When your bedtime arrives (and yes, lots of research suggests adults should have a bedtime), let sleep be all you need to do.
At the end of an exhausting day, it can be easy to collapse in a heap on the bed, too tired to even think about the daunting process of getting prepped for sleep. There are clothes to be changed, a face to wash, teeth to brush. This can feel even more demoralizing if you’ve already played a large role in getting these same tasks completed with/for less-than-enthusiastic children. So, instead of grabbing a toothbrush, you might be tempted to roll over, locate a device, and binge a few episodes of Netflix. Or is that just me?
The result can be a bedtime that inches ever later and a sleep cycle that shrinks; fall into this pattern frequently enough, and it could wind up being a new habit.
So, here’s a thought. Get ready for bed…early.
- Identify the problem. Is there a particular task – or set of tasks – that you particularly dread at bedtime? I hate washing my face, and will often take a shower just to make that one job seem less onerous. Friends have mentioned: removing contacts, setting up the morning coffee (not technically preparation for sleep, but an important preparation for waking!), and flossing their teeth as common barriers to getting to bed on time. If those tasks seem boring or unpleasant at 8:00, they’ll feel doubly so at midnight when you’re tired and already worried about how under-rested you’re sure to feel in the morning.
- Do the math. If you’ve already set a bedtime, great. The next step should be determining how long it takes to get ready for bed. The answer may surprise you. Then do a simple math calculation. If, for optimal sleep, you need to be in bed by 11:00 and your shower/oral hygiene/setting-out-clothes-for-the-next-day regime takes a full 30 minutes, then starting the process at 10:50 just isn’t going to cut it. And this calculation can help you…
- Start the process early. I try to use my own children’s bedtimes as cues to get ready. I’ll brush my teeth (which also serves the purpose of cutting down on evening snacking) when they’re brushing theirs. If I know we’re all in and settled for the night, I’ll shower long before bedtime and get dressed in pajamas. I can straighten the kitchen, take my vitamins, and pick out a morning outfit at 7:30 as easily as I could at 10:30 (actually, likely more efficiently and with a much happier heart).
There is something immensely satisfying about looking at the clock, realizing it’s bedtime and heading straight to bed.
Go ahead. Try it.