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Laurie Stevens on Her Wake-Up Call

Laurie Stevens is the author of the Gabriel McRay thriller series. You can find out more about her on her website, www.lauriestevensbooks.com, or by clicking here, read her last post here, and buy her books here.

For many years now, I’ve been waking up at 3:30 am and struggling to go back to sleep. I stress out about this because we’re supposed to sleep through the night for eight hours, right? At least, that’s what I’ve been told. Eventually, I’d fall back to sleep and feel fine when I woke up, unless I struggled too much and became anxious.

I hated my insomnia and tried all kinds of sleep aids. Apparently, I’m not alone. There’s even a horror movie about the phenomenon called “3:33” (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt13782132/), and Reddit threads fill up on the subject. In folklore, the witching hour is considered to be between 3 am and 4 am when hauntings are most active (great news for us insomniacs…).

From a physiological standpoint, The Sleep Foundation says, “Waking up in the middle of the night tends to occur with mental and physical conditions and often increases with age. Factors that keep people waking up in the middle of the night may intersect with natural body rhythms like your circadian rhythm or sleep cycle. Insomnia, stress, aging, hormones, medications, and pain are among the possible factors impacting your nightly sleep.”

Good to know, but how does that help anything?

Mark Wahlberg has embraced his 3:30 am wakeup call and uses it as “me” time (working out, etc.). He simply goes to bed early – at 7:30 pm. For some of us, going to bed right after dinner isn’t so easy. Still, I admire his attitude. If you can’t beat ‘em, why not join ‘em? I find if I’ve hit a wall with a writing project, I put out a silent plea for assistance before I go to bed, and usually, the answer will materialize during that pre-dawn wakeup call. I keep a pad of paper near me or my cell phone and take notes. How do you do this with a spouse trying to sleep next to you? Very quietly and carefully! If I need to, I’ll get up and do my writing in another room and then return to bed. The amazing thing is, I can go back to sleep.

This type of sleep pattern is known as biphasic. Here’s what the Sleep Foundation has to say about it:

“Biphasic sleep is a sleep pattern in which a person splits their sleep into two main segments per day. They may sleep longer at night and then take a nap during the day. Or, they may split their nighttime sleep up into two segments. In monophasic sleep, a person attains all of their sleep in one block of time, typically at night. Researchers hypothesize that monophasic sleep became the dominant sleep pattern during the industrial era when artificial lighting began enabling people to stay up past sunset. Prior to that, many people across different continents and cultures followed a biphasic sleep schedule. They went to bed in the evening and slept for a few hours, waking up around midnight. Then, they would stay up for a few hours to eat, tend to their children, or add wood to the fire, before finally falling back asleep for their second sleep phase. As artificial lighting became more common, humans adopted a monophasic sleep schedule. Since then, we have considered ourselves unique among animals for sleeping in a single stretch at night.”

However, The National Library of Medicine, Biotech Information, says that exposure to more artificial light, especially at night, can “decrease melatonin levels and negatively impact our sleep.” Does that mean we should stay away from our computer screens, maybe even the TV, before sleep? Good thing most of us writers enjoy reading a hardcopy book before bed. I find I get really good ideas at night, and I’m curious to know if other authors burn the midnight oil. Do you?

Laurie Stevens

Laurie Stevens is the author of the Gabriel McRay thriller series. Laurie lives in the setting of her books, the hills outside of Los Angeles with her husband, two snakes, and a cat. You can find out more about her on her website, lauriestevensbooks.com, or follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram

This Post Has 22 Comments

  1. Anne Louise Bannon
    Anne Louise Bannon

    Oy. Maybe I am normal. I frequently wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep. The worst of it is, I’m usually too tired to get up and do some writing or reading, and when I do, I seldom get back to sleep. I do often work on stories in my head, though. When I’m not too tired to concentrate.

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      Laurie Price

      I feel your pain! I try not to stay up longer than 2 hours — if I do, then the night is shot.

  2. Joy A Ribar Ann A Ribar
    Joy A Ribar Ann A Ribar

    What a perfect blog post topic for Solar Eclipse Day! I’m certainly one of those people who gets a good chunk of sleep, but find myself awake on and off anytime after midnight. Like you, I often have something niggling my brain that needs to be written down, so I keep paper handy, too. I enjoyed learning about monophasic and biphasic sleep – news to me. I take melatonin before bed and I do yoga that’s supposed to help reset circadian rhythms, but I’m resigned to never sleeping through the night again.

