• helenmcnutt

Writing mum? Why insomnia is your new best friend



I recently wrote a blog post about why mums who want to write should get up at six a.m. this summer holidays. This isn’t because I hate them, but because I think getting that hour to yourself every morning to do something creative is one of the best ways to survive the summer holidays ahead. Especially when most mums have had their children at home for months already.

But there’s another reason why you should get up early; what it does to your sleep.

I have always been a terrible sleeper. I think a lot of writers are. Even though we tell the thoughts and words and ideas to stop, they very rarely do.

Do you know who else sleeps badly? Mothers of young children. My babies were all terrible sleepers. Raffy, was so bad - waking on the hour, every hour, every night for months - that we had to hire a sleep trainer.

It has taken me years but now, instead of resenting my insomnia, I reframe it. Insomnia keeps me in line. It forces me to live in a way that is much healthier, happier and more productive. Because the only thing that makes me sleep well is getting up at six in the weekdays and following The Rules. These are: no phones or laptops or any sort of work after 9pm. No drinking in the week. No watching anything too dramatic on TV. No coffee in the afternoon. I go to bed at ten, read for an hour, lights off at 11pm. I basically have to treat myself like a big baby who can’t be overstimulated on stray too far from routine.

Meditation helps me sleep too. Before lockdown I only ever tried to meditate because I felt I should. Now I actively want to. After I’ve written for an hour in the morning, I attempt 20 minutes. There is always a bit of a Russian Roulette edge to it, not knowing whether anyone is going to burst in or not, but mostly no one does. If they do it’s always my middle child, Raff. He climbs onto the bed with me and we put on a Cosmic Kids meditation on Youtube. This has been the best bit of lockdown, my whirlwind of a five year old sitting down cross legged, circling his thumb and forefinger, om-ing like a pint-sized yogi.

It wouldn’t have occurred to me to even try this later on in the day. But if you get up early there’s still enough space inside your head to think of doing things like this. Time before your brain gets stuffed full of to-do lists and whether or not you’re going to face up to cleaning the bathroom.

If you’re wondering how to be a writing mum but struggling with tiredness, try getting up at six. I promise, what it does to your insomnia is worth it by itself.



Click here for a free daily schedule for the summer holidays, which will give you three hours of creative time to yourself a day. Spoiler alert - it involves getting up early.

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