Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Sunday 25 November 2012

No Sleep for the Wicked

I often wonder about sleep.

This week Sarah Pinborough and I discussed sleep a little bit, because neither one of us does very much of it.

I’ve never slept, not since I was a child, and I’m not convinced I did much of it, even then. I certainly remember sitting up long into the night, reading Famous Five and Secret Seven books and anything by Roald Dahl, or pretty well anything at all that I could get my hands on.

If I can get four to five hours of sleep all in one go, I’m a very happy, very productive woman, but I can go months or even years without that happening regularly.

The last few years have been very much better than that. Thank goodness. In fact, improving my chances of sleep was the first way that I chose to tackle my bi-polar, as I’m one of those people that prefers not to treat my condition with anti-depressants. My sleep pattern did improve somewhat with the medication, and so did my sleep cycle, so that I was sleeping in longer periods at night and relying less on shorter naps during the day.

There must be studies, I suppose correlating mental health and sleep, and creativity and sleep, and I guess some of us sit in the middle of that venn diagram, and, maybe, just maybe, we’re the luckiest of them all.

Just after Christmas, we visited friends and were introduced to Madlen, who, in turn,  introduced me to the Sleep Cycle app for my i-phone. I’ve been playing with it ever since, and I often recommend it to people, particularly after conversations about sleep.

I treat SleepCycle like a game or a toy. My readings are wildly inconsistent, and the graphs produced by the app are wonderfully all over the place; according to SleepCycle, I haven’t once managed to sleep for more than an hour or two at a time, I rarely stay deeply asleep for more than  a single hour, and I haven’t hit REM sleep once, not in ten months of using the app on and off... If I am to believe Sleep Cycle I simply do not REM sleep... not ever!

I stopped watching clocks years ago; there isn’t any point, and the time just drags on interminably. Last night, I didn’t really sleep, so I did what I do; I tried to relax, to rest. I lay in the dark. I let my mind wander through its junk for a while. I drank a glass of water and went for a pee. I turned on the little, portable dvd player I keep on my bedside table and stuck a phone bud in my ear to watch old episodes of House (always something familliar, never anything new). I tried not to wait for sleep. I tried not to wait for the dawn. I tried to live in those moments as I might live in any other moments, but peacefully, restfully, without concern, without the worry that time spent awake in the night had, somehow to be paid for.

Sleeplessness can be a burden and restfulness can be part of the cure, and I still try to believe that one sleepless night is an aberration, that I’m bound to sleep tomorrow night. Who knows, tonight, that might just prove to be the truth.


  1. Historically, people used to go to bed for a few hours and would then wake up. For the next few hours they would write letters, procreate, or go and visit other friends, before returning to bed.

  2. Same as you I have suffer with getting very little sleep each night, sometimes for months on end. Then I tend to crash for a day or two. Batteries recharge and off I go again.

    Last year I had my biosignature done. They take 12 skin folds and give you a profile of your hormone imbalances. I had fat calves. I think my calves are pretty lean but that what was identified.

    Fat calves indicate high stress levels due to lack of sleep, by increasing certain types of magnesium, my sleep increased overnight, literally (and my calves got leaner).

    As a creative I have to be careful working at night. Too close to bedtime and the brain fires up and I'll be lucky to get a couple of hours.