Sleepy Stories

My mother assures me that my peculiar sleeping habits developed early. Insomnia? No, not exactly, but I’ve never been a “good sleeper.” I often have trouble falling asleep and I always have trouble staying asleep for long. For a while, I thought it was because I was afraid I’d miss something. But now, I think my mother’s theory is correct. “You’re just not good at sleeping.”

Humans are adaptive creatures, we work night shifts, eat whatever is available in our environments, create mythologies to explain the unexplainable and jet around through various time zones just for fun. (Well the jetting isn’t fun, but getting to great places is so…) I’m not sure when my personal adaptive strategy developed, but I can’t remember a time before it so it must have been early in my life. When I’m not sleeping I tell myself stories.

No, I don’t speak the words out loud, but I hear them in my head as clearly as I hear the words I’m typing right now. I make stories out of things I’ve seen or heard. A snippet of a conversation, a figure on a subway platform, a line from a song are equally good sources of story fodder. Sometimes it’s just a word or an image from the newspaper. I try to get myself to go to sleep, but sometimes the stories are really compelling and I want to get up and write them down.

So, fellow writers and crazy night people, anybody else telling themselves bedtime stories? I want to know if I’m alone in the dark or if there’s an army of us spinning tales out of nothing to amuse ourselves the way bedtime chapters from “The Secret Garden” and “A Wrinkle in Time” used to when we were kids.


  1. I do this all the time. I have always been one of those strange people that has a touch of control over my night time dreams. Many times in them I can step back and rearrange things to get them into a better frame for the overall dream narrative. And then there are times where I can fall asleep with the story playing in my head and I push that the direction I want the dream to go.

    And of course the waking dreams where you are telling the story and modifying it as you go while doing other things. I get strange looks when I begin saying the dialogue out loud.

    Or maybe I am just insane and this is all part of my dementia…

    • Candy Korman

      Consciously amending or altering dreams is a useful thing. My success with that is limited, although when I was a child I would imagine a rotary channel changer and “change the channel” on a nightmare. Sometimes it worked!