Wellness

Artist's Surreal Photo Series Captures Her Struggle With Insomnia

06/12/2015 10:17am ET | Updated December 6, 2017

Photographer Jenna Martin has had a lifelong battle with sleep. The result? A series of stunning, surreal photographs that document how she sees the world during a bout of insomnia.

"On average, I only get a few hours of sleep every three days or so. During a bad bout, I’ll go close to five days with no sleep," Martin told The Huffington Post of her "To Dream A Dream" photo series. "When that happens, reality and the dream world become switched in a way: reality is very hazy and hard to remember, and any sleep I do get has dreams that are incredibly vivid. Everything starts to blend together; I'll begin seeing things from a third person perspective and it’s hard to tell if I'm awake or if I'm dreaming."

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Martin, a fine art and underwater photographer, lives in Billings, Montana. She originally got her master's degree in Psychiatric Rehabilitation before making what she describes as a drastic career change into the field of surreal photography.

Although her struggle with sleep is part of what fuels Martin's creativity and helps her think about things in an "unconventional" way, she told HuffPost that having insomnia comes with incredible challenges.

According to The National Sleep Foundation, 48 percent of Americans report occasional insomnia, while 22 percent experience insomnia every or almost every night. Sleep experts recommend practicing good sleep hygiene (keep those electronics out of the bedroom!) and in more extreme cases Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Martin told HuffPost that she's been given various prescription sleep medications over the years, but none have been effective in treating her insomnia.

insomnia

"It’s been an ongoing problem for the doctors that I have seen, mostly because I do everything that is recommended: no television in the bedroom, no computer before bed, no large meals before bed, no caffeine, regular exercise, etc.," she said. "My Master’s degree is in Psychiatric Rehabilitation, and I specialized in neurological processes. I’ve been trying to solve this for as long as I can remember.

"Insomnia is a strange disorder. It’s kind of like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in the way that everyone casually mentions they have it, like it’s no big deal," she continued. "It’s maddening. People also assume that since you never sleep, you must be used to it somehow. But your body never really adapts. You’re always tired. Sleep becomes a constant obsession. You’ll do anything to get it. It’s all you think about."

Take a look at at more images from Martin's "To Dream A Dream" series below. For more, visit her website.

