Bedtime seems like a plight for people of every age. I truly thought I would grow out of the stage where I couldn’t go to bed, but here we are.
Whether you’re always busy and can’t seem to settle your mind, your children want to stay up all night and throw a pajama party, or your pet thinks bedtime is synonymous with “take me out one more time,” there’s always something else to be doing when bedtime, inevitably, rolls around.
I think I struggle with going to bed on time more than most children do.
I always tell myself I’ll go to bed early and get up early. By about 8 o’clock, the day is done and it looks like I’ll be getting to bed soon…but then I watch some TV, clean, reorganize my entire house, fix every problem in my life, take out the trash, watch TikTok (this is the most time consuming), get some work in, feed my cat, brush my cat, cuddle my cat, dye my hair, fly to Mexico…and, now, it’s one in the morning and I’m wide awake. Then, when I finally settle into bed, my thoughts often take over and my imagination and to-do lists run wild.
I know so many people (myself included) try to go to bed ‘on time’ but we can’t seem to, for whatever reason. So, this week, I tried to train myself to go to bed earlier.
I know it’s almost impossible for me to transform my midnight bedtime to 10 pm in a matter of a week, but I used some practical steps to, at least, try to move it up.
Step #1: Get Outside Every Day
I just finished the 75 Hard Challenge, so I am cringing a bit at this suggestion, but it’s true. Going outside means that you get natural light which could make a difference in your health and sleep routine. It can just be for 15 minutes, but a short walk does have many proven benefits. I do notice the difference in my sleep on the days when I’ve been cooped up in my house all day versus when I’ve gone outside for just a bit. Many people suggest a morning walk because that’s when we can get natural blue light, but it’s 16° in the mornings right now and I’d rather stay up until 2 am.
Step #2: No Phone
I think this rule is the hardest for most people. I am addicted to my phone and I love checking it before I go to bed and first thing in the morning. Thankfully, my 75 Hard Challenge inspired my friends to create their own version of the challenge. One component that we’re all doing is to put our phones away 45 minutes before bed. Ariana Huffington keeps her devices out of her room overnight, but I think I’m going to stick with the 45-minute rule. I also like my phone in my room in case of emergencies and if I want to listen to my Headspace app to drift to sleep sometimes.
Step #3: Meditation
If you don’t have Headspace, this is my recommendation. No matter how cluttered my brain is or how oppressive my thoughts are, the second I turn on a ‘Sleep Cast’ or a ‘Wind Down’ in the ‘Sleep’ section of the app, I’m out like a light.
Step #4: Mindfulness
If you don’t love meditating but often have a busy mind, I would suggest some sort of mindful method. Some people imagine walking through their childhood home or somewhere they know very well. They imagine every aspect of that place and recreate it in their minds. I find myself going to this method when my mind is on high alert because it gives my brain something to do that’s of little importance. Others suggest doing a body scan and imagining each section of your body getting so heavy that you can’t move it. This helps you to settle in and stay put.
Step #5: 10-3-2-1-0 Formula
I had never heard of this formula, but it makes perfect sense. No caffeine 10 hours before bed, no food or alcohol three hours before bed, no work two hours before bed, no screens one hour before bed, all amounting to zero times you hit your snooze button the next morning. Everything sounded fine until the zero snoozes but I have heard that snoozing your alarm clock is the worst thing you can do in the morning.
Step #6: Stretch
While you probably shouldn’t save your HIITs and cardio for bedtime, some nighttime yoga and soft stretches never hurt anyone! Stretches before bed act as a stress reliever to our bodies. Throughout the day, we hold so much stress and tension in our muscles, so we need to stretch them out before we can go to bed.
What I Learned
I was really excited about this week because I needed a reset. I used to go to sleep early and wake up with no problem. I didn’t train myself to do it, I just did it. Somehow, between my move to Nashville last year and the multiple trips I’ve taken across time zones, I’ve lost the ability to go to sleep on time.
I’m not going to lie, I thought it would be easy to progress in 15-minute increments backward for my bedtime. I looked at this week and brushed it off a bit, assuming that it would be no sweat to just go to sleep. I was wrong.
I know I can’t really control going to sleep. I can do all the methods and prep my brain and body but, sometimes, you can’t go to sleep. And I think that’s the point.
On the last night of the challenge, I couldn’t get to bed. It was 11 pm, then midnight, then 1 am, and then all hope seemed to be lost. I wanted to do this challenge and come out of it victorious. I wanted to have mastered the art of sleep and tell everyone how I transformed my 1 am bedtime to 10 pm.
But I couldn’t because I couldn’t stop thinking about how much I needed to go to sleep. And then, about how I was a failure because I wasn’t asleep. And then, I just kept adding pressure.
I think we go to sleep easily when we don’t think about it. I get the best sleep the nights before I don’t have to do anything. But when I need to sleep so I can get up at six in the morning? Yeah, that’s the recipe for an all-nighter for me!
I think the most valuable lesson I learned this week is not to put pressure on myself to go to sleep and, also, to set myself up for success.
Going forward, I am going to do those practices to help me get better sleep. I loved going outside for a walk every day and I did sleep better those nights. I enjoyed avoiding those shaming TikTok messages the app sends you when you’ve been scrolling for too long. I loved getting a bit of stretching in before bed to ease the day’s pain away. And, honestly, Headspace’s Night Casts are the best things in the world for people whose minds never stop whirling.
I learned so many healthy ways to treat my body and mind in order to get good rest this week. Did I have great success and now fall asleep at 10 pm immediately? No, but I know that if I continue to practice these healthy habits, I might be able to one day.
If you want some more help getting to bed (and staying asleep), here are some products we swear by:
What time do you usually go to sleep? Do you need to try this challenge yourself? Comment below!
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