Monday, June 27, 2011

Shut Eye, Forty Winks, Dreamland, Slumber Party

HANK: I sit here, staring at the computer screen, my brain fuzzy and essentially sludge. What do I need to get back in the, um, well,I'm trying to think of a word that means: quick-witted, thoughtful, flexible, interested, capable, imaginative. But only one word comes to mind right now.


I could really use some sleep.

When I give speeches to organizations and book groups, and they say--wow, how do you have a full-time job as a reporter and a full-time job as an author and then all these appearances and you have a husband, if course--how do you do that?

And I laugh, and I say, oh, sleep was the first to go! Who needs sleep?

I do. I do. I do.

There's not a moment of the day I'm not working. (Writing this counts, right?) And I go home at night, and work more and write more and then fix dinner and then have dinner and then work or read-for-work and then go to sleep about--12:30? And get up at 7, if I'm lucky, and then start over.

That's six and a half hours (isn't it? bad at math, too sleepy..), and most experts say, that's not enough. Duh. Although I do know some people can go on less. Supposedly Leonardo Da Vinci would sleep just 15 minutes of every four hours. Whoa. Sleeping AND math. Very Leonardo.

Margaret Thatcher, the former prime minister, was famous for getting by on
only four hours a night. Thomas Edison slept 3-4 hours at night, regarding sleep as a waste of time.

And, surprise surprise, Martha Stewart says: “There’s not enough time in the day.” As a result, she alleges she needs no more than four hours’ sleep a night. (It must be the high thread count Egyptian cotton color-coordinated sheets.)

My waking dream? To have the prescribed-as-normal textbook eight hours sleep a night. Oh, I wonder how the bags under my eyes would fare if I did. I'd love to find out. I'd love to find out in a cool breezy room, with fluttering crisp white curtains and the fragrance of salt water and, yes, beautiful sheets and fluffy pillows.

Sigh. Oh, sorry, I yawned. How much sleep do you need?

ROSEMARY: More than I'm getting! On a regular basis I seem to get six hours, out by midnight and up by 6am, although when it's crunchtime I easily stay up until 3 or 4 until all or most of the things on my list are accomplished. (Then I drag my sorry butt around the next day.)

But the work is never finished. I was busy before I started writing - I did a lot more volunteering than I do now and for a time I was going to Africa once a year to check on the library. And my garden was in its early stages so I did a lot more planting. Some days I just take the day off - my husband laughs because all that means is that I'm working at something other than writing or promoting.

JAN: Those four-hour-a-night-sleep people have different DNA than the rest of us. Or maybe they are aliens sent to spy on us because that's just not human. Last week, I did a story for the Globe and talked to the pre-eminent sleep researcher in the country. He said you need one hour of sleep to process, sort, file and "deal with" every two hours you are awake. Sleep is the body's filtering and filing system and when you don't get it (unless you are an alien), you can't properly deal with your emotions and the weird little traumas of every day life.

This is just a long-winded defense where I call in a Harvard researcher to validate my absolute need for eight hours every single night. If I somehow get shorted one night, its NINE hours the next. I am a complete and total sleep WIMP.

HALLIE: I'm with you, Jan. Eight hours a night. MINIMUM. I'm so glad Harvard says that's a good thing.

I consider myself a champion sleeper. Usually I'm out within a minute or two of my head hitting the pillow. I sleep especially well with the baseball game on the TV. Or during that last fifteen minutes of Masterpiece Mystery. On the rare occasion when I can't sleep I get my husband to talk to me and that does the trick.

HANK: Oh, that's hilarious! We won't tell him...

HALLIE: And confession: I like to take a short nap mid-afternoon, too. Just twenty minutes out and I'm good to go. Yes, that's on top of my 8 hours.

Such a wimp.

ROBERTA: Hallie, I'm so envious of you falling to sleep like that. My hub is the same way--he's off to dreamland and I lie there thinking about a thousand things that should be done. Not good at sleeping through the night either...oh for those younger days when I was a champion sleeper too! And Deb, I'm not at all a night person. Not a 6 am girl either. John teases that my peak hours are 9 to 11 am. Could be:).

Hank, I've never noticed any bags--you always look better than the rest of us.

