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Grad school and bedtime


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Recently I have gotten myself into a vicious cycle.

 

I wake up around 7am (waking up is the wrong phrase....at 7am, I begin movement as a newly turned zombie from the Waking Dead)

I am normally am at school by 8am, and home by 7/8pm. 

I then relax for a couple hours or am out playing recreational sports, and then end up going back to work until 12-1am.

Then, when I finally put myself to bed, I'm so wired from work, that I don't sleep until around 3am.

Then I restart the cycle.

 

How do I get myself out of it without ruining a complete day of productivity?

 

I know my problem is going back to work so late at night...but it's probably the time of day when I'm most awake and can get a lot of minor task completed in a short time.


Do you guys tend to slip into a bad sleep cycle during the busy times of the year (i.e., the ENTIRE FREAKING YEAR....)

 

Also...I've turned quite cynical, grumpy, and unpleasant to be around because of the lack of sleep...and I'm constantly hungry....and go on tangents...mmmm...tangerines. 

 

Anyways, I'm just wondering how you guys make sure you get a good night sleep, or maybe it's just what happens when you're in grad school.

 

I just want hope that I'll be able to get a good night sleep soon!

 

 

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I DON'T LIKE IT!!! *huff* ... 

 

I especially don't like that I have no trouble falling asleep in the middle of the library when I'm working...seriously...maybe I just need to take my text books to bed with me....I'm going to go try that now!

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Cut out the extra hour of work around midnight? Go to bed instead and you can probably spend that hour more productively in the morning! Also exercising keeps you awake, can you switch it to the mornings? Those endorphins might give you a good boost!

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I agree with iphi, and would also like to add the following: no tech within the hour before bed, meditation, herbal tea, bubble baths, and whatever else gets you relaxed! It also helps it create a 'sleep ritual' before bed to get your mind and body ready to sleep.

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Honestly, if you do your best work at night, then the above solutions to go bed earlier will provide only short-term assistance. The thing is that you need to work when you're most productive. So, if you're a zombie in the morning and just wasting time, sleep later. That's what I've always done since I do my best writing between like 8pm and 1 or 2 am. You could also just try to gradually retrain yourself by going to bed half an hour earlier each day and forcing yourself to do work when you wake up. The form of that work could vary though, it could be paying bills, replying to emails, updating the online gradebook if you TA, etc.

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My most productive time is 7am-noon.  I block off 10:30pm-6:30am every day for sleep, no exceptions (well, maybe a Saturday night with friends here or there).  IMHO, good sleep every night (for me it's 8 hours) is the foundation for productivity and life happiness...

 

In your case, is your time at school from 8am-8pm pure, 100% productivity mode?  If not, I would cut out some of the "fluff" time at school and set yourself up on a sustainable sleep schedule (for example, sleep in until 11am if you can't get to bed until 3am, show up at school at noon and work a full 8 hour day at 100% productivity)...  Sleeping only from 3am-7am would have anyone feeling like a zombie, is not sustainable for a healthy body & mind (IMHO), and likely decreases your overall productivity no matter how many hours you put in at the office...  YMMV.

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My exercise is limited to the evenings as I'm part of team sports. Typically it hasn't impacted my sleep. I'm use to being about to go to bed at 11pm and sleep as soon as my head touches my pillow, and then dance out of bed at 7am in the morning. But I do agree that it's probably contributing to my spike in perkiness!

 

I guess I'm wondering if it's ok to accept that maybe right now the late nights are my best working time, and embrace it. I actually enjoy it- I light some candles, flip on some jazz, and work away. I'm just so use to having a 'bedtime' to follow...I feel very devious staying up past it!

 

I will sleep in on the days I don't have to be on campus for meetings, but those are rare. I am lucky that up until now, I have been able to be really productive during the day too...but it's painful for sure. If I could, I would have a caffeine IV hooked up during the days (I'm making sure not to have any past 6pm, encase that's impacting me too). 

