SLEEP! It’s like “my precious” (~ @drwestmoreland)

I laughed so hard when I read this line on the Dissertation House blog from Mechanical Engineering Ph.D. Candidate, Nikki Westmoreland: “Sleep, it’s like my precious.” She said (wrote) it so casually, but if you’ve seen the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, you know that one of the characters, Gollum, calls the ring “my precious” and he relentlessly pursues the “precious” for a lifetime.

Similarly, many of the participants in the DH have been talking about sleep. Either they’re not getting enough, or they feel like they are getting too much at the wrong times and thwarting their productivity.  One of the characteristics that people seem to appreciate about the Dissertation House (DH) is the strict adherence to a schedule.  On DH days, there are strict start and stop times, and lunch/break is mandatory.  Those who have been to the DH in person, know that your “Head Coach”, Dr. Wendy Carter-Veale is a stickler for time, and  that she expects you to use some kind of schedule even when you’re working at home, in the library, or in your lab.   In this post, I’m going to repeat a few of the things that I posted in the DH “Winter 2012 Challenge” blog which represented a response to some of the participants who weren’t getting enough sleep.

Rx: Take some breaks!

I am proposing that you consider taking a “break” on tonight.  Some of you are working so hard that you’re not sleeping and not feeling well.  You will not be able to finish the dissertation if you’re sick, so take a scheduled break.  Some of you need to rest (sleep!), and some need some time with family or friends. Some need some sun and vitamin D (as reminded by DH participant M. Dabek), and some should take some time to take a stroll or get some exercise.  Others may just want to have some alone time to watch a movie, or read something that isn’t related to the dissertation.  A magazine can help, read a hard-copy, not an online periodical. Step away from the computer.

Here are some suggestions for this weekend:

  1. Friday: Consider working today until 6 PM, then take a Friday evening break. Go to bed in time to be up and at your computer by 8:30 AM on Saturday morning.
  2. Saturday: Start working by 8:30 AM.  After 8 PM, take a break. Sleep, go out to dinner see a movie.
  3. Sunday:  Start working by 12 noon and end at 8 PM.

Within the weekend process, honor your respective sabbaths, but make a plan to both rest and work. For some, this may mean enjoying your worship activities, spending quality time with your families, having a good meal, and/or taking a scheduled nap.  Remember that we’re only human. We have great capacity, however, there was an important point that was discussed in the January 2012 DH: the non-stop process is not sustainable for the long term, so you have to take breaks. Schedule your breaks appropriately, be true to your schedules, then come back to the process rejuvenated. One former DHer, who now has her PhD and is settling into her career, made the habit of going to bed early, around 10PM, and getting up at 4AM to begin working.  This was her schedule and everyone around her knew it.  So they knew that if they wanted to go out or spend time with her, it would have to be done before 10:00.  Another DHer said that he always takes a short nap around lunch time and that gives him an opportunity to get back to work in the afternoon.  While you’re working this weekend, take scheduled breaks to eat, get some air, get some sun, and move around. Some might feel that all of this scheduling reduces your need for spontaneity.  In that case, you can still plan to have some time that is scheduled (e.g., the weekdays), and some time that you allow for random acts, e.g., Friday or Saturday evening of the DH weekend, or the third weekend of the month.

Schedule something that works for you, stick to the plan, and by all means, get some sleep.


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About Renetta Garrison Tull

Dr. Renetta Garrison Tull is the Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) at the University of California Davis. She previously served as Associate Vice Provost for Strategic Initiatives at The Graduate School at UMBC, and was Professor of the Practice in the College of Engineering & IT. She was Special Assistant to the Sr. Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs & Director of Graduate and Professional Pipeline Development for the University System of Maryland (12 institutions). She is the Founding Director of PROMISE: Maryland’s Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) –, and Co-PI for the USM LSAMP. Her research on global diversity in STEM continues, and she is an international speaker, covering nearly all continents, for groups and conferences such as the World Engineering Education Forum, the International Federation of Engineering Education Societies, and the Pacific Sciences Congress. Her personal website is: Connect with her on Twitter: @Renetta_Tull;
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5 Responses to SLEEP! It’s like “my precious” (~ @drwestmoreland)

  1. Love it! Dora sent us a blog that talks about how you can’t get around the law of diminishing returns: the more you try to push when your body is telling you it’s time for a break, the less productive you are. I had to relearn this lesson this week.

    – Constantly in search of the Precious.

    • Sam Cordero Puchales says:

      Hi Renetta! This is a great article. I suffer from sleep apnea and I can tell you how difficult it is for me to get enough sleep and maintain a balance between family, school and work. Two weeks ago, the Dr. gave me a breathing device called CPAP and it has helped me a lot with my condition. Now I can get enough sleep 🙂

  2. Pingback: Join the PROMISE blogs and websites for up-to-date information. 55,000 hits & 2,300 comments strong on the DH! | PROMISE: Maryland's AGEP

  3. Pingback: Reduce your stress by changing your thinking – Addressing Feelings of Stress – Dec. 7, 2012 | PROMISE: Maryland's AGEP

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