When you transition into graduate school from either your undergrad or life in the field, you will probably find that your sleeping habits change and become unhealthy because of late nights studying and early morning classes. I want to give you two different ways to better the way you sleep in grad school: how to make your sleeping habits more consistent and how to temporarily break your habits in a healthy way. In this post, I’m going to address how you can make better sleeping habits for yourself.
You don’t have to believe the common notion that grad students don’t and shouldn’t get plenty of sleep. In fact, if you get less than 5 hours of sleep on a regular basis, your days will be less productive than if you were to get 6–8 hours of sleep per night. We all need sleep to recharge and have plenty of energy to complete day-to-day tasks and classwork. One of the most important tips to remember when wanting to establish better sleeping habits is to set a routine and stick with it. When your body becomes accustomed to a specific and healthy regimen, then it will be easier to go to sleep faster and stay asleep all night.
Aim for a consistent sleep schedule.
Margarita Tartakovsky from the World of Psychology has a few tips to sleep better, no matter what your sleep pattern looks like. To sleep more consistently, go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day (yes, including weekends) because it will give your body a more consistent internal clock. Also, try exercising regularly to create a routine for your body; then, it will know when it’s time to work out and be active and then when to calm down and go to sleep.
Avoid technology before bedtime.
If you normally have trouble getting to sleep, do not scan through Facebook, watch television, or read your email right before sleeping because electronics can stress you out, distract you, and keep you up later than necessary. Some people even develop rituals to help them go to sleep: wear sunglasses hours before bedtime to get your brain in the mood for sleeping, count backwards from 100 (if you have a mathematical mind, you might want to try counting backwards in increments of 3 so that your brain can focus on the numbers instead of other things). Also, if you can’t go to sleep in about 20–30 minutes, get out of bed and do a relaxing activity, like yoga or reading.
Follow a bedtime routine.
If you struggle with staying asleep during the night, and you tend to wake up often, develop a nightly routine that you complete before bedtime: do yoga stretches, take a bath, drink warm milk, or write down issues that are stressing you out so you can address those things the next day, if needed. In her gradhacker.org article, Eva Lantsoght provides even more tips about going to sleep and staying asleep.
If you still have trouble catching your Zs, there’s always the option to see a trusted physician and get your body back on track. Have you had bad experiences adjusting to new sleep schedules in grad school? Please share your experiences or other tips in the comment section.