Setting a wind-down time (More on Rule #1: Give yourself a bedtime)

This week in the Tranquility by Tuesday Challenge we’re focusing on Rule #1: Give yourself a bedtime. You can boost energy and give structure to days by committing to getting into bed at a reasonable time unless you have a good reason not to.

One key realization in making this work is that getting into bed does not take zero minutes. Many people have certain household tasks (checking that doors are locked, turning out lights) that have to happen before bed. There are various matters of personal hygiene, such as brushing teeth (or perhaps a longer routine if someone showers at night). Then there may be before-bed leisure activities (reading, journaling, chatting with a partner, etc.)

All of this takes time. If you intend to be in bed by a bedtime, you need to determine how much time these things take, count back, and be sure to start by this “wind-down time.” So, if you plan to be in bed at 11 p.m., and you need 30 minutes to get into bed, this suggests that 10:30 p.m. is your moment of truth.

As the Tranquility by Tuesday project participants were learning this rule, some began setting a recurring alarm for their wind-down time. An alarm means you won’t forget, and also has the added benefit of feeling like an external cue. You’re not the one telling your spouse to turn off the TV. It’s the alarm!

But regardless, knowing the wind-down time allows you to make a conscious decision. Do you plan to be in bed by your bedtime? You don’t have to be. You are an adult who can stay up all night if you want! But if you aren’t doing anything of consequence at that moment, the default can be to start the bedtime process.

How much time do you need to wind down? If I plan to read in bed I’ve started getting ready for bed (PJs, brush teeth, take out contacts, wash face) quite a bit early so the only thing I need to do is use the bathroom and turn out the light. For whatever reason, that makes me feel like I get to read a little longer!

In other news: A big thank you to everyone who did the Time Tracking Challenge, and especially folks who filled out the survey or sent me their time log. If you sent me your log, know that I will respond — I am making good progress and only have about 60 more to go so hopefully within the next few days! I love seeing people’s logs, and seeing where the time goes. Everyone’s life is so different and we all create our own mosaics within the 168 hours of a week.

Photo: Not the wind-down time…the clock is just stuck there.

9 thoughts on “Setting a wind-down time (More on Rule #1: Give yourself a bedtime)

  1. Last year my team was basically told to work 50 hours a week so that we can get a project done. This has been a real challenge in many ways – long days, more sitting, less time for moving, less time for reading or personal projects. I’m finally starting to make some peace with it and it started with setting a firmer bed time – which I really didn’t want to do. It does help to know when to turn off the world and it’s getting easier to be ready to do so at that time (at first, I didn’t really feel ready to turn out the light). I’m also thinking more about how I use my time and while playing on the phone is fun at the end of the day, I switched to 30 minutes of reading so I’m’ working toward a better routine and the wind down time you mention is definitely part of that. So I want to be turning out the light at x, which means x-30 to read, and x-whatever for personal hygiene related things. I don’t like having a bed time for some reason but it is making the mornings better!
    I’m probably going to adjust the time a little more but great results so far.

  2. I always turn my phone off by 9pm or earlier. I make the coffee the night before and definitely have a wind down routine but I don’t use a timer. I think I did when kids were younger.

  3. One word of warning if you use an alarm, and you know you are going to blow through it intentionally (like at an evening performance of some type), be sure to turn the alarm off. At least on an iPhone the alarm will still go off even if the phone is on silent mode. My husband will tell you this is very embarrassing in a quiet auditorium since it happened to him last night at the ballet.

  4. I am deep in the throes of horrible infant sleep where predictable bedtimes, wake times, or even downtime are a fever dream. Right now the only solid things I am able to do for my sleep are 1. Sleep in on the weekend and 2. Nap often. Last night I was up with the baby 2:30-5am, so I napped on my lunch break 🙁

  5. Most nights, I try to read in bed for 45-60 minutes. I realize this is a luxury I have since my young kids are in bed early. When I stay up past my “bedtime,” I still need to read for at least 15 minutes. I have tried to skip this and it just backfires!

    I posted about my time log today! It was interesting to compare the year-over-year data. The previous year included a solid chunk of “up with Will” blocks since he was coming off a multi-month stretch of having ear infections. He got tubes that week but then got another nasty virus. Now it’s rare for us to be up with him during the night. So I have a lot of sympathy for Amy – infant/young baby sleep can be realllllly rough!

  6. I need so much time for my evening routine. Like 90 minutes at least from the first cue to falling asleep. Basically I can start getting ready after dinner and that’s why I probably go to bed late most days…

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