 

I guess maybe it also goes back to the feeling that I shouldn't be shutting off to do nothing when I have so much to do. So sitting down with some TV or a book still results in my thinking about school. Grad school guilt!!! It's worse than my irish-catholic-family guilt! ;)

PS: Today I did get to sleep in until 11am...which was wonderful!! 

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I am going through a similar situation and I'm still trying to work out a system....when I'm desperate I take melatonin but otherwise doing a bedtime ritual involving tea, get-ready-for-bed-instead-of-crashing-into-bed stuff, and some quiet music helps. But I work best at night too (I can wake up in the mornings but even when I was a baby I was most awake/likely to eat at night) so....it's been a struggle. Good luck to you!

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How much caffeine do you drink? I try not to drink too much after a certain hour (4pm for me), but if I've been knocking back double espressos all day it still negatively impacts the quality of sleep I get. Perhaps cutting down by a few cups of per day will have an impact?

 

A trick that helped me sleep through the nights is meditation. If you try just 10 minutes of v. deep breathing (thinking about nothing else besides the breaths) before going to bed it'll help (a) get oxygen to your brain, relieving stress (B) calm your mind down and stop it thinking of a million things when you're trying to doze off. 

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My sleep time is probably more important to me than anything else. Sleep is pretty important and being deprived of sleep will affect your mental abilities negatively and decrease your focus, so I think as grad students we really should try to get enough of it :)

 

I used to do something similar. I'd stay up really late (sometimes until 3am) and then wake up for 8am classes like a zombie. No focus or real concentration. After spending a few years feeling like I'm constantly trying to catch up on sleep, I made a decision to sleep early and wake up everyday at the same time. I started going to bed at 10-11pm and setting my alarm to 7:30am. The first few nights were horrible and I couldn't sleep for hours because my biological clock was out of whack. I stuck with it though and after less than a week I started falling asleep right away and waking up refreshed before my alarm even rings. Buying a sleep mask was also the best $11 I ever spent.

 

The best part? I discovered mornings! You have no idea how productive and focused you can be in the morning after a full good night's sleep. I find myself getting a lot more things done in 1 hour pre-10am than the same amount of time spent in the afternoon or at night.

 

The most important thing to get out of this cycle is to set an earlier time at which the day is over. Once that clock strikes 10pm (for ex.) that's it as opposed to your current 1-2am.

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I used to think I was a morning person until I came to grad school. Previously, I had to get up early for work. One year, I woke up at 4:30 AM so I could leave for work by 5:30 AM because I had to start teaching high school chemistry at 6:55 AM! The best thing about that schedule was no highway traffic at that time in the morning. Also, I liked the regularity of the school bells and the alertness (adrenaline) of teaching teenagers--both kept me on track.

 

But... since coming to grad school, I've found that my brain does not want to work in the mornings. Now I get up at about 7 AM, send my kids off to school at 8:30 AM, and get to the office by 9 AM (more for parking than anything else, but I do have 9 AM meetings two days a week).

 

I grab some coffee in our cafe, settle down in my office, and get on email. If my office-mates are feeling chatty (about 75% of the time), we end up chatting about stuff... like for hours. I can't read or write in my office. This semester, I've taken to going home in the afternoons for naps or chores. Then I go back to campus three days a week for evening classes from 4-7 PM. Sometimes, I'm really tired after class. But, sometimes I'm stimulated by the class discussions and end up doing some coursework in the evenings.

 

Thursdays have become my chores/do nothing days since I don't have to go to campus for anything. Saturdays and Sundays have become the days I use to prep for courses. So, it's a really unusual schedule for me--the lack of structure is disconcerting (I've been in schools my entire life and have always lived by the bell). I know, I know, I'm supposed to create my own schedule (and stick to it). But... intellectual work doesn't always happen when you schedule it.

 

So, sorry I can't offer much except to say that you're not alone! :)

Edited by wildviolet
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Haha! Well it's nice to hear that there are others out there that aren't sticking to a consistent schedule!

