In my morning routine post, I mentioned that I’m a night owl. I would stay up until 12AM, maybe later, writing, reading, watching TV, scrolling through Youtube, surfing Pinterest… it didn’t matter to me that my eyes had little ten pound weights on them or that I woke up every single morning with a migraine or my anxiety just kept getting worse and I had no time in the mornings because I was sleeping until 9AM (or would wake up at 7AM unable to fall back asleep and end up having to function on a 4 hour sleep). This was just me.
I can’t stress it enough — having a routine is SO important in getting things done. This doesn’t mean you have to be rigid with a regimen, no cheating whatsoever — you have to find what works best for you.
Last time I spoke on setting up a morning routine, but trying to establish a morning routine would be futile if you kept to habits such as I had. I’m going to go through my nightly routine and show you how I wind down to prepare for a good night’s rest in order to face the morning with some semblance of humanness.
1. Set an End Time for the Work Day
If you’re flexible with work hours, set a time for the work day to end. You may desire to work late into the night just because you can or because of that looming deadline, but it’s better to get to bed at a decent time and wake up early rather than pulling an all-nighter.
2. Have a Cut-Off Point for Electronics
TV, phone, laptop, iPad… it all needs to be shut off. No more watching Netflix in bed or scrolling aimlessly through Instagram right before turning out the light…or after. No more texting your friends or replying to emails at 2AM (your friends will thank you for this. #Guilty). Many doctors recommend turning off all electronics 15-60 minutes before bedtime (I’ve also been told 2 hours).
I had a sleep study done a few years ago, and my doctor even told me to remove my phone and laptop from my bedroom. Blue light suppresses melatonin, sleep disturbance causes weight gain and a decrease in productivity, and associating your bedroom with other activities tells your mind “it’s time to work!” rather than “time for sleep.” Unfortunately, I live with my parents and have one room of my own, so my workspace and bed are in the same room, but keeping my laptop closed and on my desk rather than next to my bed as well as turning my phone on silent and not keeping it on my nightstand help.
*There are some great apps for these purposes. f.lux gradually takes the blue light out of your computer screen at sunset and fades back to normal when the sun rises (based on time zones). I use this on my computer and a similar feature on my phone called Night Mode. If you use your phone as your alarm, like me, then there are also apps that will turn off sound notifications for while you sleep but allow your alarm to sound in the morning.
3. Write Out Your Task List for the Next Day
You may or may not wish to do this. For some this can cause anxiety, or you may not know what you have going on until the next day anyways. I don’t do this every night, but personally I hate it when I’m laying in bed, just about asleep, and a hundred important things come to mind that I have to do. I had a night like this last month, and I was up every few minutes, tossing and turning, grabbing my phone to write on the e-memo pad. Organizing at least some of your tasks before you sleep may help to reduce that late-night “I can’t forget this!” panic.
4. Spend Ample Time Getting Ready for Bed
Brushing your teeth, taking medicine, cleansing your face… it’s mundane, repetitive, and you probably don’t put much thought into it. But taking care of yourself is not something you should just breeze over.
I brush my teeth, cleanse my face, and take my medicine as a way to tell my body, “It’s time to wind down.” Then I turn on the kettle for hot water, and while it’s heating up, I clean and refill my essential oil diffuser and get that set up in my bedroom. Then I go back, finish making my magnesium tea (magnesium is a great relaxer), and settle into bed.
5. Do Something Relaxing Before Turning Out the Lights
Reading…journaling…meditating…deep breathing…coloring… Something productive but quiet and void of screens before laying down for sleep can help wipe your mind clean from any anxieties of the day. It’s like letting your brain take a long, deep sigh.
Personally, I try to make a habit of listing one or two things I’m grateful for in my gratitude journal, filling a page in my daily journal, and then reading. I’d like to incorporate some coloring and need to include some time for a gentle bed yoga routine or mindfulness exercise, but that means I need to start working on getting to bed earlier to allow for time. You can have good intentions with weaving in all these calming exercises, but if you don’t give yourself enough time to go about them slowly and mindlessly, then you’ll just be adding stress into your routine.
6. Use Relaxation Techniques as You Fall Asleep
When the lights turn out, the anxieties multiply. You remember everything you forgot to do that day, everything that happened ten years ago, and your mind creates ten thousand scenarios for the future.
Different relaxation techniques can quell the raging thoughts. Turning on a meditation app, such as Calm, which reads stories specifically written and read for sleep, helps your mind focus on something else. Using a weighted blanket (even a large rice pack will do the trick) works on your proprioception, hitting the proprioceptors in your body and works as a grounding technique. Progressive muscle relaxation is one of my favorite ways to release stress — start from your toes and work all the way up to your head, tightening every muscle in turn as you go, breathing in while tensing, then breathing out as you relax each muscle.
When creating a nighttime and morning routine, the best thing you can do is quit your bad habits cold turkey. This doesn’t mean you have to go to bed at 7PM to wake up at 5:30AM right off the bat; work up to it. But turn those electronics off, relax before bed, wake up and make a good breakfast and spend some quality time with yourself before jumping into the work day. Your mind, body, and soul will thank you for it.