You might not be able to get to bed on time for a variety of reasons. Maybe you’re just not a morning person, or maybe your job or family commitments require you to stay up late. Insomnia, anxiety, and other sleep and mental health disorders can all make it hard to get to sleep at a reasonable hour. Sometimes the night is the only time you get to unwind, and when that happens, you stay up late as a form of revenge procrastination, even though you know it will ruin your day the next day.
Seven to nine hours of sleep per night is recommended for adults. Yet, 35% of Americans report sleeping for less than 7 hours per night. Getting a good night’s sleep can be challenging if you have an early work or school schedule, so you may be wondering how to reset your sleep routine. You might be able to retrain your body to fall asleep earlier if you practice good sleep hygiene.
What’s Stopping You From Getting To Bed On Time
Insomnia, sleep apnea, and other medical conditions that could be treated with medication have been the primary focus of sleep-deficit-related health problem research. But oftentimes, our poor sleeping habits are the result of something we’re doing unconsciously.
Many of us tend to think of procrastination in a broad sense, as a behavior characterized by putting off tasks we would rather not complete. Nighttime delays in getting to bed, however, take place in a very different setting. Exactly what are we trying to avoid by staying up so late?
Here are some of the obstacles that are preventing you from turning in early:
You didn’t get everything done yet.
There are days when you get to the end of the day and realize that you didn’t get as much done as you’d hoped. You could choose to deal with your unmet expectations by telling yourself, “I’ll just tackle a few more items on my to-do list right now,” rather than rescheduling them for the next day.
You feel entitled to having extra time at the end of your day.
Everyone, it would appear, feels they are entitled to at least a certain amount of time before bed in which to accomplish various goals (such as finishing up work, watching television, or simply relaxing). Perhaps you do merit some free time at the end of the day if you’ve worked hard all day. However, this sense of entitlement could be causing you to misjudge your priorities, as it may be keeping you up at night when you should be resting.
In his podcast about putting off going to bed, Joel Anderson makes a compelling comparison:
It’s like when we go shopping and come to the conclusion that we need but cannot afford a new pair of shoes. Similarly to how we can waste money we don’t have by going out, we can waste time we don’t have by staying up late.
You’re lacking proper signals to keep you aware of the time.
There is no longer a signal when an episode ends that it is precisely 9:30pm, because people can watch TV whenever they want thanks to DVRs and services like Netflix. Although you may tell yourself, “I’ll just watch this one episode” or “I’ll just check my email for a minute,” you know that if there are more than a few emails waiting for you, it will take more than a minute. It’s easy to get lost in these pursuits and lose track of time if we don’t keep track of how much time we spend on them.
Each of these justifications is used to put off action. So how do we get past these roadblocks and actually get to bed on time?
Develop an Evening Routine
When it comes to helping kids get a good night’s sleep, bedtime routines have been shown to be highly effective. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults incorporate relaxing activities before bed to improve their sleep habits and get more sleep.
Nighttime routines can include anything that helps you unwind:
- De-stress and unwind before bed with a warm shower or bath. Further, studies have shown that following this routine can reduce your body temperature, making it easier to fall asleep and enhancing the quality of your sleep.
- There are many positive effects of regular meditation practice. Anxiety, insomnia, and other sleep disturbances may all be mitigated with the help of some pre-bedtime meditation.
- Relaxing and getting to sleep by reading a book is a tried-and-true method. Some studies have shown that reading on a tablet computer rather than a book can reduce drowsiness and postpone the onset of deep sleep.
- You can also help yourself wind down for bedtime by listening to some soothing music. Listening to soothing music before bed has been shown to improve sleep quality and promote relaxation.
- Try keeping a journal if worries about work and other commitments are keeping you up at night. It has been found that writing down your worries can help you get to sleep faster.
Maintain a Consistent Sleep Schedule
It can be challenging to get to sleep earlier if your bedtime varies from day to day. Keeping a regular schedule of when you wake up and when you go to sleep can help your body thrive. Keeping to a regular bedtime routine is beneficial, even on days when you feel like sleeping in. Modifying your bedtime by 15-minute increments can help ease you into the earlier routine.
