Thursday reflections on Rule #1: Give yourself a bedtime

This week in the Tranquility by Tuesday Challenge, we’ve been focusing on Rule #1: Give yourself a bedtime. Committing to go to bed at a set time, unless you have a good reason not to, boosts energy and gives days more structure in general.

(New here? I’m working through the nine Tranquility by Tuesday rules — the subject of my most recent book — over nine weeks!)

If you’ve been aiming to observe a bedtime over the last few days, now’s the time to reflect. How did it go? Did you get into bed at your bedtime over the last week? How many nights? How far did you shift the time on the weekend? If you didn’t observe a bedtime, what happened? If you did, did you see any effects?

I have been doing OK at it. The 3-year-old has been having trouble going to sleep, which seems to push everything later. But while I’ve never been in bed, lights out, before 11 p.m. over the past week, it’s generally been not too much after that. My latest night it was partly because I finished my puzzle (my 1000-piece puzzle of Jane Austen book covers) at 11 p.m. At least that was some effortful fun, right? Tonight I definitely should go to bed on time as the weekend won’t provide great opportunities for making up the debt (one child needs to be on the bus for a competition at 7:30 a.m….)

One Tranquility by Tuesday project participant said Rule #1 was the “least sexy but most useful” rule. It is common sense. If you need 8 hours of sleep, and you need to wake up at 6 a.m., then the fact that you need to go to bed at 10 p.m. should not be surprising. But knowing and doing are different things (hence the social media meme… “I’d do absolutely anything to get 8 hours of sleep!….except go to bed 8 hours before I need to wake up.”). The point that’s often missed is that aiming to skimp on sleep does not actually create more time. People tend to crash and make up the sleep somewhere else, which may not be a good time for it. Better to get the right amount of sleep every night than live through cycles of exhaustion and then your body substituting sleep for other activities.

If you aimed to give yourself a bedtime this week, please let me know how it went!

Photo: Not a challenging puzzle, as you could tell instantly where any piece would go. But I enjoyed seeing all these covers.

13 thoughts on “Thursday reflections on Rule #1: Give yourself a bedtime

  1. This has been an interesting one to track, as I’ve been religious about sleep since my son was born 13 weeks ago, My bedtime is 9 for me to get 8ish hours of sleep (9-6:30 with 2 feeding / pumping breaks).

    This week I stayed up a tad later and paid for it. Even 9:30 makes me more exhausted somehow, though maybe it’s just looking at my sleep tracker. On the other hand, my son slept from 8-4 last night and 8-5 the night before… so I’m crossing my fingers that we’re on an upward trajectory,

    The other issue is getting back to sleep. By 4 or 5, I have more trouble falling asleep again, which is frustrating. I’m hoping this goes away by the time I go back to work in 3 weeks. Another commenter suggested that I could use that early morning time for me – and that’s a possibility I’m considering too. But then I’d need to go to bed at 8 and that’s probably a bit too far :-).

    All to say, I’ve turned into a sleep zealot.

    1. @A- yep, not getting enough sleep for a while will turn most of us into sleep zealots! I was really grateful when I started to get longer stretches again…Here’s hoping that’s happening for you!

  2. I aim to be in bed by 9:30-10, read/chat with my husband a bit, and asleep by 10:30. My 18-month-old generally wakes me up around 6-6:30. If I was sleeping this whole time it would be more than enough sleep for me. My struggle is that my toddler’s night sleep is still very unreliable. He frequently wakes in the night, and even if he goes back down on his own, like A, I have a hard time falling back asleep. I welcome tips from the community on how others fall back asleep after being woken by children!

  3. I just finished your book today & loved it!! I’m excited to go back through and try implementing them, so the timing of this is perfect! I have already been implementing the bed time and it’s been going great. I think I had already sort of been on a schedule but being more conscious of the right time for me has been helpful!

    1. @Cheri – thanks for reading the book! I’m glad you enjoyed it. Yep, we’ll be doing the rules for the next 2 months, so please follow along!

  4. My husband and I are doing a 5 day experiment of “reverse lie-ins” where we go to bed at 8:30pm. I thought that was going to be too early but last night I was asleep by 9 and happily awake today at 4. I would love to go to bed at 9pm every night but I also have evening social engagements I enjoy (a post kid bedtime writing club from 8-9:30, yoga from 8-9) which necessitate a later bedtime.

    It’s fun to do an experiment of going to bed at exactly the same time, even if not sustainable. I definitely think it would improve my ability to fall asleep and of course to wake up at the same time (before alarm/kids!)