Rough Drafts
<a href="http://jennamartinphotography.com/" data-ylk="subsec:paragraph;itc:0;cpos:__RAPID_INDEX__;pos:__RAPID_SUBINDEX__;elm:context_link">Jenna Martin Photography</a>
Keeper of Spring
<a href="http://jennamartinphotography.com/" data-ylk="subsec:paragraph;itc:0;cpos:__RAPID_INDEX__;pos:__RAPID_SUBINDEX__;elm:context_link">Jenna Martin Photography</a>
Train
<a href="http://jennamartinphotography.com/" data-ylk="subsec:paragraph;itc:0;cpos:__RAPID_INDEX__;pos:__RAPID_SUBINDEX__;elm:context_link">Jenna Martin Photography</a>
The Show Must Go On
<a href="http://jennamartinphotography.com/" data-ylk="subsec:paragraph;itc:0;cpos:__RAPID_INDEX__;pos:__RAPID_SUBINDEX__;elm:context_link">Jenna Martin Photography</a>
Tea Time
<a href="http://jennamartinphotography.com/" data-ylk="subsec:paragraph;itc:0;cpos:__RAPID_INDEX__;pos:__RAPID_SUBINDEX__;elm:context_link">Jenna Martin Photography</a>
Serenade For The Lost
<a href="http://jennamartinphotography.com/" data-ylk="subsec:paragraph;itc:0;cpos:__RAPID_INDEX__;pos:__RAPID_SUBINDEX__;elm:context_link">Jenna Martin Photography</a>
Safe Passage
<a href="http://jennamartinphotography.com/" data-ylk="subsec:paragraph;itc:0;cpos:__RAPID_INDEX__;pos:__RAPID_SUBINDEX__;elm:context_link">Jenna Martin Photography</a>
Rainy Day
<a href="http://jennamartinphotography.com/" data-ylk="subsec:paragraph;itc:0;cpos:__RAPID_INDEX__;pos:__RAPID_SUBINDEX__;elm:context_link">Jenna Martin Photography</a>
Flora
<a href="http://jennamartinphotography.com/" data-ylk="subsec:paragraph;itc:0;cpos:__RAPID_INDEX__;pos:__RAPID_SUBINDEX__;elm:context_link">Jenna Martin Photography</a>
Piano
<a href="http://jennamartinphotography.com/" data-ylk="subsec:paragraph;itc:0;cpos:__RAPID_INDEX__;pos:__RAPID_SUBINDEX__;elm:context_link">Jenna Martin Photography</a>
Nested
<a href="http://jennamartinphotography.com/" data-ylk="subsec:paragraph;itc:0;cpos:__RAPID_INDEX__;pos:__RAPID_SUBINDEX__;elm:context_link">Jenna Martin Photography</a>
Lost In Thought
<a href="http://jennamartinphotography.com/" data-ylk="subsec:paragraph;itc:0;cpos:__RAPID_INDEX__;pos:__RAPID_SUBINDEX__;elm:context_link">Jenna Martin Photography</a>
Clouded
<a href="http://jennamartinphotography.com/" data-ylk="subsec:paragraph;itc:0;cpos:__RAPID_INDEX__;pos:__RAPID_SUBINDEX__;elm:context_link">Jenna Martin Photography</a>
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Walnuts
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Walnuts are chock-full of heart-healthy and anti-inflammatory nutrients, and are the only good nut source of alpha linolenic acid (ALA), HuffPost Healthy Living earlier reported. That means they help promote blood flow, which in turn allows for efficient delivery of oxygen to the brain. And research presented at the 2010 International Conference on Alzheimer's found that mice with the disease who were regularly fed walnuts had improved memory, learning and motor skill coordination, according to MyHealthNewsDaily.
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Olive Oil
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Olive oil is a great source of monounsaturated fats, which have been shown to actually slow brain aging.
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Berries
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Animal studies have long indicated a link between berry consumption and brain health. But a recent study published in the Annals of Neurology found that a diet high in blueberries, strawberries and others were linked to a slower mental decline in areas like memory and focus in a large sample of middle-aged women, reported TIME's Alice Park.
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Coffee
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Caffeine, the mild stimulant found in coffee, improves mental acuity, though the drink's enthusiasts -- who guzzle 120,000 tons of the stuff each year -- likely already know that. Aside from caffeine's brain boosting effects, coffee's antioxidant richness helps maintain brain health. And some research suggests that drinking coffee can actually stave off depression in women.
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Spinach
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Spinach is rich in the antioxidant lutein, which is thought to help protect against cognitive decline, according to researchers from Tufts University. And a longitudinal study at Harvard Medical School found that women who reported eating the most leafy green and cruciferous vegetables had a markedly lower rate of cognitive decline, compared to those who ate the least.
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Dark chocolate
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Antioxidant-rich dark chocolate is healthy for your whole body, but its caffeine content is thought to play a role in maintaining mental acuity. What's more, chocolate is rich in flavonoids, a class of antioxidant that helps to improve blood flow (and thus brain health) by regulating cholesterol and lowering blood pressure.
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Avocados
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Avocados are full of monounsaturated fats that improve vascular health and blood flow, making them another brain food.
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Water
When a person becomes dehydrated, their brain tissue actually shrinks. And several studies have shown that dehydration can affect cognitive function. Dehydration can impair short-term memory, focus and decision making, according to Psychology Today.
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Wheat Germ
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Wheat germ is a rich vegetarian source of choline -- a nutrient that is involved in the body's production of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that boosts memory, according to Shape. Eggs are another good choline source.
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Beets
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Beets are a good source of naturally-occurring nitrates, which help improve blood flow to the brain, according to Shape.
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Garlic
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Garlic may help stave off some forms of brain cancer, according to research published in Cancer, the medical journal of the American Cancer Society. Investigators found that the organo-sulfur compounds in garlic actually worked to kill glioblastoma cells -- a type of malignant tumor cell.