Bedtime is an event when you are a child or a parent of small children. After dinner there is a bath, cozy clean pajamas, reading a book with Mom or Dad. It's a routine and everyone knows what to expect every night. It's so special that it is a key scene in TV shows and movies regarding families. You probably have your own special memories from your own childhood or from your child's.
But something happens as we get older. At some point, we throw out the comforting ritual. We watch late-night television or prowl Facebook until we nearly pass out from exhaustion and then fall into bed. As a nation, we complain about our inability to sleep or wear our lack of sleep as a badge of honor.
Let's make being tucked in at night a grown-up thing. If you were a child you remember how to do this, right? And if you have raised kids of your own, you just have no excuse not to be treating yourself to a goodnight ritual.
Your inner child is going to revolt! "But I wanna stay up and stalk Harry and Meghan on social media!"
To which you will reply "I know. But whenever you don't get to bed on time you feel out of sorts the next day and it's hard to focus at work. So, off to bed."
If it takes treating yourself like a toddler to create better habits that's okay.
You might want to refer back to your Fresh Start Tool Kit
Tucking yourself in:
Step 1. Set a bedtime and stick with it. No matter how much your inner toddler whines to stay up late to see George Clooney on Jimmy Kimmel, you are going to stand strong. It's okay to give yourself a window: my bedtime is between ten and ten-thirty. Choose the right time for you. I'm a lark so my time is pretty early. If you are an owl just make sure to give yourself 8 hours before the alarm goes off the next morning.
Step 2. If you are a nighttime shower person do that. If you are a morning shower person, wash your face and moisturize. I brush my teeth immediately after dinner in order to signal to my brain we're done eating for the day. We are learning more about the benefits of intermittent fasting, so the earlier the better.
Step 3. Put on your favorite cozy pajamas.
Step 4. Dim the lights around the house.
Step 5. If you are having alcohol in the evening keep it earlier, closer to dinnertime. It can interfere with sleep in the early morning hours. For bedtime, drinks stick to decaf tea or water or any of the teas that promote sleep.
Step 6. Turn off all the screens. This is where your inner tween will start wailing but remember, you are the adult now. Have a little self-control. No screens the last 20 minutes before you actually get in bed. It should really be an hour but let's be realistic.
Step 7. A bedtime story! Yay! It's the best part and you can choose whatever you want. But be careful. I've been reading War and Peace for eleven years or something. By the time I get to this point my brain is thinking "Time to go to sleep!" This isn't the time for a page-turner. Classics and personal development work nicely. Just like we primed our brain for our day, now we are priming it for sleep. You'll want to end the day on a good note.
Step 8. Prayers. Meditations. Affirmations. Gratitude. Reflections on the day.
A note about sleep aids: I take Melatonin about an hour before I climb into bed. Be careful with things like certain allergy meds that have been linked to dementia as well as anything that requires a prescription. Like a lot of things in life, the simplest solution is the best one. We don't want to mess around too much with our body's natural ability to do its job.
Okay, I know there's more to it because your mom isn't fixing the coffee pot for you and your dad isn't going around locking all the doors. You might need to let the animals out one last time, charge your phone, or pick out clothes for tomorrow.
Work all of those things in and around your bedtime routine as it works for you. I make the coffee after dinner if I remember but more often it's in there somewhere between a glass of water and wrangling my testy inner tween. But the overall process happens every night. I'm sure it does for you too your version just might need a little you-centric tweaking to make the most of it.
But what about the weekend?
Bad news. Your body doesn't know it's Friday night. So while you might veer off schedule occasionally for big events or special nights out, sticking as closely as you can to a regular plan is going to improve your sleep. Perfectly adhering to a system isn't our goal. Make sure that you are caring for yourself with kindness and love most of the time. That means giving your body plenty of rest. Guilt-free.