TBT Challenge Rule #1: Give yourself a bedtime

Welcome to the Tranquility by Tuesday Challenge! Over the next nine weeks I’ll be focusing on each of the nine Tranquility by Tuesday rules, one week at a time. I invite you to spend some time during the week thinking about how you might make the rule into a habit. How would it work in your life? What challenges would you anticipate? How might you deal with those challenges?

Rule #1 is to “Give yourself a bedtime.” I chose this as the first rule for a few reasons. First, it’s important to get enough sleep! Since many adults have to wake up at certain times for work or family responsibilities, choosing a reasonable time to go to bed may be the only viable option for ensuring adequate sleep on a given night.

But beyond that, having a regular bedtime gives structure to the day. Most of us are aware that days have a beginning. We’re a little fuzzier on the notion that each day has an end. To be sure, the new parents and shift workers of the world may not sleep continuously overnight. Still, for most people, a regular bedtime shows just how much time a day contains. Most of us have somewhere between 16-17 waking hours each day. It’s a lot of time, but not an infinite amount of time. When we know the shape and size of our days, we can figure out what we want to do with that time in a more rational manner.

Anyway, I’ve been doing reasonably well on giving myself a bedtime. When I tracked my time last week for the 2023 Time Tracking Challenge I was excited to see a close-to-straight line across the top of my log for bed, and a correspondingly straight line along the bottom for waking up. But no one is perfect. Yesterday I did not get to record my next round of Before Breakfast episodes all day due to workmen being in the house making noise, and then I was shuttling kids around. Everyone finally got quiet a little after 10 p.m. So I started recording then, and finished around 10:40 p.m. At that point I was a little desperate for some decompression time.

So I read for 40 minutes and turned the light out at 11:30 p.m. Oh well, 7 hours of sleep is doable (I wake up at 6:30 a.m.). But at least that was a conscious choice to blow through my bedtime, rather than having it happen accidentally.

What time do you wake up in the morning and how much sleep do you need? According to that calculation, what time should your bedtime be? Do you need much wind-down time before getting into bed?

Photo: Bed at the old house. Trying to find a photo of a bed sent me down a rabbit hole of looking at 2020 photos, and then showing the 3-year-old pictures of himself as a baby. 

25 thoughts on “TBT Challenge Rule #1: Give yourself a bedtime

  1. I have approached bedtime slightly differently out of necessity. Three days a week I get up at 4:45 am to be at work by about 6:30 and start seeing patients at 7 am. Unlike SHU, I do not have the discipline (or desire really) to be up at 4:45 am daily and with teens and tweens in the house it would be tough for me to get in bed by 9:15 p.m. to get the 7.5 hours of sleep a night I need. Instead, I aim for a bedtime of 10 pm every night. 3 days a week I get 6.5-ish hours of sleep the other days I sleep to a more humane 6:30 am and get 8.5 hours of sleep. This averages to 7.6 hours per night. After two days in a row of getting up at 4:45 I do feel a little fried but then I get a catch up night. It isn’t ideal but it has worked for me for the last 2 1/2 years.

    1. @Gillian – if it works, it works. I would not be able to get up at 4:45 regularly…6:30 is a struggle as it is!

      1. @Laura, I really do NOT like getting up at 4:45 and my natural rhythm would be to sleep from 10:30/11 to 6:30. But those 3 early days get me a TON of flexibility in my work schedule, and the before-work hours are very popular with patients, so for now it is worth it.

  2. I’ve been tracking my time this week (I was on vacation/a work trip last week) and the one night I stayed up way past my bedtime, the next day was really thrown off. I like to get up at 5am and exercise and get ready for the day before my kids (5-year-old twins) wake up, which is usually at 7. I sometimes sneak in some writing, or journaling, or get lunches ready. But giving myself the sole goal of exercising and having a cup of coffee before they wake up feels more doable. I like to get into bed at 9, which gives me plenty of time for reading or whatever else.

    1. @Sara – I’m trying to convince myself to go upstairs as soon as possible. Sometimes I get completely ready for bed, so then I don’t have to do anything except read until 2 minutes before lights off.

      1. I’m doing the same. Washing up after dinner, brushing my teeth (which also discourages snacking) etc. Then reading in bed, before my bedtime.

  3. I’ve found over the years that my body absolutely needs 8 to 8.5 hours of sleep each night. As someone who has an autoimmune disease, I get sick whenever I don’t have enough sleep. I’m also a teacher, so my start time for work is a fixed time. I need to wake up at 6 am to get ready, have breakfast, and drive the half hour to school with enough time to calmly prepare and ready myself and my room for the school day. So, I aim to be in bed by 9:30 each night. Some nights I’m not tired, and I read in bed for 15 or 20 minutes. But, being in bed at the seemingly ridiculous time of 9:30 (my 13-year-old’s bedtime!), guarantees that I get my minimum of 8 hours per night.

    1. I have lupus and similarly, my ideal sleep is 8.5 hours. When I’m at home, I need to be up at 630, but normally get woken up by a yowling cat before that and then doze. I struggle with bedtime in my work city, I don’t have the natural hard stop, I tend to be a bit bored, etc… and so i revenge procrastinate and then end up sleeping in. I’m in work city now, with a 7am flight, so the plan is to get to bed properly early tonight.

        1. Right? Although I was in work city last night, tucked up in bed by 930 with war and peace, with an alarm set for 520 for my 7am flight, and I didn’t sleep AT ALL. I don’t know if it was hormones or something, but I flew home, took the bus, and then took a nap while my husband took T to ukulele lessons.