 

I am going through a similar situation and I'm still trying to work out a system....when I'm desperate I take melatonin but otherwise doing a bedtime ritual involving tea, get-ready-for-bed-instead-of-crashing-into-bed stuff, and some quiet music helps. But I work best at night too (I can wake up in the mornings but even when I was a baby I was most awake/likely to eat at night) so....it's been a struggle. Good luck to you!

 

 

I have heard melatonin is good for jet lag, I've never considered it for a more daily use! I do need to get into a routine. A couple months ago I would go to be by 11pm and read for an hour, and I would always fall asleep before midnight... Maybe it's just my overloaded schedule, but I feel that if I can just get one more thing done before bed, it's one less thing for me to worry about tomorrow! haha! Hopefully our situations will both work out! 

 

How much caffeine do you drink? I try not to drink too much after a certain hour (4pm for me), but if I've been knocking back double espressos all day it still negatively impacts the quality of sleep I get. Perhaps cutting down by a few cups of per day will have an impact?

 

A trick that helped me sleep through the nights is meditation. If you try just 10 minutes of v. deep breathing (thinking about nothing else besides the breaths) before going to bed it'll help (a) get oxygen to your brain, relieving stress ( B) calm your mind down and stop it thinking of a million things when you're trying to doze off. 

 

I'm a big coffee drinker, so that was the first thing I thought I would cut out in the evenings...so I stop at 6pm...but maybe that's not even early enough. It's weird, I crash around 7-8, and then get a boost of energy around 9/10...so I take advantage! I do think it's most likely the exercise.

 

I am going to have to start meditating. Before the holidays I was doing yoga 2-3 times per week, and I think that helped my sleeping...but since then I've stopped...tonight I'm going to try the breathing and the mindfulness they teach you in yoga! Hopefully that works...if not, I have a bottle of wine to help me relax ;)

 

This is actually how I cope...sometimes I think he can see into my mind.

28_hour_day.png

 

Do you nap a lot during the days? I would love to nap, but am terrified that I won't end up sleeping until the sun comes up the next day! haha

 

 

My sleep time is probably more important to me than anything else. Sleep is pretty important and being deprived of sleep will affect your mental abilities negatively and decrease your focus, so I think as grad students we really should try to get enough of it :)

 

I used to do something similar. I'd stay up really late (sometimes until 3am) and then wake up for 8am classes like a zombie. No focus or real concentration. After spending a few years feeling like I'm constantly trying to catch up on sleep, I made a decision to sleep early and wake up everyday at the same time. I started going to bed at 10-11pm and setting my alarm to 7:30am. The first few nights were horrible and I couldn't sleep for hours because my biological clock was out of whack. I stuck with it though and after less than a week I started falling asleep right away and waking up refreshed before my alarm even rings. Buying a sleep mask was also the best $11 I ever spent.

 

The best part? I discovered mornings! You have no idea how productive and focused you can be in the morning after a full good night's sleep. I find myself getting a lot more things done in 1 hour pre-10am than the same amount of time spent in the afternoon or at night.

 

The most important thing to get out of this cycle is to set an earlier time at which the day is over. Once that clock strikes 10pm (for ex.) that's it as opposed to your current 1-2am.

 

I totally agree that sleep is really important. I use to need 7 hours to function, and I probably still do, and am going to crash sometime soon! I'm hoping I can reset my clock this weekend by going t bed at a decent time and forcing myself to go into work at the normal time tomorrow.  Ideally, I would love to be on the schedule you have! 

 

I used to think I was a morning person until I came to grad school. Previously, I had to get up early for work. One year, I woke up at 4:30 AM so I could leave for work by 5:30 AM because I had to start teaching high school chemistry at 6:55 AM! The best thing about that schedule was no highway traffic at that time in the morning. Also, I liked the regularity of the school bells and the alertness (adrenaline) of teaching teenagers--both kept me on track.

 

But... since coming to grad school, I've found that my brain does not want to work in the mornings. Now I get up at about 7 AM, send my kids off to school at 8:30 AM, and get to the office by 9 AM (more for parking than anything else, but I do have 9 AM meetings two days a week).

