, or perhaps a documentary with one of those narrators who could put a mockingbird on cocaine to sleep.
I’ve also read that the optimum sleeping temperature ranges from 66-70. But don’t freeze yourself out, either.
Finally, be sure to wear loosely fitting, comfortable clothing, and if possible, soothing sheets and cottony comforters. I swear by jersey sheets and pillow cases (high cotton count) and adore thick, puffy comforters. Who doesn’t, right?
I hope some of these tips lead you to a wonderful sleep tonight or very soon! Feel free to leave other suggestions for your fellow bibliophiles by commenting on this blog below.
Yours in literature,