I have been known to stand in in my sleep. That is, in the middle of the night, I’ll wake up in a particular position — usually upright in some way or another — and I’ll be holding that position. Concurrently, I’ll believe that the director, the DP, and/or a camera crew is there, in my bedroom, setting up a shot around me. Often I’ll subconsciously realize that this is outside crew call, and usually I’ll be thinking I’m just doing this as an unpaid favor.
It’s a habit that appears often when I’m on an extended stand-in job that I find stressful.
It’s also a habit that starts to interfere with my restful sleep. Here is my story and how I’ve tried to overcome standing in in my sleep.
When I First Realized I’d Had a Problem
My first big stand-in gig was rather stressful. Not only was I figuring out what exactly was expected of me and trying to do everything right, the DP yelled at me by the second day after I misunderstood his direction. Moments later I found myself outside a window immediately beneath a frame that the grips were disassembling, just as camera was setting up a shot on me from the other side of the window, inside where I couldn’t hear direction. Half the people were asking me to stay there, the other half were telling me to move. It wasn’t until a loud sound above me from the frame made me scramble away for safety. Tears nearly welled up in my eyes from trying to honor the conflicting directions.
We eventually started to work overnights, so my sleep was during the day. To aid in getting sleep, I occasionally took an antihistamine or some sort of sleep aid to ensure I stayed asleep. The result was that I started to notice standing in in my sleep. It may have been that this behavior started before taking sleep aids and only seemed to worsen as I took something — I can’t recall. But I noticed during the period of this stand-in gig that I would catch myself sitting up in my bed for who-knows-how-long holding a position and refusing to lie back down because “crew was setting up a shot around me and I was doing them a favor.” I caught myself one time thinking I was standing in for Jennifer Aniston (an actor on the project), which was another favor. That time, I was lying on my side in bed rather than sitting up, but each time I tried to completely roll over, I wouldn’t let myself because I was holding the position for camera.
I even caught myself once standing in the corner of my bedroom, arms out, looking toward my bed, thinking I was standing in. At least I think that happened — I’m not entirely positive. I’ve sleepwalked before, so I wouldn’t be surprised if that truly did happen. Usually I’d just be sitting up in bed.
Never mind that this was before crew call without a voucher, I remember saying to myself one time. Most of the time I was sitting up while in my mind the most stressful person on set was doing his work around me. For the first project, it was the DP who’d yelled at me. For a more recent project, it was the director, who’d also yelled at me and at other crew members without warning. Almost always there was a camera a few feet from me in my mind, as well as a vague sense of a crew doing work.
Slowly I’d start to realize that I was in my bedroom in my apartment, not on some set. Sometimes this would lead me to a further realization that this was just a dream, but that was rarely immediate — I’d just sit up in bed in my own bedroom as the crew set up a shot around me as I struggled to stay awake for them to do their job. But eventually I would get keen to what was up, that there was no crew in my bedroom, and I’d open my eyes and evidence it to myself by asking myself questions or making statements:
Ben, is there a camera crew in your bedroom? (No.) Is there a camera crew in your apartment? (No.) GO BACK TO BED!
The habit of standing in my sleep was unnerving because it would cut into my sleep, and even if it didn’t cut much into my sleep it made my sleep less restful. I was working long hours on set during these times without much turnaround, and I didn’t like thinking that I was still at work when I wasn’t. I had to kick this habit!
How I Helped Myself Get over Standing In in My Sleep
I had to develop a strategy. In order to get over standing in in my sleep, I spent a minute or so at bedtime programming my brain to deal with any bouts of standing in in my sleep that might emerge. I’d say to myself:
No matter what you might think, THERE IS NO CAMERA CREW IN YOUR BEDROOM OR IN YOUR APARTMENT.
That was the main thing I remember saying to myself. The idea was that if I told myself this before I went to bed, my groggy “sleepstanding-in” self would get the clue more immediately and would neglect any desire to do the imaginary camera crew a favor while I slept.
From what I could tell, the strategy seemed to help. What also probably helped as each project wore on was that I became more comfortable in the job and less stressed, which probably meant my mind was less active when I was asleep.
Now, I roll my eyes and even laugh a bit when I catch myself standing in in my sleep. It doesn’t seem like much of a problem anymore.
Have you ever stood in in your sleep? How have stand-in jobs affected your sleeping behavior? We’d like to know. Share your stories below!