Do you have a bedtime routine or do you just burn the candle at both ends until you faceplant onto your pillow . . . with your make-up still on? Turns out, there’s value to getting intentional around a bedtime routine.
Self-proclaimed insomniac, Ethan Green of nosleeplessnights.com offers these benefits to having a bedtime routine:
- It can calm an overactive mind
- You can plan for tomorrow so you don’t worry about it in bed
- By repeating a regular pattern, you can slowly but surely train your body and mind to unwind to be ready for bed.
- Many activities people do in the evening can be overstimulating. A bedtime routine helps you avoid those choices and relax instead.
Having a plan – a bedtime routine – is important because without one, as busy moms, we tend to go full blast all day long until we reach the point of exhaustion. See the aforementioned faceplant. Our time is precious and little of it feels like our own. That’s why we need to get uber-focused on getting to bed so we can get a good night’s sleep, wake up rested, be productive during our feel-good-hours and maybe even discover a new routine that starts the day on your terms.
Years ago I stopped washing the dishes at night because facing the mess after 8 pm when we finally got the kids to bed felt daunting and overwhelming. It took me three times as long as it should have because I was beat. Done. Over it! The day had taken its toll on me. I didn’t have it in me for one more task. Sure, it meant waking up to a crusty, disgusting mess in the morning but, with rest and renewed motivation, I would crank out the dishes in no time and have the pleasure of checking something off my list just minutes into my day. Don’t we just love checking things off our list? Coming to terms with letting the dishes go at night was how I sought grace at the end of the day and I rolled with it for a good long time. (I’ve since revamped my approach to dish-management and other un-fun duties. Stay tuned for that post in our Grace Stories – it’s titled If My Roomba Could Talk.)
Everything changed when I got intentional around having a bedtime routine. It starts with establishing a bedtime. In the very near future, I’m going to urge you to try something with me. I’m going to ask you to join The 5 am Club. Wait, don’t go . . .
Oh good, you’re still here. There is a ton of research around the 5 am wake up and we’re going to explore that in the Grace Story: Waking With Intention. For the sake of our example here, I’m going to assume that most of us moms operate on the typical school day schedule. So, if we’re waking at 5 am and need a minimum 7 hours of sleep (google it – almost all of the sources agree 7-8 hours is ideal for adults), let’s use 10 pm as an ideal bedtime. I acknowledge that this isn’t going to work for everyone, but for the chaos coordinating masses, it’s a strong goal.
The formula for establishing your bedtime routine is 3-2-1 (we learned this at the High Performance Experience conference with Brendan Burchard):
- Three hours before bed: Stop eating for the day. For our example, we’re going to plan dinner so that we’re finished by 7 pm. It’s okay to consume beverages but stay away from sugar and caffeine. Caffeineinformer.com suggests that the half-life of caffeine is about 4-6 hours on average which means it takes that long for your system to process it. I for one can’t drink caffeine after 11 am. And to those of you who think you can because you don’t struggle to sleep, it might be affecting your ability to get into deep-sleep; just something to think about.
- Two hours before bed: Stop working. Whatever might keep you “working” i.e. big corporate deals with foreign nations, writing your next bestseller, doing the dishes, etc., try to wrap it up by 8 pm. It’s important to quiet your thoughts while you’re still awake. This allows your mind to settle down prior to falling asleep . . . and reduces faceplanting. As 8 pm nears, plan for tomorrow. Start a list of things to work on in the morning. This way you can wind down without feeling like you’ve left loose ends. This will also stop your mind from racing – especially if you tend to wake in the night and start your wheels turning. Know that it’s on the list and can wait until tomorrow!
- One hour before bed: NO MORE SCREENS. This is a tough one, I know. It means no social media, no checking email, and no TV. Your mind needs the break and your eyes need a reprieve from the blue light emitted by our screens. At 9 pm, switch to a quiet activity. Read a book, meditate, pray, engage peacefully with other humans, you have options, but stay away from screens! Why do I feel like I’m talking to my tweenager?
