UPDATE: Early Bedtime Challenge

A week has came and went since I set out on a mission to reset my internal clock and thus finally stick to a reasonable bedtime. This is the part where I report to you, my lovely readers, about how I, a restless night owl, fared during this challenge. To sum things up, I would give myself a solid B for my efforts. 4 out of 6 nights, I made it to bed at or close enough to my target window of 8:30-10pm and 2 nights I was up until midnight or beyond. Overall, I'm pleased with myself for inching towards the development of a habit that I know will serve me well over the years.

On the days that I made it to bed at or before 10pm, I felt bouncier and more capable of taking on any challenges life threw my way. My anxiety was significantly less, I felt more satiated after meals and I found it overall easier for me to make decisions that better served me. I was less likely to act on impulses to reach for sugary processed foods and more grounded in midst of the unexpected. Coming into a chaotic situation at work, pushing through a challenging workout, completing a challenging assignment for a class-- when I'm well rested, I'm mentally and physically prepared to rise to the occasion and these situations can't crack me. In other words, a good night of sleep made me feel especially resilient.

On the other hand, on the nights that I didn't get to bed until midnight or later, I woke up with a backpack of bricks attached to my shoulders. I found that my anxiety was more easily triggered, simply moving through the motions of the day was a challenge because I was already exhausted and physically depleted. I craved sugary starchy foods to move me through the afternoon hump and didn't feel up to challenging my body or my mind. In short, staying up too late makes life unnecessarily hard.

Why, then, do I often make my life unnecessarily hard by not giving my body the sleep that it needs and deserves? I think it's the peace of the night that pulls me in. There's no pressure at night, just me and whatever I feel like doing. Throughout this little experiment, I noticed that the nights I stayed up too late were preceded by emotionally, physically and mentally taxing days. Days where I needed to stay at the library later than usual to finish up a paper and consequently put my son to bed later than I would like, or maybe I felt overwhelmed by the combination of responsibilities at work and I came home to a pile of laundry and crusty dishes awaiting me. The common theme on these days is that I allow my responsibilities at home, work and school to take precedence over my own needs and I am left feeling depleted and dissatisfied. I then aim for a release from this pressure via Netflix marathons until 1 in the morning.

The antidote to this over-committed, pleasure-less existence for me is to balance out the demands of the day with things that fill my cup and restore my batteries. A bedtime routine has been a way for me to untangle myself from my responsibilities and wind down for the night. Each night I've been taking a hot Epsom salt bath with essential oils and this leaves my body and mind feeling so relaxed. I also make an effort to turn off the lights and rely on a salt lamp and candles past 8pm to signal to my body that it's time to start winding down. Right before bed I spend 5-10 minutes journaling about my favorite parts of the day and things I want to work on to dump out any of the contents of my mind before I lay down. Another thing I've been really enjoying is falling asleep to a sleep hypnosis to reset my subconscious mind.

Ultimately, I want to continue aiming to get in bed before 10pm. Sleep is the one thing that I tend to sweep under the rug on my pursuit of wellness and life satisfaction. However, this also seems to be the most critical factor in building a life rich in all the good things. Investing in a good night's sleep may not be the easiest endeavor for me, but I know it will certainly yield the greatest ROI.