Some people can’t sleep at night because they napped too late in the day. Avoiding afternoon and evening naps can help you get to sleep faster at night.
Regular exercise that complies with public health recommendations has been shown to improve sleep quality. However, it is not advisable to engage in strenuous physical activity before going to bed. Exercise that is too strenuous in the hour or so before bedtime may delay sleep onset and shorten total sleep time.
Before hitting the hay, opt for a light to moderate workout. Mild stretches and breathing exercises are often practiced together in meditative physical practices like yoga, tai chi, and qigong. Indulging in one of these routines before bed can help you wind down and prepare for sleep. In particular, yoga has been shown to alleviate stress and facilitate better management of sleep disturbances.
Minimize Blue Light Exposure and Technology Use Before Bed
The sleep hormone melatonin is suppressed by exposure to bright light in the evening, so that it becomes more challenging to go to sleep at a normal time.
Blue light is a form of electromagnetic radiation that is emitted by many electronic devices. Although being exposed to blue light during the day is helpful for maintaining alertness, humans are particularly sensitive to this high-energy light input at night, so it’s best to put these devices away in the hours leading up to sleep.
Create a Soothing Bedroom Environment
Maintaining a comfortable sleeping environment is another important step toward getting a good night’s rest. A relaxing bedroom can be achieved in a number of ways:
- Don’t let the sun in, turn on any lights, or use any electronic devices in your room. Blocking out the sun and streetlights is easy with blackout curtains or thick drapes. An eye mask is another option.
- Bring Down the Heat: A room with a temperature of around 65 degrees is perfect for sleeping. Reduce the temperature, set up a fan, and get bedding suitable for the season if you live in a hot area.
- Turning down the volume will help you relax into a restful slumber. Sound can be effectively muffled by using earplugs. Noise can be muffled with the help of white noise machines or fans.
- Keep your bedroom free for sleep only; this will help your mind associate your bed with rest. Similarly, if you’ve been lying in bed for 20 minutes and still can’t sleep, you should move to a different room and engage in some soothing activity until you’re tired.
Avoid Caffeine Later in the Day
About 165 milligrams of caffeine, or slightly less than two 8-ounce cups of coffee, is consumed daily by the average American. Caffeine is sometimes found in high concentrations in sugary beverages. Caffeine is a popular, low-cost productivity aid, but it also has the potential to disrupt sleep patterns.
The sleep-regulating chemical adenosine is reduced by caffeine, which has the opposite effect and stimulates alertness. Caffeine’s energizing effects can last for up to six hours, so it’s best to avoid drinking too much of it late in the day. Nicotine and alcohol are two more substances that should be avoided later in the day.
Try a Natural Sleep Aid
Several all-natural remedies can help you get to sleep faster, including:
- A hormone called melatonin plays a role in maintaining a regular sleep schedule by suppressing your body’s natural wakefulness response. Supplemental melatonin may help some people get to sleep faster, but it’s not meant to be a long-term solution.
- Herbal Tea: Early research suggests that certain varieties of herbal tea can help you feel more rested and get a better night’s sleep. Keep in mind that if you drink a lot of liquids right before bed, you may have to get up several times to go to the bathroom.
- Scents that Help You Sleep: Aromatherapy is Used to Treat Insomnia Even though there isn’t a ton of evidence to support it, it is sometimes used to help people get to sleep. Lavender, for instance, has been shown to aid in restful sleep.
Before relying on a natural sleep aid, it’s best to talk to your doctor. They might be able to offer advice tailored to your individual needs. They could also aid in the diagnosis of any sleep disorders that are preventing you from retiring to bed at a reasonable hour.
5 Steps To Get Yourself To Go To Bed Earlier Tonight
Is there any way to get to sleep on time that is both scientifically sound and realistic in its application? To our delight! It’s true. If you follow these instructions (yes, all of them), you will soon find yourself in bed earlier.
Step 1: Reduce light exposure before bed.
