Thursday, June 26, 2014

Tips for Going to Bed Early & Getting a Great Night's Sleep

In conjunction with last week's post on ways to become a morning exerciser, I thought it was only fitting that I write a post on going to bed early. I touched on this briefly in the post and will go into more detail here. If you are waking up before the sun comes up, it is crucial that you are not only going to bed before the 11pm News but also that you are getting a restful night's sleep. Back in college and in my first few years in DC, I was a night owl. I worked out late, ate dinner even later, and didn't go to bed until closer to midnight. Even though I wasn't wasn't waking up at 4:50am, I still wasn't rested and felt groggy on most days. Fast forward to when I changed to working out in the AM and going to bed early, I instantly felt better and more awake. I am now more alert in the mornings and 100% more productive. So let's get to the second part of the working out in the morning equation: Going to Bed!

Start Small
If you currently always go to bed at midnight, don't immediately change your bedtime to 9:30 PM and think you will fall asleep instantly. Start small. Each week make your bedtime 15 minute earlier until you reach your desired time. This will let your internal clock adjust slowly and help you stick to a new schedule.

Have a Nightly Routine
Regardless of whether I have been out at night for a happy hour or have been on the couch all evening in my jammies, when I am 30 minutes from bed time I start going through my nightly routine. It doesn't matter how  great a show is or how much I want to keep reading blogs on my iPad, if it is time to start my routine I START IT. I lay out my workout clothes for the next morning. I wash my face and brush my teeth. I call Josh and say goodnight. Going through these motions lets my brain know bed time is almost here and my mind starts to calm down too. My mind seems to almost always be racing a mile a minute (which makes falling asleep harder) so the routine of slowing down and going through the motions gets my melatonin juices flowing.

Set the Environment
From the age of 12 until the day I moved to DC, I had a TV in my bedroom. I loved having my own TV and would watch The Golden Girls while falling asleep. Then I moved into my little DC bungalow with Alycyn. We only had one TV and it was in the living room. What! No TV in the bedroom! I couldn't imagine; but then as time went by I realized I didn't need my TV in the bedroom. In fact, I loved NOT having one in there. A TV will not only keep you up longer because you start to zone out on a program but it will also disrupt your sleep if you end up leaving it on after your eyes are closed. By removing the TV, my first DC bedroom inadvertently turned into exactly that a BED-ROOM. A place where I sleep. A place to get rest. Nothing else. Not a movie theater, not a study, not a lounge area. I went in there to sleep. Turning your bedroom into a sleeping environment lets your mind know that once you are in that bed it is time to sleep and stay asleep. Other-ways to set the environment:

  • Keep the room dark and cold. Light disrupts sleep as does being hot. If you live in a city where light seeps through the windows, invest in blackout shades or purchase an eye mask. If you are trying to keep your energy bill low and don't want to blast the AC, sleep with just a sheet.
  • Keep the room quiet. This is easy when I am home visiting my family but in DC there are street sounds, sirens, and LOUD neighbors. I bought some earplugs and now when things are too noisy I just slip them in. So much better, and I promise you will still hear your alarm in the morning.
  • Remove all electronics. You already got rid of the TV but an iPad or iPhone or anything that requires a plug will do the same amount of harm by stimulating your brain and not letting your body unwind. Get them out of your sleep environment!

Make your bed a no plug-in zone

Don't Force It
I know this sounds kind of like the opposite of the goal at hand, but it is crucial. When you are first getting in the routine of going to bed earlier, your body will still be adapting. However, continuously thinking fall asleep, Fall Asleep, FALL ASLEEP, will make you do quite the opposite. You will just end up laying in bed wired. So after I have completed the steps from above, I dim the lamp and get in bed. I start to read. I let my breathing get slower and my mind relax. If I start to feel sleepy and can't keep my eyes open, I turn out the lights and let sleep takeover. If I still feel awake, I keep on reading. I don't force the sleep. I let it come to me. Sometimes I read for 3 minutes. Sometimes I read for 30. Either way, by simply reading and not forcing sleep, it will eventually come to you and lead to a restful nights sleep.
Book I am currently reading 

Altering a habit takes time. However, if you slowly implement these steps, you will start to see that you are ready to go to bed earlier and will fall asleep faster. I can hardly keep my eyes open past 9:30 PM on most nights now and although that can make for a lame Friday night, I wouldn't change a thing!

What time do you go to bed?

Do you have any tips for getting to bed earlier and sleeping better?

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