Are you getting enough sleep? Many people fall into the trap of thinking that what they are working on now is much more important than sleep. They think that they can make up their sleep anytime, whereas the work must be finished now. This ideology is sure to give you migraines, while not really improving your work quality – perhaps even decreasing it.
The Pulitzer prize-winning author John Steinbeck has this to say about sleep: “It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.” This is invaluable advice for thesis writers as well. If you are stuck on something deep into the night, you are not likely going to resolve it by staying awake! Allow all the body functions and processes that go hand-in-hand with sleep to do their work, and start again in the morning with a fresh outlook.
If you are not persuaded by all the positive benefits of getting enough sleep each night, then consider the negative effects of not getting enough sleep. Research has proved that cutting back even a few hours of sleep results in irritability, stress and impaired memory. Consistently falling short of 8 hours of sleep a night over a long period of time will weaken your immune system, making you more prone to illness that will take out your productivity for an even longer time, cancelling out whatever time you gained by not sleeping in the first place. See how this works?
Especially relevant to PhD students are the decreased alertness and poorer cognitive performance that result from a sleep-deprived brain. When you are trying to succeed at a PhD level of research, you need all your wits about you, and they need to be sharp. If you find that you can’t think straight after long hours of research, you definitely need to get some sleep in.
Of course when take up such a challenging activity, you will have to make some sacrifices, and sometimes you research just demands that you pull an all-nighter. But your sleep should never be one of those sacrifices, because in the long term, it will do more harm than good. And pulling an all-nighter every now then may be justified – it may even give you an extra charge of energy and determination. Remember, though, that it is not sustainable, and will take a major toll on your body. Never stay up all night for consecutive days in a row. Get some sleep, and try again tomorrow!