Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.


Sleep talk

The other night, in a brief conversation with my girlfriend’s son, I volunteered that I had a polyphasic sleep pattern. Charitably, this means I sleep more than twice per day. Uncharitably, it means I wake up constantly.

Last night was typical.

Although completely wiped out from a very active day, including a full-on gym workout, I went to bed early for me (11 p.m.) and fell asleep even earlier than usual:  11:30. But then, of course, I woke up at midnight on the dot.


To play the damn New York Times Spelling Bee game, of course.

This game invites you to make as many words of four letters or more as you can from the seven letters they’ve chosen, making sure that you use the central letter at least once. Example:  Today’s letters were F,E,I,X,A,D and the must-use letter of T. From that, you can spell “Fixated,” and “diet” and “dieted” and on and on. If you score enough points, you achieve “Genius” level.

Whoever invented this has done me wrong, because I’m addicted to it. After all, it involves words and spelling, vocabulary and reading, i.e., just my principal interests in life. But now the problem is that I’m so excited about this game that my brain wakes up at midnight every night to play it instantly upon its release. When the letters offered are as common as, well, F,E,I,X,A,D and the must-use letter of T, I can finish it in about 20 minutes and go back to sleep. But when the letters are something like G,L,X,S,P,T, and Z it can take me 90 minutes or so.

To be fair, I had a polyphasic sleep pattern even before the diabolical New York Times Spelling Bee. At one point 10 or 15 years ago, I was waking up every 46 minutes for no good reason. What corrected that? A hypnotherapist who told me that while she couldn’t erase the behavior, given my brain’s need to know what’s going on at all times, she could reduce it to just once per evening. And she did! I’d go to sleep, wake up 46 minutes later, check my phone for the time, weather, and news, and go blissfully back to sleep. Given that eventually hypnotherapy wears off, she even programmed me to return after five years for a tune-up, which I did. When I called to book a return visit, you cannot imagine how eerie it was to hear her say, “Well… you’re right on schedule.”

Unfortunately, during the pandemic she moved out of state and I haven’t found another hypnotherapist for in-person sessions. (Yet.) Other attempted solutions, like THC oil, drugs and sleep aids, extra-heavy-duty gym workouts, and just lying there refusing to get up, have done nothing. Last night I awoke at midnight, 2 a.m., 3 a.m., 6 a.m., and then very rudely at 7:30 due to my alarm when I was actually well and good asleep, dammit.

Which also means that I was asleep from 11:30 to midnight, from 12:30 to 2, from 2:10 to 3, from 3:10 to 6, and from 6 to 7:30. Just to put a more positive spin on it. Also noted:  I got nine minutes’ sleep on my office floor in the middle of the day when I was so momentarily tired that I couldn’t think straight. Nine minutes may not sound like a lot, but it recharged me enough to make it to the gym at 6:30.

What’s the solution to this? I don’t know, and I’ve been searching for one most of my life. But part of me thinks I don’t really want to fix it. I feel terrific. I’m very happy in the relationship I’m in and with how my kids are doing, I’m getting loads and loads of good writing work out at my company, and I’m making great progress on my new play. Do I really want to tamper with that? 

Don’t know.

Maybe I’ll sleep on it.

3 Responses to “Sleep talk”

  1. Valorie Says:

    You don’t really want to “fix” it , you have a deep fear doing so will change your creativity.
    Like Streisand never had her nose fixed.

  2. Dan Says:

    Valorie, thanks for that simile! I’m now contemplating a doctoral thesis on the thematic relationship of Wochner’s drama and Streisand’s nose.
    May I quote you?

  3. Uncle Rich Says:

    I’ve long had a romanticized vision of insomnia, seeing myself waking up, gazing out a window at the night sky, thinking deep thoughts, reading a few pages of some literary masterpiece, and then effortlessly returning to sleep. Instead, it’s more like stumbling to the bathroom, checking the dogs and maybe putting one of them out, wondering why my left foot itches, tossing and turning for a bit, and then drifting back to sleep while telling myself that I need to change my pillowcase.

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