HANK: May I find your glasses for you? :-)

RHYS: I'm just getting over two years of real sleep problems--some nights with no sleep at all. It's bliss to be able to fall asleep right away, but I can only do it if I grab the window of opportunity which is between 9:30-10:30. If I stay up past that, or I'm watching a stimulating show on TV, I can be staring at the ceiling at three. And I do need my eight hours too. The problem is that I wake by seven however late I fall asleep.
And something else that's strange--I sleep really well away from home in hotels. If I wake at home I'm lying there writing the next chapter or remembering something I should have mailed. Away from home I sleep. Maybe I should be on the road all year.
Oh, and I love naps too, but they have to be less than ten minutes or I feel like a zombie.

DEBS: Oh, I'm so glad someone else confesses to naps! And that you are not all aliens who only need four hours sleep. I need eight, although I usually don't get quite that much. And then I need a nap mid-to-late afternoon, after which I write like a maniac and could keep going post midnight if I didn't have to do things like fix dinner and clean up . . .

I can't write when I'm tired. My brain just doesn't fire. But even after so many years of practical experience with this, I'm still amazed at the difference enough rest makes. I am also a night person, and the more I can accommodate my body clock, the better I do.

As for those bags under the eyes, Hank, I am SHOCKED, just SHOCKED by how much difference rest makes in the way I look as I get, um, more "mature." At least I don't have to be on TV when I've had a bad night :-)

ROSEMARY: I do think naps are wonderful - such a treat. And then you've got a whole new day!

HANK: Oh, gosh, I can't nap. When I do, I wake up and want scrambled eggs. No matter what time it is. It scrambles my brain, I guess.

So Reds, how much sleep do you need? Or, just as interesting, how much sleep do you get? Naps? Or no naps?

Are you a Martha Stewart or a, um, Hank? And--just thought of this--did you ever have slumber parties?

And hey, because it's Monday and why not--I have a signed copy of Lisa Scottoline's brand new SAVE ME to give away to one lucky commenter!


  1. Hi - I never nap unless I'm sick. If I nap I too wake feeling like a zombie. I used to be a champion sleeper. Now as I get older not so much. I still like 7-8 hours at night and the earlier I go to bed, the better I sleep!

  2. Would love to have Lisa Scottoline's Save Me, for my nighttime wide awake periods. Although off pain meds now, still on a post-op sleep schedule -- sleep until pain awakens, stay up until meds work. So naps mandatory.

  3. To sleep, perchance to dream...

    It's feast or famine for me. I either sleep like a rock for a solid eight hours (without moving a muscle), or I can't get to sleep for hours. It's gotten better than it was; for about 10 years I had terrible insomnia. Acupuncture helped immensely.

    We had slumber parties, but never at my house. My best friend's home had a finished basement (rare in the 60's) with a pool table, so we did the Ouija board thing there. I could never get to sleep until everyone else was out, except for once. That was when I woke up in the morning and couldn't find my bra. Someone had wet it down and frozen it in the chest freezer.

  4. I'm the biggest baby. I need nine hours minimum. I am quite a dud at night because as soon as the clock strikes 9, all I want to do is go to bed. : )

  5. I know! Remember when all we wanted to do was STAY UP?

    Mommmmmm...EVERYONE gets to stay up!

  6. Karen--um, your bra in the...chest freezer?

  7. Oh, elusive sleep! Insomnia runs in the family and it hit me pretty bad in the past couple of years. I take a prescription sleep med paired with an herbal sleep pill from the accupuncturist. I've tried everything, even a sleep study. The results: I have a defective brain that doesn't sleep even when I am asleep. I'm pretty much exhausted all the time and dream of a day when it might get better. Til then, I run on half charge. Maybe my non sleep time would be more productive if I wasn't so tired!

  8. Hank: as opposed to an upright freezer. But it's more delicious as a chest freezer, don't you think?

    Oh, yeah. Staying up! Which I still try to do. Bad Karen.

  9. Great discussion. Fabulous artwork. More sleep gives me a shorter day with greater quality. It's a trade-off.

  10. Becky, poor thing. It must be so life-changing. Might you grow out of it?

    So, Reds, what does everyone else do for insomnia?

