Kamelot.jpgInsomnia: “inability to obtain sufficient sleep, especially when chronic; difficulty in falling or staying asleep; sleeplessness” ( What’s missing from this definition? “See: Steve”

For the past four months, I’ve been battling insomnia again. I go through phases and always have. This is definitely one of the longer stretches and it’s wearing on my nerves. The list of remedies and suggestions and treatments is long and I have tried many items on that extensive list.

I’ve seen specialists over the years, had sleep studies done, and tried a series of doctor-recommended solutions. I’m not sure if I’m just resistant or if I simply haven’t found the right combination yet.

A typical night of sleep for me is as follows: Around 9:30 I do my nighttime routine, including brushing and flossing, and I head to bed. I put on some calming music or maybe a meditation. Around 11:30, I doze off for about ninety minutes. I awake and roll over, trying not to disturb Monty who usually curls up at my knee. I then lay there for another hour or two before nodding off again for another hour-and-a-half. If I’m having a good night, I’ll stay asleep for an extra hour at this point. Around 3:30 or 4:00, I wake again and shift around. I doze (if I’m lucky) until around 5:15 when Merlin and Monty have decided it’s time for breakfast. I don’t usually oblige their request until 6:00, so as not to train them to jump on me and beg for food. They usually come into the room and Merlin might sing a little kitty opera, which is what wakes me. At 6 I get up to start my day. By 7 I’m out the door and on my way to work.

I don’t nap, typically. It makes the sleep even worse, if you can imagine that. I don’t usually have much caffeine after 5, though I’ve been known to have a cup or two of coffee with dessert and not sleep any worse. I don’t usually have dessert. And if I do, I don’t usually have coffee with it anyway.

When it gets to this point, my sleep therapist has recommended this “wonderful” (read: awful) process called Sleep Reduction Therapy. Add up the total time I have been sleeping per night. In my example above, it’s about four hours. Now, take the time I have to wake up (6 am) and roll the time back the number of sleep hours I have been getting. Ok, 6:00 – 4:00 = 2:00. What I have to do now is forceably keep myself awake, lights on, sitting up or standing, until 2:00 and then go to bed, alarm set for a 6:00 awakening. And I have to get up and run a normal day.

It is as exhausting as it sounds. But it is one of the few things that seems to be able to reset my sleep clock. Now, there’s more to it than that… I have to do the four hour schedule for a week, then roll back a half hour for another week until I’m getting a full night’s sleep.

I will admit: I haven’t been super diligent this time around. I’ve done the sleep reduction therapy more sporadically. I haven’t kept myself up and functioning until 2 am. But I’m about at the point where it’s time for me to do it fully.

Everyone deals with issues in their lives. Sleep is one of mine. I do what I can to still function my best without stumbling around like a bobble head doll. I tend to trip over my words more often too and sometimes I just can’t process what people are saying, so I have to ask for a thousand repetitions before I get there. In class, I can often sense the types of questions my students will ask depending on when they ask and I often already have the answers on the board so I can point to them — and I mean things like what is the homework, when is it due, and is this our last day to work on our roller coasters? The deeper questions, I do answer, of course.

I’ve heard from a number of other writers who also suffer from insomnia. Is it that we’re constantly dealing with multiple worlds at once and so our minds can’t take a break? I’m not always consciously thinking of stories, so I have no idea. Plus, writers aren’t the only ones dealing with this.

There is one heavy metal group I listen to, Kamelot. It’s really far outside my norm for music tastes, but I love their work. On their recent album, Haven, they have a song entitled Insomnia. They describe it incredibly well: 

When the darkness brings the cold 
To draw me under 
I am caught between 
The chapters of a dream

The music video is pretty intense and captures that between-wake-and-sleep state. 

From teas to meditation, from sleep rooms to sleep reduction therapy, there are many ways to try to get insomnia under control. What’s your remedy?

A Shocking Journey – A Dilemma

Courtesy: Joshua Earle Photography

With the recent excitement of making my stories available to the world, I’ve wondered what other works I should share. Five years ago, I wrote a short story for my students called A Shocking Journey. I wrote it in an attempt to give the students something fun and informative to read. I’ve used it every year to teach the basic concepts of electricity and magnetism. I handed the story off to my editor and she, as always, gave me brilliant feedback. Yet some of her suggestions have given me pause.

One of my pet peeves is that people care less and less about the details, like proper grammar and remembering birthdays without Facebook reminders. In the story, I start off with a basic grammar lesson concerning the uses of your/you’re and its/it’s. I teach the “one simple rule” and challenge them to use it in their every day. In short, when you write the word “your” go back and read it as “you are” and if that does sound right then you do need the apostrophe. You’re okay with that, right?

The scene in the story is educational and it sets the students into a classroom setting which is vastly different than the other that occurs at the end of the chapter when the characters get to their science class. The dilemma I have is whether I should let A Shocking Journey just focus on the science and the story or if I should keep the pet peeve in there and hope the lesson reaches some readers.

The rest of the story has the students in a desert, on a racetrack, heading down a ski slope, and so on. Each setting works as an analogy for electricity concepts. The ski slope, for instance, represents current, voltage, and resistance. The higher the mountain, the greater the potential difference, or voltage. The more skiers on the slope, the greater the current. More obstacles, like rocks and trees, represent more resistance.

I also created a series of quizzes and a Reading Companion. The companion focuses the reader on each chapter’s lesson. It brings the reader down to basics, like vocabulary and characters, then it has practice problems, like determining which “your” to use. It ends with some deeper questions about applying the knowledge. I am hoping to make this set available to other teachers for use elsewhere.

I just can’t decide yet on whether to keep all the lessons within the story or really let it focus solely on the science. There’s nothing like a good dilemma to keep the brain and heart active. If you were to pick it up, would the grammar lesson throw you off?

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