Everyone knows all the reasons why we need sleep—weight loss, alertness, productivity, overall health, etc. But I have always just felt that I could get enough sleep by going to bed at 2:00 am and then getting up at 10:00 am. Makes sense, right?
I really wish I could type "Of course, right!" right now.
I remember a conversation I had with a friend in college. It was a really long time ago, but I have always remembered it—probably because I refuse to live by the advice she gave. She was a cross country runner and she told me that her coach said that every hour of sleep before midnight is worth two hours after midnight. I thought it must be a myth, or just something people say to get their kids in bed earlier, but it turns out there is something to it.
I've been seeing a lot of health professionals in the last couple years as I treat my Lyme disease. One of them has been teaching me a lot about why sleep is important—more specifically, why going to sleep early is essential. There are two big reasons:
1. The most restorative part of our sleep is in the early hours of our sleep cycle.
2. The body works on different systems throughout the day, and according to the body energy clock she gave me, the "triple warmer meridian" is being worked on from the hours of 9:00-11:00 pm.
Now, I still don't fully understand what the triple warmer meridian is, but it has to do with the hormone and endocrine systems. I find this interesting, because my hormones and endocrine systems have been out of whack for pretty much my entire life.
Could it be because I am a dyed in the wool night owl?
I'm believing this is the case more and more. And, even more impossibly, I'm actually going to bed earlier and earlier and as much as it pains me to admit it, I feel better.
Remember my thought that it didn't matter when I got my 8 hours of sleep? Well, even if that were true, I am a mom. And moms have to get up earlier than 10:00 am if they expect to get their kids off to school, so I typically get up at 6:30 am. Sometimes I would go back to bed after the girls hopped on the bus, but honestly, on those days I got absolutely nothing done except sleeping.
That is also no bueno for a mom! Moms need to be as productive as possible—especially while the kids are in school!
Okay. So I know I need to go to bed earlier, but as a night owl how do I make that actually happen?
Here is what is working for me:
How to Go to Bed Early
1. Turn off all electronics an hour before bedtime
I have the worst habit (and so does The Maestro) of getting into bed at a semi-decent hour and then doing things on my phone until the hour is completely indecent. Are any of these things important? No. I am doing things like scrolling through Facebook, reading click-baity articles, playing mindless games, and taking ridiculous quizzes.
Besides being totally stupid, all of these things serve to keep my mind awake and make it harder for me to fall asleep. When I go to bed without my phone or the TV (we don't actually have a TV in our bedroom—but sometimes I watch Amazon Prime shows on my computer at night), my mind is able to turn off earlier and thus my body is able to fall asleep earlier. It's kind of amazing.
If you have trouble getting off your devices early enough, you could try something like the Circle with Disney. We bought it to help limit our children's technology usage, but because you can set bedtimes for devices, it's a great way to also limit yourself.
Curious about how to use it? Click here: Circle with Disney, How it Works, Why We Use It and Why It's Worth It.
Want to buy one for yourself? Click here: MeetCircle or here: Amazon
2. Set a bedtime alarm
This is something my doctor told me to do, and it makes a lot of sense. We have alarms to get us out of bed at the right time, but nothing to remind us that it is time for bed. I don't know about you, but I lose all track of time once dinner is over because there is so much I want to do before I turn in. It's nice to have the alarm ring and say, "Hey! It's time to go to bed!"
I'm working on feeling okay with leaving a lot of things undone because my sleep is more important. As a bonus, I have been more productive during the day, so it all works out.
3. Make your bedroom a place for sleeping
I mentioned before that we don't have a TV in our bedroom, but that isn't the only thing that is necessary to creating a bedroom space that is conducive to sleep. Things like room-darkening drapes, calming wall colors, and keeping it clutter-free are big helps for getting more sleep—and for getting to sleep at an earlier hour.
See what I did to make our bedroom more sleep-friendly by clicking here: How to Make Your Bedroom a Sleep Haven.
4. Exercise, but do it earlier in the day
Due to my night owl ways, I have often been found exercising at night after the kids are in bed. But studies show that exercising at least 4 hours before bedtime will help you enjoy higher quality sleep and get up earlier in the morning.
I'm not much of an exerciser at all lately, so I'm still working on this one (and it really is a separate habit from sleeping!), but I thought it worthwhile enough to include it.
5. Take a hot bath before bed
Here's your chance to really do something for yourself to help your body get into relaxation and sleep mode. Who doesn't love a hot bath? Fill it up with some nice lavender bath salts and light a few lavender scented candles, and it will feel pretty heavenly!
Experts say you should heat your bath to at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit and stay in it for at least 20 minutes. This will heat your core body temperature and when you get out of the bath the cooling of the core body temperature will signal to your brain to release melatonin, which is necessary for sleep.
For me, it really all comes down to time management which is why the first two points (getting off electronics and setting a bedtime alarm) have helped me the most to get into bed before 10:00 pm.
Small Habit: Going to bed by 10:00 pm.
Big Difference: Better health, more productivity, and possible induction into the morning people club.
This post is part of my Small Habits That Will Make a Big Difference 30 day challenge. To see all of the posts in this series, click here. Or, join the challenge and receive a daily email with a new small habit that can affect your life in a big way.
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