Setting Yourself Up for Doctoral Success: part 7

Gina Holmes
4 min readFeb 18, 2022

Sleep For Success

As mum to two small children, one of whom point blank does not believe in sleep, this is advice I wish I could take myself, but it’s still true, nevertheless.

Importance of Sleep

Sleep is a critical element to your success in any endeavour. Your brain, your body, and your mind all need to rest and recharge each and every day. Especially when you’re doing something as taxing as a doctoral level study (probably alongside a thousand other commitments), it’s easy to not take the need for sleep seriously, or not prioritise it.

The thing is, without sleep our brains cannot process what we are learning. Your thinking will slow down, your powers of analysis will be far less sharp, so sleep is anything but a trivial thing. Sleep is critical to your creativity, your health, and your success.

The average adult body needs between 6 and 8 hours of quality sleep every night. There are different requirements for children and seniors but let’s just stick with the average adult requirements for our purposes.

Bedtime Routine

If you’ve already set up your daily bookends and created an evening routine, with this one key habit, you’re setting yourself up for success to get a good night’s sleep.

It’s true that heavy meals close to bedtime are not the best for quality sleep. Spicy foods are also known to interfere with sleep quality, so avoid spices and peppers close to bedtime. Drinking a lot of fluids before you head to bed can also interfere with sleep due to the need for multiple trips to the bathroom. Obvs.

Turning off your electronic devices at least an hour before you head to bed will help your body wind down and help your pineal gland produce sufficient melatonin hormone necessary to induce sleep. Likewise, avoid vigorous exercise, alcohol, caffeine, or other stimulants for 4–6 hours before bedtime.

You might think alcohol is a good idea before bed since it can make you drowsy. However, sleep disruption later on in the night is common with alcohol consumption close to bedtime. It’s best not to make alcohol consumption a nightly routine or your sleep may be adversely affected. The ‘morning after’ effect doesn’t make for good thinking either.

You can read, journal, meditate, relax in a bath or go through your gratitude practice in the last hour before bedtime. When these steps are ritualized and become a habit, your body knows what to expect and can begin to prepare for sleep. This makes it easier to transition from the awake phase to the sleep phase and you’ll avoid that toss and turn type of transition that is so frustrating. Set up your daily routine with my Productively Planned Workbook, designed especially for doctoral candidates here.

Best Environment For Sleep

Make sure your bedroom is set up for successful sleeping. The room temperature should be set at a comfortable level for your personal preference. Ideal room temperature for sleep is a little cooler than you might like when you’re awake. Bedding, lighting, and any auditory input are factors that need to be considered as well. Earplugs or ‘white noise’ machines and eye masks may be wise additions to afford a restful night’s sleep.

Splurge for comfortable bedding and pillows. Think of these as performance gear for sleeping as well as an investment in your health and your success. The Better Sleep Council recommends replacing your mattress every 7–10 years. Consider your weight, your sleep partner’s weight, how often the mattress is rotated and how you take care of your mattress since these factors can affect the longevity of a mattress. Pillows should be replaced every couple of years.

The room should be darkened although consider a soft night-light to safely illuminate the path if you usually get up to visit the bathroom in the night. It’s a good idea to use room-darkening shades on your windows to prevent the morning sunlight from awakening you earlier than you intended.

When Quality Sleep Doesn’t Happen

In spite of lifestyle modifications and sleep-inducing bedtime routines, if you’re experiencing ongoing insomnia, interrupted sleep, nightmares or sleepwalking, consider checking with your doctor. There could be medical conditions that interfere with sleep or side effects from medications that have been prescribed. And we all know what effect stress can have — planning and managing expectations will help you here too.

Good sleep habits and sufficient quality sleep is one of the fundamentals for setting yourself up for inevitable success to get that thesis written. Good luck!

If you feel that you need support or mentoring to really move your thesis forward, contact me to discuss how I can help. Together, we can Get It Done!



Gina Holmes

I support doctoral candidates to get their thesis written. No technical jargon, just lots of good techniques and ass-kicking with love. Let’s Get It Done!