[Author’s Note: I love this post and still feel it is helpful so I encourage you to read on and enjoy. However it is worth noting that since I wrote this article on how I stopped procrastinating sleep – I’ve discovered a far more direct way of getting ourselves to stop procrastinating and it doesn’t involve discipline and mental gymnastics to keep in place. I outline this approach in my more recent posts, videos, and programs. If you are interested in learning more click here.]
I’ve never liked going to bed.
My guess is that it all stems from the time when I was 4 years old and watching “The Sound of Music” for the first time.
I was mesmerized. Enthralled. Bowled-over.
It was the scene where Fraulein Maria realizes she’s in love with the Captain and Baroness Schraeder tricks her into running away from the family. Maria leaves a goodbye note and closes the huge mansion doors behind her.
I was on the edge of my seat.
And then the unthinkable happens.
“Julie, it’s time for bed.”
Uh. What?! My parents couldn’t possibly be serious.
But they were and I was crushed.
Cue massive temper tantrum.
Fast forward 30 years and I can still rebel against bedtime like any respectable 4 year old.
Thankfully my temper tantrums are a bit subtler these days though admittedly this point is debatable.
Can you relate at all?
Maybe it wasn’t an interrupted experience into the world of The Von Trapp Family that started you on your path to procrastinating sleep and full-on bedtime rebellion but you’re here and it can feel impossible to get beyond.
This is how my life looked after 20+ years of procrastinating sleep and chronic sleep-deprivation:
- Begrudgingly starting my day by snoozing my alarm for an hour only to finally get up late, exhausted, and cranky.
- Making a very stressful game out of my morning routine by seeing just how little time I could give myself to get out of the house and still make it to work without being (too) late.
- Subsisting off of massive amounts of coffee and soda and sugar to stay (semi) focused and alert throughout the day.
- Getting my second wind around 8 or 9pm at night and deciding this was the perfect time to get something productive done. I would be half-finished around midnight or 1am and crash into bed only to start the vicious cycle all over again.
Does any of this sound familiar?
Believe me, you are not alone. In my opinion, sleep procrastination has one of the most detrimental effects on your productivity and life balance.
Shifting out of this cycle can be one of the most effective strategies for becoming more organized, more centered, and much more fun to be around.
How I Turned It Around
These days, my struggle with sleep feels like a lifetime ago.
That’s not to say that my old bedtime rebellion won’t rear its head from time to time but for the most part, I regularly get to bed around 10pm and wake up without an alarm between 6 and 7am.
This has been a life-changing shift for me.
I feel vastly more energetic and focused throughout the day.
I feel tapped into my creativity and personal strengths…decisions are easier.
I feel more productive without the need to push so damn hard.
I feel empowered by supporting what’s best for my body, mind, and spirit.
I feel more like an adult.
It has been about 10 years or so since I gradually made this shift. There were a lot of stops and starts. Stopping procrastinating sleep certainly didn’t happen overnight (pun intended).
So how did I do it?
Of course I don’t believe there is a one-size fits all approach to better sleep management. You need to experiment for yourself with what works best.
The most important step is just that: Committing to the experiment.
You can’t change anything you aren’t willing to commit time and energy too.
You can’t be upset with yourself for not getting to bed on time if you’ve never sat down and created a plan for how you are going to do it.
Make the decision to shift your sleep routine and commit to a small, doable action that will move you closer to your goal.
Here are several small, doable actions to consider:
Get up earlier. I tried for months to get myself to go to bed closer to 10 or 11pm even though I was waking up at 8 or 9am. It just didn’t work. The only way I was able to go to bed earlier was to get up earlier. Setting my alarm a bit earlier each day made me tired enough to fall asleep earlier at night. Be sure to:
- Keep the time consistent. One of the best ways to shift your sleep patterns and improve the quality of sleep you get is to get up at the same time each day (and ideally get to sleep at the same time each evening). This balances your body’s rhythm and makes it easier to stay on track with sleep.
- Make your bedroom conducive to sleep. I’ve been working on this for years. Eliminate as many light sources as possible. Keep it cool. Invest in comfortable bedding. Clear out any distracting clutter. Get a white noise machine or app to guide you into dreamland. This one is my favorites.
Face the anxiety. For many years going to sleep each night was a hard-won battle. It was no wonder that it became a habit to procrastinate sleep. I didn’t want to face the hours of tossing and turning and worries that kept me up. Here are two strategies I developed to help me shift out of this:
- Get things out of my head. I had to start journaling to process my anxiety. I had to get better about tracking my to-dos. I had to practice giving my worries over to God and have faith that I could handle what was asked of me.
- Assign a bedtime task. This was a sneaky trick I played on my always-looking-for-something-to-do mind. I realized that I could assign myself a bedtime task that I looked forward to. Over the years I have used reading, journaling, tracking my food, listing what I am grateful for, listening to meditations, practicing mindful breathing…you name it. Experiment to find the best activity for you to ready your mind and body for sleep.
Plan your day around quality sleep. It might sound crazy but I often find myself planning my whole day around getting a good night’s sleep. That’s because I know how much my creativity, positive thinking, confidence, body image, frustration-threshold, productivity, and so much more is affected by how rested I am. This is how I do it:
- Plan my day backwards. To anchor my day, I decide when I want to go to bed (which might be different then when I want to sleep) and then I back up the day from there. I know that if I want to be in bed by 9pm because I have a good book to read, I need to be done with work by 6pm or 7pm to give myself enough decompression time. If I don’t get this time I will revolt and stay up later. Guaranteed.
- Prepare my mind and body for good sleep. Exercising – even just a quick walk outside or 10 minutes of light stretching – will always help me sleep better at night. I set my dinner time based on when I want to be sleeping and try to eat a lighter dinner so I don’t get into bed with a heavy, bloated stomach. Reducing caffeine or cutting myself off after lunch has a major impact as well.
Everything you do throughout the day will impact how well you sleep at night.
Of all of these strategies, which feel right to you? Are there any you are ready to start experimenting with?