TIP: Does your phone come with a grayscale mode? Mine is set to switch to grayscale from 9 pm to 6 am. This mode is not at all inviting to look at. When I see it, a) I don’t want to stay on my phone for long and b) it’s a visual reminder that I am in my no-screens window.
By 10 pm, the goal is to have your beautiful face washed, your pearly whites brushed and your comfy PJs on with your head on the pillow and your eyes closed.
Take into consideration the environment of your bedroom as well. It should be cool, cozy, comfortable and inviting. According to sleep.org, the sleep temperature should be between 60-67 degrees. Your bedroom should also be dark and quiet. If noise is a challenge, consider a fan or sound machine.
TIP: I don’t know where the research stands on weighted blankets but I got one for Christmas and it’s magical. I find the weight to be soothing but I have to use it sparingly because it puts me in a trance. It induces extremely deep sleep for me and if you read my sleep story, you know I don’t currently need help in that department.
If you’re looking to take back your day, improve your energy and productivity, and make an impact on your overall wellness, listen to your body and give yourself rest. Be intentional about it and commit to it daily!
Amanda butting in: “Ok, ok. I can see that this formula could be highly effective, but I’m happy with my current bedtime routine and I think I’m doing ok – I’m in bed by 10 pm, I sleep well and wake up feeling rested. Do I need to switch?
Good question, Amanda and the answer is, no. As I mentioned above, the key is in listening to your body to experience quality rest for your mind and body. If you already have a plan that’s working, stick with it. 3-2-1 is for the mama in need of a plan and ready to rid her life of the things sabotaging her nights.
The hard truth about committing to a new plan is that you’re likely going to have to confront some of your limiting beliefs. Some common limiting beliefs include but are not limited to:
- It’s not realistic for me to stop eating at 7 pm because I chauffeur my kids until 9 pm every night and THEN we eat dinner. (Read Think Thin – coming soon.)
Amanda: You mean I should pack myself a dinner to eat in the car while waiting for practice to end? And then not have “2nd dinner” as my kids call it, at 9 pm? I can probably do that.
- I stay up late because it’s the only time I get to myself.
I love watching TV at night because I can watch MY shows which aren’t particularly kid-friendly.
Amanda: I give myself grace by scheduling 30-60 minutes of TV into my nightly routine. As long as I stay on my schedule and get to sleep on time, I’m comfortable keeping my nightly Ozark habit.
Another good point, Amanda. These tips are for the mamas who aren’t keeping to any schedule or wonder why they wake up exhausted day after day and can’t get ahead of their chaos. It’s likely a sign that a change is due! Make changes that suit you, your family and your reality!
- I don’t get any me-time during the day so I look forward to late-nights on the couch by myself after everyone else has gone to bed.
Amanda: I’ve never subscribed to this “late-night” practice, but it does sound enticing now that you mention it. The popcorn that no one would be hogging, the remote in MY hands, the Girl Scout cookies that are hiding in the back of the freezer… just kidding… I can feel your eyes bulging as I write this.
Amanda! You had me going! There are more limiting beliefs where those came from and I know for many of you these are your truths but something is going to have to give if you’re going to end the cycle of letting your chaos own you.
Committing to a healthier bedtime routine may mean sacrificing something from your existing nightly routine (or lack thereof) but what you’re sacrificing by NOT changing your routine is the quality of your tomorrows. You’re likely retreating to the couch for a TV show and a glass of wine at 9 pm because you’re telling yourself that you deserve it for working your tail off all day long (and you did – you rocked it, Mama!). Instead, consider shifting your mindset to this ideal: If I practice 3-2-1 instead, I will give myself the gift of a rested mind and body which will result in more energy, momentum, and motivation for tomorrow, and a more joyful life for the long-term, because THAT is what I truly deserve!
Now, that was a lot of tough love. If you’re not ready for all of this, give yourself grace and file it away for another season of life. Another alternative is to take it in small steps. Break it down and make it manageable for your reality!
Sweet dreams, Gorgeous!