 

I grab some coffee in our cafe, settle down in my office, and get on email. If my office-mates are feeling chatty (about 75% of the time), we end up chatting about stuff... like for hours. I can't read or write in my office. This semester, I've taken to going home in the afternoons for naps or chores. Then I go back to campus three days a week for evening classes from 4-7 PM. Sometimes, I'm really tired after class. But, sometimes I'm stimulated by the class discussions and end up doing some coursework in the evenings.

 

Thursdays have become my chores/do nothing days since I don't have to go to campus for anything. Saturdays and Sundays have become the days I use to prep for courses. So, it's a really unusual schedule for me--the lack of structure is disconcerting (I've been in schools my entire life and have always lived by the bell). I know, I know, I'm supposed to create my own schedule (and stick to it). But... intellectual work doesn't always happen when you schedule it.

 

So, sorry I can't offer much except to say that you're not alone! :)

 

I'm so glad not to be alone! haha! I use to freak out being up so late when everyone else was asleep! I was like "if something happens, I'll be the only person who knows about it!" haha! How do you find the napping impacts your sleep at night?

 

I have 2 4-7 classes this semester, and they kill me...I really really enjoy them, but I find after working all day, to go and sit for 3 hours just depletes me of all energy...(until I 9pm when I get a boost!)

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I'm so glad not to be alone! haha! I use to freak out being up so late when everyone else was asleep! I was like "if something happens, I'll be the only person who knows about it!" haha! How do you find the napping impacts your sleep at night?

 

Most times I don't actually nap. I'll lay down for an hour or so and just listen to relaxing music. I think it just helps for me to close my eyes for a bit--I wear glasses and even though my prescription hasn't changed for years, I'm convinced that I have headaches related to eye strain. I've seen an ophthalmologist for dry eyes (of which I have a fairly severe case) but not for eye strain. The reason I suspect this is that last semester I noticed headaches occurring at regular times each day--just about 4 PM--the start of my evening classes. Great! So napping (along with lots of water and Advil) this semester seems to help with that. Also, I live so close to campus ('m just across the street, basically) so it's not a pain at all to go home in the afternoon and come back in the evening.

 

I can still sleep eight hours a night, which is what my body prefers. So, I'll sleep about 10-11 PM to 7 AM.

Edited by wildviolet
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To add on to St. Andrew's and your idea re: meditation and Yoga is actually really fantastic to start your day of. I used to do it at 6 AM and I would feel awake and ready to do anything, even if I only slept 4 hours the night before. Last year I was doing two theses at once (yes I was insane) and wouldn't return home until 5AM only to sleep until my classes at 9AM. At that time, I was so hyped up thinking about my projects still it was hard to go to sleep. My brain was awake, but my body just wanted some rest. I found that the quickest way to relax was a basic yoga exercise to tighten every muscle in my body and slowly one by one relax them BOOM! I'm asleep in 5 minutes. 

 

I don't know about the coffee intake. I've never drank that thing in my life. Pure fear of not getting things done keeps me awake just fine. I was told that if I were to start drinking, I should stop around 4-5 PM.  Re: alcohol, During my second year of Masters, a friend I knew took to drinking alcohol to sleep. Don't do that. I know you were joking about the wine.. but it actually ruins your circadian rhythm. If you must, do not drink closer than two hours before you intend to sleep. This article just came out about it: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-21147780

 

A former roommate used to take melatonin to go to sleep. But eventually she became dependent on it, and couldn't sleep without it. So tread carefully with that. ^^; 

 

Definitely stop work at a set time before you get to bed. Apparently lighting from computer screens, etc disrupt melatonin production. Articles: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/10/really-using-a-computer-before-bed-can-disrupt-sleep/  I have CS friends who can't do this and swear by this app: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/14/AR2011021404136.html it's a free app that mimics the color on computers so as it doesn't disrupt their melatonin production. 