The retinas not only act as sensory receptors for visual information, but also as light-level detectors. The hormone melatonin plays a major role in keeping your body’s internal clock on a 24-hour cycle, which is set by the amount of light you receive. At night, your body releases melatonin, signaling that it is time for sleep. However, the suppression of melatonin production that results from exposure to light, especially blue light (emitted by energy-efficient light bulbs and most electronic devices), can wreak havoc on your circadian rhythm.
Put f.lux on every electronic device you own immediately. F.lux is a program that reduces the amount of blue light your device gives off at night so that you can get better sleep. Even better than settling in front of the TV or scrolling through Reddit, opt for a good book or a conversation with your spouse.
Step 2: Make the change gradual.
Don’t try to change your sleeping habits overnight from 11 p.m. to 9 p.m. To begin, your body’s internal clock resets at a rate of about an hour per day, though some systems may take even longer. But in a broader sense, when attempting to alter your behavior, it’s better to take baby steps toward your ultimate objective rather than try to run a marathon in one day.
Allow your body a few days to adjust to the new schedule before you completely throw it off. After ten or fifteen minutes of tossing and turning, if you still aren’t sleepy, it’s best to get up and do something else. Central to cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia is the concept of stimulus control, which involves retraining one’s brain to associate the bed with restful sleep rather than wakeful activity (like watching TV). The principles of stimulus control suggest that you should only go to bed when you are tired, that you should restrict your bedtime activities to sleeping and having sexual relations, and that you should go to another room if you haven’t fallen asleep after ten minutes.
Take immediate action: resolve to turn in 15 minutes earlier than usual tonight. Put it in writing or just out loud. Recognize that you may not be able to fall asleep immediately and give yourself permission to fail as long as you make an effort to get to bed at that time.
Step 3: Set up your environment to avoid objections.
The failure to adequately prepare for our goals is a major contributor to our failure to achieve them. Start by mentally replaying the entirety of your evening. A typical evening for me goes like this: I eat dinner at 7, do a bit more work, watch an episode of this show, floss, and hit the hay by 10.
Great! You’ve thought this out. However, by the time evening arrives, your focus and ego will likely be depleted, and you may not have the willpower to follow through with your plan.
Before putting your plan into action, you should consider the specifics of it and anticipate and practice responses to any concerns that may be raised. The point is to anticipate and account for them, to set up your surroundings in a way that makes it less likely that you will become sidetracked and abandon your original goal.
Imagine Ulysses tying himself to the mast so he can’t hear the sirens’ call. In other words, how do you plan on avoiding the couch tonight? Try putting the TV in another room and hiding the remote. Or you could use a timer to automatically turn off the TV after a certain amount of time has passed.
Immediately, I suggest that you: Think about what you have planned for tonight. Include times as concrete benchmarks to ensure precision. Now consider any roadblocks that might prevent you from carrying out your plan, and figure out how you intend to get around them.
Step 4: Set reminders for yourself to stick to your plan.
Setting reminders for yourself after you’ve planned your evening will make your plan even more feasible. (Remember what I said earlier about losing track of time?)
The idea here is that reminders not only serve as a timely wake-up call, but also as the foundation upon which to establish habitual routines. You might tell yourself, “As soon as my alarm goes off, I’m going to settle in on the couch and start watching Netflix. When the show is over, I’m going to brush my teeth and go to sleep. You can improve your chances of succeeding at each next intended behavior by developing triggers for each stage of the sequence.
→ Just do it now: Set a time for when you will start getting ready for bed. Write it down or set up a reminder to text yourself at that time. Then, make a well-thought-out strategy for what you’ll do when the alarm goes off or the message arrives. Integrate clear signals at various points.
Step 5: Make a public commitment.
Making a public pledge to complete an undertaking is a fantastic way to ensure that you follow through on your intentions. It’s much more likely that you’ll actually follow through on your commitment if you don’t want others to see that you’ve failed to do so. Making a promise in front of others makes us more likely to follow through on it, according to research.
Immediately, I suggest that you: Make a public commitment to your bedtime for tonight. Send a friend a text message with your planned bedtime and a promise to send another if you end up staying up later. Or, even better, announce your bedtime on social media. If you’re online past your bedtime, your friends will find out.