February 16, 2011

Dissertation insomnia

My sleep schedule hasn't been this fucked since I was a teenager. I've been going to these field work events in the evening that go until around 9 p.m. Then I have up to a 90 minute ride back on public transportation, and when I get home I'm starving from missing dinner and wired from the event. So I spend a couple of hours making a very late dinner and thinking through everything, looking up information, writing down my ideas...

Until around 1 a.m. when I decide that I absolutely must go to bed. Unfortunately, 1 a.m. is also when my thoughts about the event are coming together, and I really really really want to write the section.

Last night, I forced myself to go to bed, but then I just lay there until past 3 a.m. writing the section in my mind. Having an internal dialogue that goes something like this.

"Okay, Di Di, it's time to sleep now. Think about something relaxing."
(I think about how I'm going to word a particular paragraph)
"Stop... stop... you can write the section tomorrow... think about something else..."
(I think about how I'm going to organize the section)
"God damn it, stop thinking about your dissertation and go to sleep."
(I stay awake)

Then I finally fell asleep around 3:30 a.m. only to have a dream that my cat was in danger, causing me to jump out of bed to run and check on her. After finally getting back to sleep, I woke up around noon, and my first thought was, "I can write the section now!"

The problem is writing gets me really worked up. After a good rant, I want to jog around the block. Even academic writing causes me to fidget constantly. I play my favorite gay clubbing songs (today Pyromania is on heavy rotation), and I can't stop moving while I work.

I have a hard time sleeping after I write anything, and even when I ban myself from writing, I end up thinking about what I'm going to say which is just as bad -- or worse, because it's not even productive.

I know that sleeping from 4 a.m. til noon is absurd. It's bad for productivity, bad for my body. I spend every afternoon panicking, feeling like I'm behind, because it's "already x pm." and I'm just starting my work. Then it's time to get ready for another event in the evening, and I end up making up for lost time by working when I get back.

Real adults don't live like this. Most graduate students don't even live like this. I keep telling myself I'm going to work my way back to normality, and it keeps not happening.

Fortunately, these events will mostly be over in one week, so maybe then I can start setting my alarm. I can screw myself up on my own, but the field work really isn't helping.


  • Is there any reason you need to be up in the morning other than you think you "should" be? If not, then I would go with the dissertation flow - it's certainly much much easier to work on a dissertation when you are into it and excited by it then at any other time of the day!

    By Blogger Psycgirl, at 2/16/11, 7:12 PM  

  • I guess I feel like I would ultimately be more productive if I got up in the morning, especially because there are so many distractions in the evening -- field work, hockey, friends, television.

    I think you're right, though. I should probably let myself stay up and write on nights when I'm home and sober though -- it can't mess me up any more than I'm already messed up!

    By Blogger Di Di, at 2/17/11, 6:13 PM  

  • Pretend you're working shifts this week, if that helps you feel OK about working in a way that suits the demands of your project right now. Your shift starts in the early evening when you set off to the event, and ends about 4am when you're done recording what happened and drafting the section. So OF COURSE you sleep late, becasue you're a shift worker this week!

    By Blogger JaneB, at 2/18/11, 4:51 AM  

  • It sad to hear that you have trouble sleeping because of your dissertation, Di Di! Well, I think it would be good to have a time management if working on a dissertation or thesis paper. That way, you can be sure that you have enough sleep, and at the same time have enough time to work with your paper.

    By Anonymous Laura Caruso, at 6/7/13, 2:55 AM  

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