Tuesday, 9 June 2015

RQ Series: Sleeping Enough

Remember on this blog I promised I revisit the notion of sleeping enough? Well, let's tackle that today. It is very important to have your seven hours of (dream) sleep. That’s what the medics tell us. Honestly, for any doctorate student, when this happens, you say Hallelujah! But, it’s a necessity, I emphasize. I personally have felt more productive after nights of enough sleep. Importantly, I am less irritated when I have enough sleep.
But there are few days when sleeping enough is impossible, so I shared with a few other doctoral students who felt the same. You wake up at 8-9AM, because you slept late (around 3AM), and now you have to rush to the department or the laboratory in time for an one hour of work before you make the technical appearance at the departmental 10/11AM tea break. You work all day; sometimes forget to have lunch, so you end up having a late lunch/early dinner or none at all (especially if you forgot to carry that fruit which tends to be your meal on a bad day). Some afternoons may be slow, and you might end up reading emails and attending to many administrative chores that nobody told you they will increase as you progress in your DPhil status. The working nerves may wake up again around 8PM and all of a sudden, you realize you need to meet your writing word limit for the day which is half way done. So you get into speed writing, and  you don’t realize when the clock ticks 1AM. You are still in the department or library, and off on your bike, you rush home feeling accomplished because you met your target for the day (apart from that paragraph that we never finish in social sciences). At home, a quick warm shower, and you recall you have talked to your partner, whom you are indebted to because he/she makes DPhil life worth forgetting on those bad days (not forgetting he/she can put up with your odd communication habits). So you make that call, and all of a sudden, you are refreshed by the conversation (which often, you might end up just summarizing what you did during the day). You say goodnight/morning/afternoon depending on their time zone and decide to type up a few things (which can be several pages!) before falling asleep. That’s the time also you might send more emails (especially that email to your supervisor). I confess sending emails at these odd hours of the night too! I have even checked my Twitter (because I quit Facebook) at these odd hours on several days. Sometimes, it could be watching a bit of Snoopy! Then you try falling asleep again, but recall that thrilling novel by your bedside, which you have been longing to finish. You read a few pages. You may fall asleep at this point. You may not, but if you live next to a main road and a ‘green’ place like I do, you might be obliged to fall asleep when the birds start singing or the early morning buses start ‘next day’ reminding  you that you must now sleep. This is around 3/4AM and you may just be lucky to face another early day tomorrow starting 8/9AM under the pressure of an alarm clock or the scout coming to clean your room.

Well, this scenario, ladies and gentlemen, is not what I recommend to doctoral students. Unfortunately, it is unavoidable. It can happen once in a while (like twice in a week or when the deadlines are crazy) but don’t make it your habit.

I personally try to balance my sleeping hours by taking power naps during the days. Especially after lunch is a best time to grab that power nap if you did not sleep enough last night. (I have identified spots where i can have my lunch and then take a power nap before returning to my desk!)
At least, 6 hours of sleep and an hour of exercise will revitalize you for increased productivity. Sometimes, sleeping even 9 hours might be needed after a hectic week. For those of you at that critical stage of writing, you know there are days you sit down from 8AM to 10PM and can fail to realize this schedule until the week ends and you are struggling to count the remaining days of that week. Don’t worry; still try to take power breaks to refuel you.

Essentially, you need a strong distraction for you to fall asleep when you get home, and a strong reason to set the alarm at least after six hours. If that’s a cuppa tea, music, milk, some exercise a warm bath, a phone call, a novel etc. Get it, and have enough sleep. I sometimes try to listen to soothing sleep music just to make sure I don’t spend the first hour in bed trying to edit that paragraph that didn't make sense that day. Don’t wait for singing birds to remind you to sleep!
This is no #phdcrisis. T'is #phdlife, you always have to rise again, and again.

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