I tried to start a bedtime routine. And failed. Miserably. Not once, but twice.
Hi there, my name’s Kiara and I’m a recovering night owl. A few years ago I discovered that if I wanted to get my booty to the gym, I needed to do it first thing in the morning before my brain figured out what I was up to and talked me out of it. So I flipped my schedule upside down and, after some trial and error, got into a good routine. But as my induction into the 30s club drew nearer, I began to realize that my morning workouts paired with my night owl ways were no longer sustainable. Let’s just say that fighting sleep while at work is not the way to the next promotion, amiright?
I had to start getting more sleep. But, not willing to give up the psychological trickery I’d carefully cultivated around my morning workouts, I knew that meant it was time to start getting in bed earlier.
Going from my 5-6 hours of sleep to the recommended eight hours was going to be a leap.
But, in my true Type-A way, I did a lot of reading about how to slowly increase sleep time and quality. It was the beginning of a new month, so I dove right in. *Cracks knuckles* Watch me work.
Annnd cue all my well-intentioned goals going down in flames.
To my credit, the first time I tried — and failed — was the month that I moved, went on two trips, had multiple competing deadlines at work, and was trying to get my side hustle off the ground. Also, it was summer in Chicago — for those of you who don’t know, we only get, like, four months of decent weather all year, and your girl was not about to miss patio season.
So I set myself up for that one. It was not in the cards for me.
The second time, I doubled down. I like to think I’m no longer a perfectionist, but it’s times like this that I have to question that theory. I sat down and sketched out a detailed plan. I even started a sleep journal to keep track of how much I was killin’ it each night. Bless.
I had big plans. Every night, without fail, I was going to:
- Put down the phone, walk away from the computer, and surrender the remote one hour before lights out
- Read a book instead of watching TV or scrolling the ‘gram
- Do a little yoga or stretch session to give my muscles some love
And, for good measure, as much as possible I was going to add a side of:
- No eating or drinking two hours before bed — with the exception of some bedtime tea to help maximize my sleep
- Lights out and alarm set for the same time each day — to teach my body what was up
- A little meditation to go along with my yoga — super zen of me, right?
This was my plan. If you conceive it you can achieve it, right? While that’s a lovely expression, in reality, I was lucky if I got one or two of the six items checked off each night. And by each night, I mean the seven-day streak that it lasted. Not exactly what I’d had in mind when I bought that little sleep journal.
So, why wasn’t this working?
The laissez-faire, I-sleep-when-I-want life was no longer an option. And, clearly, the militant-style approach to bedtimes was not my jam either. I took a step back and reevaluated what was going on.
That’s when I realized the struggle started way before my first bedtime reminder alarm started blaring at 9pm.
I had a lot on my plate and I’d spend hours pouring over my calendar finding little snippets of time in which to get everything done. My calendar was a color-coded work of art, let me tell you. But often, when it came down to getting those to-dos done, I wouldn’t feel like it… so I would procrastinate.
Oh, that freelance project can wait. That basket of laundry isn’t hurting anyone by sitting there just one more day. The deadline for that article is still a few days away, so I don’t have to do it tonight (casts apologetic look to my editor).
In the hours leading up to my bedtime, I was fully living out the “treat yo’ self,” “girl, you deserve this” mentality. While I will be the first one to say that yes, girls, we deserve all the lovely things in life, a constant diet of that mindset can actually be quite damaging and lead to self-sabotage (i.e. I’m already not going to make it to bed on time, so what’s one more episode?). Because you know what else I deserve, even more than time spent scrolling through Instagram, watching TV or some other mindless task? Sleep. I deserve quality sleep, a healthy body, and a strong start to my day.
All the planning in the world was useless if I didn’t put that plan into action at game time. I needed to stop forcing a stricter schedule and instead make realistic goals about what I could accomplish each day and actually commit to sticking to them.
So while I may have “failed” my bedtime routine, it taught me an even bigger lesson.
Sleep — any type of self-care for that matter — should be less about following a list of rules and more about treating my mind and my body with the love and care it deserves.
These days I’m working on making my to-do lists smaller and my screen-time shorter. I use the iPhone App Limits feature like it’s my job. And you know what? It’s a lot easier to get in bed earlier with fewer distractions and I feel a heck of a lot more accomplished at the end of the day. I’m still not at that eight-hour sleep mark, but I’m averaging about seven. And my (now) 30-year-old body appreciates that. So while my sleep routine attempts may have failed in their original form, they ultimately resulted in a pretty successful lifestyle shift. And that has me sleeping pretty well at night.