Students may also want to explore asking clients to take
formal sleep assessments, such as the Insomnia Severity Index,
the STOP-BANG questionnaire, the Sleep Disturbance
Questionnaire, the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index and the
Epworth Sleepiness Scale.
Getting your zzz’s
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute,
“The thinking is, ‘I’ll sleep later,’ and it slowly falls down the
adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night. However, that
doesn’t need to happen in one solid block, says Russell Foster,
PhD, a professor of circadian neuroscience at Oxford University.
One famous study found that participants who were not exposed
to artificial light or forced to adhere to a modern workday
schedule slipped into a “bimodal” sleep pattern of two blocks
of four hours, separated by an active period (Journal of Sleep
Research, 2009). In fact, people regularly slept this way before
the Industrial Revolution, according to research by Virginia Tech
history professor Robert Ekirch, PhD, author of “At Day’s Close:
Night in Times Past.”
Regardless of the precise timing of your sleep, chances are that
as a graduate student, you aren’t getting enough, says Myers. All
too often, students prioritize studying, conducting research and
preparing for classes over getting to bed on time.
ladder as far as importance,” she says.
Psychology grad students’ habits also undermine their sleep,
including an ever-shifting bedtime, long daytime naps and
working right up until bedtime, the TEPP study found. What’s
more, poor sleep contributed to students’ stress more than other
factors, including a lack of social support or exercise.
Grad students should also know that sleep deprivation can
weaken the ability to deal with the day-to-day stresses of school,
says Barber. In a 2010 study in Stress and Health, Barber and her
colleagues found that consistent, sufficient sleep helped people
exert greater self-control when dealing with stressful events.
“Sleep can often mean the difference between you crying after
receiving negative feedback on a paper or calmly evaluating the
information as constructive,” Barber says.
To determine how much sleep you need, take a vacation with
If you have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep, consider
no set schedule or alarm clock, advises Barber. If you’re sleep-
deprived, you’ll sleep a lot for the first day or two, but “you’ll drift
to your optimal sleep number after a few days.”
Then, set a schedule that allows you to get the sleep you need,
whether you have any habits that may be robbing you of healthy
rest, including exercising or tackling big projects near bedtime,
and reading, eating or studying in bed.
What’s not healthy is also very common among grad students:
“Poor Monday always gets a bad
getting an early start on the weekdays and sleeping in and staying up
late on the weekends. Barber equates it to a
cycle not unlike jet lag, where students might
be getting enough sleep, but they’re throwing
off their biological rhythms and, typically,
paying for it with rough Monday mornings.
reputation,” she says, “but the reality is we
set ourselves up for Monday failure through
our weekend sleep habits.”
People treat sleep like a luxury, she says.
It isn’t, and Barber points to research that
shows staying up 17 to 19 consecutive
hours is similar to having a blood-alcohol
percentage over the legal limit (Occupational
& Environmental Medicine, 2000). “Think
about that for a minute,” says Barber. “Late
at night, you are basically writing your
papers drunk. How efficient is that, given
the amount of editing and reworking time
you need the next day?” n
A brain teaser? Or a psychological test
about behavioural change?
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Visit our website to discover the solution to the brain teaser, and learn
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Jule Banville is a writer in Missoula, Mont.
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