  5. Well, my intentions were good, and I did better than I have on some weeks in the past, but I was still kind of all over the place… from last Friday to last night, I went to bed at 11:00, 10:30, 11:00, 10:00, 9:30 (I was tired, so I just went to bed early, which was a great decision!), 10:00, and 11:00. The goal is a 10:00 bedtime to wake up between 5:00 and 5:30 the next morning; I need about 7-7.5 hours of sleep to feel well rested any given morning, and I averaged 7.6 during the time tracking challenge a couple weeks ago. But given that I used to get to bed after midnight at least a couple times per week, just 30-60 minutes of deviation from the goal is a marked improvement. I’ll take it!

    I also love your Jane Austen novels puzzle! You inspired me to try jigsaw puzzles as a hobby because I really enjoyed them as a child (especially the complicated adult ones!). I ordered a Blockbuster nostalgia one that arrived last night, and I worked on it for a couple hours with a movie on in the background. Utterly delightful, and challenging:

    1. @Kaelyn – so glad you’ve gotten back into puzzles! It can be a great way to spend some time. And I’ll confess there were some times I was happy the Jane Austen puzzle was easy. Some nights one is more tired than others!

  6. I always resisted bedtime, because I needed the quiet time for myself after my husband went to bed. But my sleep has been such poor quality over the past year. I remember reading somewhere that sleep before midnight is deeper and of higher quality than after midnight. (Where did I see that?)
    The past two nights, I made myself go upstairs at 10:00, lights out by 11:00, and the sleep was amazing!

  7. My goal was to start winding down at 10:30, asleep by 11:00. I am waking up between 6:30 and 6:45 in the mornings. So, this is what my bedtimes looked like for the week…not very consistent.

    Friday, 20th – 11:45 PM
    Saturday, 21st – 10:30 PM
    Sunday, 22nd – 10:00 PM
    Monday, 23rd – 11:30 PM
    Tuesday, 24th – 11:45 PM
    Wednesday, 25th – 10:05
    Thursday, 26th – 11:50 PM

    I have come to realize that I do NOT have a good wind down routine. On the nights I am going to bed late, I am working on content for my YouTube channel. On Thursday night, I had my improv class (6:00-8:00) with an hour drive there and back. I actually didn’t get home until about 9:45 because I stayed after class to talk with my friends. When I got home, I showered and got ready for bed, but instead of reading, I worked on a video I wanted to release Friday morning until I could not stay up any longer. As you can see, that was almost midnight.

    The silver lining is I have 8 more weeks to strive to establish a better bedtime routine. LOL. I also decided to continue time tracking after your time tracking challenge the week of 09 January. I think I am going to time track through the entire Tranquility by Tuesday Challenge instead of stopping this upcoming week. I am so happy you started with Give Yourself a Bedtime as Rule #1. I am looking forward to Rule #2 because I need more structure. Thanks, Laura!

    1. @Katherine – thanks for doing the challenge! And yep, time tracking will continue to be helpful as you hold yourself accountable for the rules. I’d note that your varying bedtimes are not unusual at all. When I’ve done time diary studies I’ve found that about a quarter of people had a 90-minute gap between Tuesday and Wednesday’s sleep tallies (not that those are special days – I was just trying to show that even during the week things can be all over the map!). There may be good reasons for the gaps (I’d say an improv class sounds awesome!) but it can make scheduling tough.

  8. I just finished listening to Tranquility by Tuesday on Audible. Great narration by the way! I was looking for an accountability hack to start implementing your rules, but I’m in a bit of a different situation. I don’t have little kids and a big job. I recently turned 60, my sons are in their 20’s, and I just stopped working this month. So… I’m not trying to squeeze more of life into my 168 hours – I’m trying to make sure I don’t fritter it away – that I find purposeful and joyful ways to spend my time plus get everything done that still needs to be done. I think your rules could be adaptable to the retiree, and I intend to share with you how it’s working for me (there’s my accountability hook!). I came upon this challenge you’ve set up – and it seems like a perfect opportunity for me to work on each rule and document my experience.
    Rule #1: Bedtime.
    I set a bedtime a few years ago (when I was still working) and I found it VERY helpful. I’ve continued this practice into my retirement – and my addition is a wakeup time as well. It’s all too easy to stay up – for effortful or effortless fun – thinking it won’t matter the next day since I’m not working and I can probably sleep in. But it does matter! I do better with consistent sleep and a consistent wakeup time. And I’m more alert, creative and productive in the morning. So while I can afford to be flexible – if I want to be happy and healthy and spending my time meaningfully during the day I am well served by setting specific times. So far this has gone pretty well. Lights out by 10:30 and out of bed by 7:00. I’ll get up earlier in the summer (I need 8 hours sleep) – but right now it’s soooo dark and soooo cold – I’m giving myself an extra 30 minutes of hibernation time.

    1. @Cynthia – “hibernation time” sounds about right for winter sleep! I’m glad you are finding it helpful to set a bedtime in retirement too. Even if you’re not waking up for work you’re waking up for life and having some structure to the day just tends to make time feel better. Looking forward to hearing how all the rules go!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *