Maximizing Sleep Harvard-Style

Chances are, you’re gonna be busy or at least, keeping yourself busy at Harvard. One week you’ll be smooth-sailing, but then you’ll hit a snag, and oh-no! you find yourself pulling two or three all-nighters for your two or three midterms coming up.

Sleep is important (for some people). Because Harvard can get a little crazy at times, there are little tricks here and there that can maximize your sleeping hours.

(Triple apologies for this late entry. Fourth of July plans set me back. Expect an extra post. Point 7 added by John.)

1) The simple and obvious:

  • No caffeine after dinner
  • No showering an hour or two before bedtime
  • No strenuous exercising (besides I suppose sex) before bedtime
  • No crazy amounts of sugar before bedtime
  • Sleep in a cooler environment (despite how grumpy you’ll be in the morning)

2) Kill the dead time

Either eliminate those hour or two-hour wasters between classes or fling yourself to a library rather than lounging about in your cozy dorm room with your comfy bed during that time. It’s absolutely shocking how much time you’ll let yourself nap if given the opportunity.

Also, kick your Facebook/G-chat habit if you actually value sleep. It’s hard, but in my opinion, so worth it for the extra Zzz’s I can sneak in.

3) Be proactive NOT reactive

If you know you’re going to have a hell week or two, start doing more work ahead of time. It’s almost like compounding interest. An hour of work on that 10 page project three weeks into the school year is worth three or four the week that it’s due.

Why? You’re not as stressed/grumpy/tired. You have more time to get feedback from your TF or professor to redefine the paper. You’re also giving your brain longer time to subconsciously mull over it.

Besides, it’s a fantastic feeling to turn a paper in early while all your other classmates are fritzing like short circuits. It’s a v. small point of pleasure, but worthwhile, sometimes.

4) Oversleep less on the weekends

Yes, you want to party like a state school student Friday and Saturday night. However, do try to keep a somewhat sane sleep-wake cycle on the weekends. You don’t want to undo all of your hard work of actually getting up in time during the weekdays.

For me, getting out of bed and to breakfast BEFORE noon sounds like the perfect plan for me. Also, finding a breakfast buddy is a fantastic idea.

5) Place a premium on your time

If something just isn’t worthwhile to you anymore, just quit it. In high school, we were all taught that admissions officers look for commitment. In a high school of maybe 10 clubs/organizations tops, this means there’s little point in shopping around. However, at Harvard, the opportunities are so plentiful that it doesn’t make sense to keep doing something if you’re not really interested.

Similarly, if meetings never start on time, are pointless, so on and so forth, try to get the organizer to be more efficient. While all Harvard students are busy, some value sleep time more than others.

If you’re ballsy and arrogant enough (many Harvard students are), then skip lecture or the reading. However, this is always a risky move. And also remember, that the point of a class isn’t to get an A in it. There’s a reason why you’re taking economics at Harvard. You want to get to know the professors, classmates, your TF’s, so on and so forth. (But this is another rant altogether on a subject that is far more controversial.)

6) Give yourself a break

Yes, it’s Harvard. Yes, Harvard students are supposed to be crazy and overzealous. But if you do value your sleep — which you must since you’re reading this entry — then make sure you give yourself a break. It’s okay to take a lighter course load. It’s okay to drop an extracurricular.

Some people would rather die than sleep, but let them be who they are…Crazy! (j/k, sort of)

7) Sleep makes everything else more efficient (contributed by John)

If you only slept 4 hours Tuesday night, chances are that the problem set you are working Wednesday night will take twice the time it would have to take. The result? Even less sleep and the reading on Thursday night will take three times as long. And so on. This horrible sleep deprived cycle can be hard to stop once it gains momentum. Sometimes you might not be able to do anything about it. But just being aware of the terrible long term effects of “all-nighters” can save you some terrible weeks. You will sleep more if you are slightly ahead in your classes.

By the same token, if you can’t think of nothing but bed, it is 8pm and you haven’t started that paper, maybe a 90 minute nap (or whatever works best for you) can save you time. I can at least double my efficiency (especially with non-trivial tasks such as problem sets) by being well-rested. So if it is 8pm and I have 3 hours of work ahead of me, I’d nap for 90 minutes. Then I will be done by 12:30. But if I don’t nap, my productivity will be only 50% so my work will take 6 hours and I will be done by 2am.

Of course all of this depends on your personality, the type of work lying ahead of you, and how easy you fall asleep. But at least consider that sometimes taking strategic naps can raise your productivity.

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1 Response to “Maximizing Sleep Harvard-Style”

  1. 1 saustipse

    favorited this one, brother

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