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The Sleeper

It was the fall of 2021 and I’d not traveled anywhere since March of the previous year. I wish I could say I met my impending trip to New Orleans like a groundhog greeting spring. In reality, I didn’t want to leave home. 

One of the entrepreneur groups I belong to was hosting an event that I had already paid for pre-pandemic. It was still a time of masks, but they had rented out a boutique hotel, so that members would only be interacting with each other and the hotel staff. 

The trip promised good friends, fantastic food, and boot-stomping music, plus a ton of excellent stories over the course of four days. 

The food ended up being subpar (on account of supply chain issues, I’m guessing), but the friends and stories were even better than I imagined they could be. That trip was terrific, but exhausting. I’m not nearly the extrovert I can sometimes play, and prefer an early bedtime. 

The last night hosted a live band and some of the best music I had ever heard, plus I wanted to lean in and show up for the community before going back home, so I stayed up late, which, for me, meant just after eleven. 

The next morning, I dragged myself out of bed and went down to the lobby couch to wait for my Lyft to the airport.

“I’m so exhausted,” I said to the man sitting across from me.

“Were you up late?” he asked. 

“Not that late. The problem is that I’m always up at the same time, no matter what time I go to bed.”

“What time is that?” 

“Around five or so.” 

“That sounds great.” He nodded in approval. 

“Sure. It’s great when I go to bed at 8:30. But not so much when it’s after eleven.” 

“You have an excellent circadian rhythm,” the man assured me with a smile. “People pay a lot of money to try and get what you already have.” 

I was instantly intrigued. He spoke for a few minutes about sleep, saying all kinds of interesting shit, until I finally asked him how he knew so much about the subject. 

“Because I’m Oprah’s sleep doctor,” he told me.

That’s how I met Dr. Michael Breus. We would have talked longer, but that’s when my Lyft arrived. An hour and a half later, we ran into one another again at the airport. 

“Have you ever thought about writing a fiction book about dreams? Something like Inception, but with accurate science?” 

“Of course.” The Sleep Doctor grinned. “All the time.” 

A few months later, The Sleeper was born. 

Former soldier Ash Sanders is plagued by violent nightmares. Gunfire. Explosions. Blood. A nameless attacker. In his nightmare, Ash fights off his attacker, killing him.

In the morning, he wakes to find his wife lying in bed beside him. Murdered.

Ash is about to take the fall for his wife’s death until he’s exonerated by sleep psychologist Mina Irving. She discovers that Ash has an REM behavior disorder called Sleep Violence and that he had no control over what he was doing. But, while the disorder is real, Ash’s symptoms don’t quite match up with any of Mina’s other patients.

Something else is going on.

Ash has memories of a life he doesn’t understand. And dreams that don’t make sense. 

People are following him.

They want what’s in his mind.

And will kill him to get it.

The Sleeper is the first time I collaborated with a storyteller from outside of Sterling & Stone, but it was a rewarding experience, knowing that everything in this tall tale could theoretically happen in real life. 

You can get the book here free for the next week, and if you would like to meet Dr. Breus, I interviewed him about sleep, dreams, our book, and the future of sleep science shortly before The Sleeper came out in the video below.