 

I agree with TeaGirl, getting a routine, even if your body at first resists it is the best. After I stopped "catching up with sleep on the weekends" (Seriously, the extra hours do not really help, since it breaks a cycle), I found I was getting a lot more work done, and felt more awake on Mondays. Odd, I know. Also, sometimes, when I wake up in the mornings I'm super groggy. This depends on whether you force yourself awake and at what stage level of sleep. So give yourself a 20 min window of waking, waking up groggy or not can affect a whole day's prodcutivity. That CS friend, again swears by this: http://www.amazon.com/Philips-Hf3470-Wake-up-Light-White/dp/B003XN4RIC what I think is an overexpensive alarm clock, but it stimulate "healthy waking" As with all the above tips, YMMV.

 

Anyways, I hope you figure out the secret :D 

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My sleep time is probably more important to me than anything else. Sleep is pretty important and being deprived of sleep will affect your mental abilities negatively and decrease your focus, so I think as grad students we really should try to get enough of it :)

 

I used to do something similar. I'd stay up really late (sometimes until 3am) and then wake up for 8am classes like a zombie. No focus or real concentration. After spending a few years feeling like I'm constantly trying to catch up on sleep, I made a decision to sleep early and wake up everyday at the same time. I started going to bed at 10-11pm and setting my alarm to 7:30am. The first few nights were horrible and I couldn't sleep for hours because my biological clock was out of whack. I stuck with it though and after less than a week I started falling asleep right away and waking up refreshed before my alarm even rings. Buying a sleep mask was also the best $11 I ever spent.

 

The best part? I discovered mornings! You have no idea how productive and focused you can be in the morning after a full good night's sleep. I find myself getting a lot more things done in 1 hour pre-10am than the same amount of time spent in the afternoon or at night.

 

The most important thing to get out of this cycle is to set an earlier time at which the day is over. Once that clock strikes 10pm (for ex.) that's it as opposed to your current 1-2am.

 

Yes! All of this.

 

Plus someone posted this in another thread (sorry, forgot which one) and I feel super validated because I knew there was a reason why I felt like garbage when I slept at 11:30 and woke up at 6 as opposed to just staying up a bit and sleeping at midnight.

 

http://sleepyti.me/

 

It's a life changer!

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DalPhD et al., there was an article on the opinion page of today's NY Times that addresses this topic to some degree. Here's the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/10/opinion/sunday/relax-youll-be-more-productive.html

 

Key points:

- "In a study of nearly 400 employees, published last year, researchers found that sleeping too little — defined as less than six hours each night — was one of the best predictors of on-the-job burn-out."

- "The difference is that during the day we move from a state of alertness progressively into physiological fatigue approximately every 90 minutes. Our bodies regularly tell us to take a break, but we often override these signals and instead stoke ourselves up with caffeine, sugar and our own emergency reserves — the stress hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol."

 

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It really is about finding a schedule that works best for you! For me, every day at 6, but then again I'm typically in bed by 9pm (on days that I don't have night classes) and 10pm the rest of the week. Those times of the semester that I have to cut down on sleep means I wake up earlier. There are no all nighters for me! I think it really is about figuring out what works best for you!

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Most times I don't actually nap. I'll lay down for an hour or so and just listen to relaxing music. I think it just helps for me to close my eyes for a bit--I wear glasses and even though my prescription hasn't changed for years, I'm convinced that I have headaches related to eye strain. I've seen an ophthalmologist for dry eyes (of which I have a fairly severe case) but not for eye strain. The reason I suspect this is that last semester I noticed headaches occurring at regular times each day--just about 4 PM--the start of my evening classes. Great! So napping (along with lots of water and Advil) this semester seems to help with that. Also, I live so close to campus ('m just across the street, basically) so it's not a pain at all to go home in the afternoon and come back in the evening.

 

I can still sleep eight hours a night, which is what my body prefers. So, I'll sleep about 10-11 PM to 7 AM.

 

I like the idea of just taking time to be quiet and reflect..I don't do that enough. I use to have that time, but I haven't been making sure I get it! I think if I did that for a bit during the day, it would make me less 'fuzzy' for my evening classes! ...heck.. I would probably have a lot less blonde moments if I did that more!

