The importance of cultivating a good bedtime routine is not to be underestimated. It’s downright painful to get through a busy and demanding workday on little sleep (unless you’re one of the lucky few who can survive on four or five hours).
And, you might think that by now you’ve got this whole bedtime routine thing figured out—you’ve stopped eating late at night, you’re keeping your alcohol intake to a minimum, you’re careful not to work out too late—but there may be a few things you’re missing. Because for every way you’re doing it right, there may be a few ways you’re doing it wrong.
1. You Check Your Phone Right Before Falling Asleep
You know that technology in bed is a bad idea. So you usually settle in with a book for a bit before falling asleep. However, right as your eyes are closing, you do one last check of your phone. Before you know it, you’re scrolling through Instagram one more time, seeing what you missed on Twitter, commenting on your friends’ latest Facebook posts. You send a text to your sister and then set the phone down, screen face up.
New Action Plan
If you absolutely can’t contemplate a world where you leave your phone in another room so you don’t feel tempted, then at least put it in a drawer or face down. Or, at the very least, don’t forget to put it on night shift mode if that’s an option for you.
2. You Can’t Find Your Sheets
I’m not saying that you have to make your bed every day. Your bedroom doesn’t have to be pristine, and you don’t have to turn into an anal-retentive person when it comes to cleaning up. But if your nightly routine involves climbing into a bed strewn with a haphazard collection of pillows, blankets, and a top sheet that’s made its way to the foot of the bed and a flat sheet that’s coming off the lower right corner, you’re not doing yourself any favors.
New Action Plan
Again, this is not advice about making your bed each morning (though many people I know swear by it). It’s about doing something nice for yourself so that your place of rest is as peaceful and serene as possible. Show respect for the place you’re about to lie for the next seven or eight hours by at least pulling your bed together enough to get into it easily.
3. You Read, Watch, or Talk About [Insert Topic That Makes You Anxious]
Maybe you catch up on the latest current events before sleep, or you watch a harrowing real-crime series on TV, or you decide that 10 minutes before bed is a great time to text your sister about how crappy it is that she’s skipping the annual family reunion this year.
If none of these potentially stressful things raises your heartbeat or makes your mind reel, and you are lights-out, head-down immediately fast asleep, then you probably can live without a new action plan. But, if you haven’t put two and two together and detected a change in mood when you engage in material that’s less than light right before bed, then read on.
New Action Plan
I’m not suggesting that you’re going to suddenly start falling asleep faster if you make an effort to avoid topics (in any format—social media postings included!) before you’re ready to call it a night, but consider the possibility that ending your note on an unarguably positive note might just help you drift off more peacefully.
There will be time in the following day to confront that family member about whatever’s eating you, time for you to read the op-eds on your radar, and a chance to comment on your friend’s divisive Facebook statement. For now, reach for gentler reading material or end on an amiable topic of conversation.
Sleep’s important for brain power. It’s not enough to say you’ll catch up on the weekend when you have more time. Set a schedule you can stick with, and aim for the recommended seven to eight hours a night. There’s a lot in life you can’t control, but getting to bed on time and creating a restful, happy place isn’t one of them.
Photo of woman in bed courtesy of PeopleImages/Getty Images.