    1. Avatar
      Laurie Price

      Do you remember when you were younger? I used to sleep a full 8 hours and didn’t need the 7 am alarm clock. Those were the days…

  3. Sherrill Joseph
    Sherrill Joseph

    Laurie, thanks for sharing about monophasic and biphasic sleep. That’s news to me. I’m usually a monophasic sleeper unless I get too much stimulation, e.g., from a movie, television program, or computer work right before bedtime. I think what has helped me sleep through the night are my morning walks, reading a hand-held book after dark, and putting my detectives to bed early. Otherwise, they call to me to get up, come out, and play.

    1. Avatar
      Laurie Stevens

      Sherill, I love how you mention your detectives calling you out to play. Those are good (and effective) wakeup calls.

  4. Christine DeSmet
    Christine DeSmet

    Yup, I often wake up around 3:30 to 4:00 for a bit, solve some problem in my novel, then go back to sleep for two hours. I don’t make notes. I figure if I can’t remember it, then it wasn’t the right answer. If I tell myself to remember it, I do 99.9 percent of the time. It works for me. Fun post! This phenomenon of waking between 3:00 and 4:00 is so common. I love the explanation about how artificial lighting affected humans.

    1. Avatar
      Laurie Stevens

      I was happy to learn about that. It made me think of what happens in my book, “The Return,” when the digital world breaks down, humans are so afraid of the dark at first and then learn to deal with it — and sleep better! Less anxiety.

  5. GP Gottlieb
    GP Gottlieb

    It got so bad that I needed sleep therapy, and now I sleep with a T.A.P. device in my mouth that makes me look a bit like Frankenstein’s wife (you know, enticing). And I never have anything interesting to say in the night – every bit of nonsense I write in the wee hours gets erased. Welcome to the future.

    1. Avatar
      Laurie Stevens

      It’s true that a lot of what can drive you crazy, keep gnawing on you “in the wee hours,” ends up being less dire in the light of day. I wonder what that says about our subconscious minds.

  6. Sheila Lowe
    Sheila Lowe

    As someone with severe sleep apnea for most of my life, sleep is a big subject for me. I finally got help with acupuncture (the sleep doc was amazed at the result). I’m so glad you worked out a way to deal with your waking up.

    1. Avatar
      Laurie Stevens

      It’s a tenuous remedy, trust me. I had to do something, otherwise, I tossed and turned and cursed the clock. Sometimes, I repeat my yoga instructor’s mantra, “Inhale… Exhale… Inhale… Exhale…”

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    Avanti Centrae

    Hi Laurie, sounds like you’re going with the flow. Sometimes I enjoy an afternoon siesta, as is popular in many cultures around the world. Happy sleeping…and writing!

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      Laurie Stevens

      Avanti, I love late afternoon naps — when I can fall asleep! If, by chance, I can, WOW – I can stay up late and feel 25 again.

  8. Avatar
    Margaret Mizushima

    Oh, the woes of being an insomniac. I remember my sleep problems started as a child with music playing in my head. When I went to college and graduate school, stress only made things worse. I rarely get up and do productive things; instead, I try my best to go back to sleep often lying awake for two to three hours. But lately, I’m pleased to tell you that I’ve been sleeping through the night. I love it! Thanks for this interesting post. I’ll keep that biphasic sleep pattern idea in mind next time I’m lying awake.

    1. Avatar
      Laurie Stevens

      Let me know if it works for you!

  9. Avatar
    Marie Sutro

    Had never heard of biphasic sleeping. Great article!

    1. Avatar
      Laurie Stevens

      Thanks, Marie!~

  10. Laurie Buchanan
    Laurie Buchanan

    Laurie — I learned a lot reading this informative post. Thank you!

    1. Avatar
      Laurie Stevens

      Thanks for the comment, Laurie!

  11. Carl Vonderau
    Carl Vonderau

    I find that as I’ve gotten older I tend to wake up more int he middle of the night with my mind whirring on problems. I recently read that older people tend to have blood sugar spikes in the middle of the night and the is why they wake up. Exercise seems to help.

  12. Avatar
    Laurie Stevens

    Hi Carl. Do you exercise before bed? I’m usually too exhausted to even stretch.

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