    2. @Sarah – I think the adjustment to having night owl teens/tweens doesn’t get talked about nearly enough. For years you’re dealing with kids at the crack of dawn, but you have some time after they go down at night and then…gone. It’s definitely doable but some stuff has to change!

      1. I agree, Laura. We have been having some struggles with that lately as well. The boys just either aren’t tired or aren’t ready for bed or had activities until later etc.. making it nearly impossible to get them into bed before 9:30/10 it seems. Even if I go to bed right when they do, it can still be pushing it a bit late, and I really, REALLY prefer a little downtime after they go to bed or some time with my husband! So I aim for 10:30 bedtime, but that often drifts closer to 10:45… and ideally I really should be going to bed by 9:45/10 for my 5:15/5:30 wake-up time. I like Gillian’s idea above of getting different amounts on some nights. I wonder if I could tell everyone in the house that I’m going to bed at 9, say, Mondays and Wednesdays to catch up a little. And the other nights stay up to my normal time. Or something like that!

    3. Things are similar for me. I wonder how you manage with evening social things? It always gets me sleep deprived…

  4. I have some health issues that lead to me getting overtired easily and, ideally, I’d get at least 8 hours a night. This doesn’t always happen now that my kids stay up much later and we have to get up to prep for the school run by 7 am.

    I’ve set my bedtime at 10:30 pm, with an ideal wakeup of 6:30 am which is exactly 8 hours. My biggest hurdle is that “decompression” time. I’m an introvert and with two extroverted children, by the time they’re settled for the night, I really want some dedicated quiet time, even if I’m tired enough to sleep. I need to get better about condensing that downtime and prioritizing sleep.

    What tends to happen is a bit of a reverse from what Gillian describes; if I have a string of later nights, then I’ll do 2-3 nights of a 9:30 or 10:00 pm bedtime. For my time log, I think I averaged 7.6 hours of sleep each night, so pretty good…

    1. @Elisabeth – that is pretty good (7.6 hours). I think “quick decompression” is a skill all of us would like to work on…

  5. This is by far the EASIEST rule for me to follow. I am ruthless about my bedtime and completely inflexible! But I can’t control when I get up, usually, so I control my bedtime. My lights are out at 9:30 almost every night – 9:45/10 at the latest and I am up at 5:45 or 6 typically. I wore a fitbit for years and now wear an Apple watch and it seems like I need 8+ hours in bed in order to get 7.5 hours of sleep. I’m up to use the bathroom at least once, often twice and can be awake at other times, too. I think I have higher sleep needs than the average person, too. I don’t know how much of that is related to having RA, but if I don’t get enough sleep, I pay for it!

  6. It’s my birthday on Wednesday and for my birthday my husband said he is giving me a week of “reverse lie-ins” ie going to sleep early. He picked in bed at 8:30 and I’m a bit excited and also feel a bit like he’s calling my bluff from years of saying I want to go to bed earlier (sometimes I don’t get to bed until 10, which is not enough sleep for my ideal wake up of 4:30)

    Excited to have this one for week 1!

  7. I’m 12 weeks post partum the second time around, and one of the best things I did was prioritize sleep. It was my only goal each day for the first 2 months (get 5 hours of sleep within 24 hours, then 6, etc.)

    At this point, we have 1-2 wake-ups a night (with pumping so no real ability to switch) before my husband gets the baby in the morning. I’m “sleeping” from 9-6:30 to make 8 hours happen, but even that is dependent on the baby eating quickly and me falling asleep right away. I wish I had more time at night to myself (right now post baby / toddler down and pumping, I get 8-9), but I’m trying to remember that it’s a season! We all get thru it. Plus the smiles have just started and that’s pretty rewarding at 3 am.

    1. @A – I am 6m pp + toddler and I can relate. With baby number 2, I prioritized waking up at same time – which seems backwards, but worked really well for me. After the first couple of hazy weeks, Baby D found a rhythm of waking up between 330 and 430 to eat- after this feeding, I stayed awake and made this my new “wake up time” and have attempted to keep an earlier wind down in the evening corresponding to this time (usually has me moving towards bedtime between 830 and 9pm). The benefit of the early wake up regardless of Baby D’s schedule- 2 glorious hours if ME time – no toddler, no baby, no husband – just peace and quiet. Coffee never gets cold, food never gets cold, and I never have to stop what I’m doing – it’s a glorious feeling at this point in my life. Sometimes I curl up and read, write, cross word puzzle, do some long term planning. Other times I cross some harder tasks off a to do list. Regardless, I protect this time – it has made such a difference. After 6 months, it’s become a habit even with baby (almost) sleeping through the night. Congrats on the little one!

      1. … this is brilliant. I’m going back to work in 3.5 weeks, so already thinking about what needs to change. The baby tends to wake up at about 5, but he’s a pretty chill kid. I think I could either use that as semi- chill morning time for me or take him for a long walk before the toddler gets up.

  8. Hi – I was listening to podcasts which has lead me down a rabbit hole lol to down load book .., I really would love to be apparat of the nine weeks please please tell me how ?
    Bed time I’m struggling with knowing how much sleep I need I’m 52 and am menopausal so I feel like I need min 8 – 9hrs but this is hard to achieve .
    I’ve calculated back and my aim thus week has been to start winding down at 8 , moving and getting ready for bed at 8.30, in bed and reading by 9 lights out at 9.30 . So far so good.
    I live in Australia and it can get hot some nights these will be my struggle.

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