 

 

DalPhD et al., there was an article on the opinion page of today's NY Times that addresses this topic to some degree. Here's the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/10/opinion/sunday/relax-youll-be-more-productive.html

 

Key points:

- "In a study of nearly 400 employees, published last year, researchers found that sleeping too little — defined as less than six hours each night — was one of the best predictors of on-the-job burn-out."

- "The difference is that during the day we move from a state of alertness progressively into physiological fatigue approximately every 90 minutes. Our bodies regularly tell us to take a break, but we often override these signals and instead stoke ourselves up with caffeine, sugar and our own emergency reserves — the stress hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol."

 

Thanks for that article! I've been thinking about sleep a lot since I read this article, and it's not really pushed upon in grad school. I feel like it's something we're almost expected to sacrifice- and yet it is essential. But it's not often we're (or at least I am) encouraged to take time off and rejuvenate.

I do tend to fuel myself on sugar and caffeine...and then crash...only to refuel again. I was never like that, it's a bad habit that has caught up to me!

 

It really is about finding a schedule that works best for you! For me, every day at 6, but then again I'm typically in bed by 9pm (on days that I don't have night classes) and 10pm the rest of the week. Those times of the semester that I have to cut down on sleep means I wake up earlier. There are no all nighters for me! I think it really is about figuring out what works best for you!

 

I could never pull an all nighter. I use to literally feel ill if I stay up past 4am...I still do! I don't know how people pull all nghters and then go into work again! I need at least 3-4 hours of sleep to be marginally productive.

 

 

I wonder if my sleep schedule was off because I was fighting a cold. I've been fighting something for about 2 weeks, and my sleep had gotten progressively work over those 2 weeks...it caught up to me, because I am dead sick...at least it's help me reset my schedule! haha

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It's almost midnight, and I'm wide awake!!! I tried going to bed (physically laying down) at 9 PM. I think I've been drifting in and out of semi-sleep, but now I'm at the computer sipping on hot milk with sugar and cinnamon and hoping that will trigger sleep. My brain feels tired, but I can't go to sleep!

 

I'm thinking part of the problem is the climate here. It's been quite dreary--cloudy, gray days, and it's cold, so no physical activity outside (I do see people out running, but I'm not a runner). Maybe I need to get some exercise (like walking up and down the stairs on campus) and get a happy blue light lamp to combat the lack of sunlight here. :(

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I am most productive (doing homework) between noon and midnight. Outside those hours, I am sleeping, reading the news, watching TV, exercising (although lately I can only find time to exercise between 3pm and 8pm), and/or cooking food. I sleep at least seven hours so that I don't feel so tired when I wake up. By 11:00pm, I start to wind down and get ready for bed.  I found that drinking decaffeinated hot tea (green tea, tension relaxer, chamomile, etc.) relaxes the mind so that you can a good night's rest. Since I love reading fiction (grad school can easily make you feel out-of-touch with the real world), I read a novel at bedtime too.

Edited by michigan girl
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It's almost midnight, and I'm wide awake!!! I tried going to bed (physically laying down) at 9 PM. I think I've been drifting in and out of semi-sleep, but now I'm at the computer sipping on hot milk with sugar and cinnamon and hoping that will trigger sleep. My brain feels tired, but I can't go to sleep!

 

I'm thinking part of the problem is the climate here. It's been quite dreary--cloudy, gray days, and it's cold, so no physical activity outside (I do see people out running, but I'm not a runner). Maybe I need to get some exercise (like walking up and down the stairs on campus) and get a happy blue light lamp to combat the lack of sunlight here. :(

 

Check your vitamin D levels. Blue light during the day is good but you should avoid it at night (i.e. computer screen) along with other strong/harsh lighting. Although, I know there's an add on or application somewhere that removes blue light from your screen after sunset. I think it's called F.lux

I also agree that doing some exercises would help. If your muscles are relaxing all day it makes it harder to make yourself to relax at night. You end up too tense for bed. Don't run, just take a walk for an hour or so during the day, or try to do some body weight exercises to release the tension and make yourself a little tired for bed.

Edited by TeaGirl
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