    And yeah, staying up late is such fun! And pay.

  11. I would love to know the secret of making the brain shut off. One thing that works for me is exercise. If I'm tired enough I do nod off.

    I have heard that hypnotherapy works too. I tried a hypnotherapy CD and the guy just annoyed me with his soothing voice!

  12. You know what I do? I put myself somewhere else in my brain.

    I pretend I'm in Nevis, watching the pelicans swoop down to get fish. I just--put myself there. Sometimes it's a bit difficult, but I keep thinking about the pelicans. And soon--I'm .. well, it's morning.

    HOWEVER! I have started to wake up at like, five am. WHY WHY WHY?

  13. I put myself *somewhere,* too, Hank - I wander through the house I grew up in (in my head), or my elementary school, or high school, or the department store that was near the house where I grew up... I just go fro room to room, up staircases and down, out doors and in other doors. This has got to be a first cousin to counting sheep

  14. Hallie, that would exhaust me! Isn't it funny what works for someone else won't work for you?

    I'm terrified of heights, but a surefire way for me to drop off is to imagine myself, in a spacesuit with oxygen, jumping out of a plane from about 50,000 feet, so high I can't see the earth, and drifting down into the clouds. Another good imagery is to imagine a huge picture window, and then paint it black, little by little, until the whole thing is solid nothing. Usually by the time the window has been obliterated I'm sleeping.

    Does anyone else get earworms, the songs that won't get out of your head? I have a CD with some very soothing, atonal and instrumental, music that I play when I'm ready to sleep. It drowns out the earworms.

  15. K, that is so interesting..I was getting drowsy just thinking about it!

  16. That was me, Hank. Sorry, I hit "enter" too fast.

  17. Oh, Karen, I thought it was very Kafka.

  18. I like the idea of painting the window black.

    And I listened to a CD every night for a while, Guided Imagery for Stressful times by Diane Tusek. I've been off it lately but it did help.

    It's the early light that kills me...5:30 and I'm up with the birds. or lying there trying trying trying to get back to sleep...

  19. Naps are awesome and totally wasted on the young. It's so good to hear that I'm not the only person who has a "sleep window." Thank you for that Rhys. Mine is the same as yours. LOL

  20. I'm one of those people who goes to bed ridiculously early at night because I get up early in the morning. The Kid has always been a morning person. Have you ever heard of a teenager who thinks staying in bed until 7:30 AM is sleeping in late?

  21. I covet the Scottoline book! Please put me in the running.

    I'm afraid I can't sleep for 8 hours. It's just too much. I can do fine on 5 for a few days in a row, but usually get 6. I do nap 10 minutes, usually in front of Jeopardy! It makes the reruns more interesting. If I'm not taking antihistamine every night (been doing that for months and months now--stupid allergies), I can stay awake all night. I don't really need to sleep EVERY night. I agree it's a big waste of time.

    But I have the baggy eyes. You can SEE mine.

  22. Darlene, I used to sleep til--noon, if i could. Right?

    Now--I probably could not sleep til noon. When I wake up at 9, on those rare mornings when I have no responsibilities, I'm so shocked. And I LEAP up.

  23. Oh, Kaye, so envious! Are you productive all that time?

  24. Depends on what you call productive. If I have a good list and I stick to it, I get things done. I don't have a very neat house.

  25. I sleep about four to five hours and then wake up.

    I've had the sleep study and use a CPAP machine. One thing it does is once I put it on I go right to sleep.

    As a teen I longed to sleep longer, middle age I deveoped insomnia and could pull all nighters reading a good book and then get up and work a full day again. Used to amaze Hubby.

    I will say that before I had the CPAP machine I'd fall asleep watching TV sitting up in a chair. I'd start watching Jeopardy and wake up when Wheel of Fortune was going off. Hated it. I was also amazed to discover how tired I was walking around all day. Since I'm a fast paced person it never dawned on me I was exhausted all the time.

    Please put me in for the Lisa Scottoline book.

    Oh and the song is "Little Rabbit Frufru." Can never get it out of my head. Shake, shake, shake. Nope it's still there. LOL

  26. Little Rabbit--what?? :-)

    Thankfully, I have never heard that song. Very grateful.

