Photo:  H McPherson
Photo: H McPherson

Insomnia defined: a sleep disorder that is characterized by difficulty falling and/or staying asleep. Hmmm, well, here we go again. Another beautiful Montreal night. Hot, crickets chirping, streetlights on, and so quiet. Beautifully quiet. 4:00 and Montreal is another world. Likely you have experienced this as well. So what is the problem? I am not stressed out; I’ve relaxed all summer. No assignments, no readings. I have spent the better part of the summer reading and puttering, as planned. But I go to bed and BAM, this theory or that lens pops into my head and there it stays.

Psychology Today (2012) noted that grad school “for many students it is the most energetically demanding time of their lives, not just for the hours put in, but the cognitive resources required to think critically and absorb complex material”. And yes, that’s right. The end result of all this complex and critical thinking is insomnia. How annoying. Sleep is required to carry on with all this complex thinking, but this complex thinking is killing sleep. So, I looked it up to see what can be done. Here is the advice:

Good sleep habits, also called sleep hygiene, can help you get a good night’s sleep and beat insomnia. Here are some tips:

¥ Go to sleep at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning. Don’t take naps because naps may make you less sleepy at night.
¥ Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol late in the day. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants and can keep you from falling asleep. Alcohol can cause waking in the night and interferes with sleep quality.
¥ Get regular exercise, but not 3-4 hours before bedtime, because it may stimulate you and make it hard to fall asleep.
¥ Don’t eat a heavy meal late in the day. A light snack before bedtime, however, may help you sleep.
¥ Make your bedroom comfortable: dark, quiet, and not too warm or too cold.
¥ Follow a routine to help you relax before sleep. Read a book, listen to music, or take a bath.
¥ If you can’t fall asleep and don’t feel drowsy, get up and read or do something that is not overly stimulating until you feel sleepy, but avoid screens. (

A final note: personally, none of the above advice works!!! But all of your grad student insomniacs – enjoy your studies. 4:00 really is a glorious time to be awake.

Work cited:
Searles, R. (2012). Sleep and grad school: how important is it for students? Psychology Today.


Banner Image by McGill GradLife Blogger Heather McPherson

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