Sleep-Deprived Characters

For understandable reasons, sleep–or the lack thereof–has been on my mind.

Off the top of my head, I can think of several ways sleep is used in fiction.

  • It can provide a handy scene or chapter break.
  • It offers the possibility of dreams, which are often used to reveal a character’s inner thoughts/fears/etc. or for the purposes of foreshadowing or other exposition.
  • It can be an attack–think sleeping spells/potions or chloroform.
  • Also a handy way to make plans go awry if a character dozes off. Characters are also vulnerable to attack when sleeping.

But what about a lack of sleep? is there a point in your story when your character is sleep-deprived? What does that do to her?

In college I could go one night with no sleep, or about three nights with insufficient sleep, before I crashed. Now I’ve been running on insufficient sleep for nearly a month. And I realized something.

I am a completely different person when I am sleep-deprived.

I get touchy, irritable, pessimistic, fearful, unreasonable, weepy. I take everything personally. My self-esteem goes right out the window.

As soon as I catch a good nap, all of that goes away. I’m back to cheerful, capable, reasonable me.

So what happens to your character(s)? I won’t buy it if, for example, they’re still thinking clearly after three days of being on the run, constantly hunted, sleeping lightly and in shifts.

Just saying.

Happy Sleeping!

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