    I've always heard that if you sing Jingle Bell Rock, the earworm will disappear.

  27. Surefire methods to fall asleep:

    American Experience. Never fails for me. Or try listening an audiobook before you go to bed, if the book is any good, you'll WANT to stay awake, but won't be able too.


  28. I am also able to drop off almost instantly when it's bedtime, but if I'm under-exercised or over-caffeinated, I'll wake up in the middle of the night with my brain buzzing, and not be able to go back to sleep for an hour or two. I want to nap more than I do. I only manage a couple naps a year, but the conversation in my house goes like this almost every weekend.

    Me: "I want a nap."
    DH: "Honey, you don't nap."

    I want eight hours and get about seven, with about nine on the weekend nights. Not quite enough, but not panic level deficit.

  29. I don't know about Little Rabbit, but now Little Bunny Foo Foo is going to be stuck in my brain! Scoopin' up the field mice and boppin' 'em on the head. My kids loved that song.

  30. When I worked nights, I became the most boring person on earth. All I could think about was sleep. I studied the best pillow, the best sheets, and the best temperature. I covered my eyes and wore ear defenders. And all that was blown if the phone kept ringing, especially in the middle of a summer day. When my patients would complain they couldn't sleep I'd want to say, and you think you have a problem. Do you have to go to work tomorrow. No, you can just lie there and receive breakfast in bed.

  31. Oh, I had a friend who worked overnights, writing for Good Morning America. Her shift started at 1 am! She said her ENTIRE LIFE was consumed with thinking about sleep.

  32. Wish I could nap, especially after a rough night with disturbed sleep. But as much as my head may nod and nod, it just will not nod off.

    gkw9000 at

  33. Pauline, I was the same way when I worked nights, all I thought about was sleep. Okay, I did think about the cute guitar player I'd met. Can I say all I thought about was bed or is that too risque?

  34. Becky, others who have trouble sleeping, gazing at the photos on this post might help. Lovely ladies on fluffy pillows, soft lighting, makes me yawn.
    Daily cardio exercise straightens out my disabling combination of tossing at night and dozing afternoons--if I can get up the energy to do it!

  35. I have insomnia some nights, so I just stay up and read mysteries on my ipad. I especially like Lisa Scottoline by the way. At slumber parties when I was a kid, we play bloody mary in the mirror.

  36. I worked night shift for over 10 yrs this was 11pm-7am. I got used to sleeping in 2-4 hr stretches.
    Now I need my 8 hrs. If I don't I get cranky.
    We moved last September and have a cat who has some serious issues with the move. A few nights a week I have to sleep on the sofa so he will be quiet. I don't want him to wake hubby up. I work at home and easier for me to take a nap if needed.

  37. Oh, Elaine, that's brutal! Yikes--I'd be way more than cranky.

    Skipper, great to see you! So nice to cross paths in person.

    Kay C--Lisa doesn't put you to sleep, of course...

    Hey, Mare! xoxo

  38. And check here tomorrow--TrueCrime Tuesday--for the winner!

    Also tomorrow, we're giving away another wonderful book...a true life thriller.

    And Wednesday, a new book from Sara Gran--Sue Grafton says "I love this book!" and you can win a copy!

    And that's just the first half of the Jungle Red week!

  39. Oh, Becky, I am so there. I had the sleep studies done about twelve years ago. Severe restless movement, so I never go into stage three or four sleep. I thought I had narcolepsy because I would go to sleep whenever I sat down during the day--and while driving. Turns out I was just exhausted.

    Sleep meds have made a huge difference for me, but the jerking still kicks around four or five in the afternoon. So the trick is to try and get the nap in before then:-)

    Very weird stuff, sleep disorders. Maybe heriditary as my dad had it, too. And believe me, I tried every herbal, homeopathic, meditative trick in the book for about thirty years. So while I am not a big supporter of the pharmecuticals-for-everything lifestyle, the meds have been a lifesaver for me. Sometimes I even get to sleep before midnight:-)

  40. And the winner of the Lisa Scottoline book is: Kay C Burns! (Chosen at random by my dear husband.)

    SO Kay, email me via my website and we'll figure out shipping!

    Hurray! And check today's blog for another book giveaway!

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