Whether it’s to improve your mood, brain health, or energy level, you reap many benefits if you go to bed early. However, between work, family, Netflix, and social media, we sometimes struggle to make it to bed at a decent time.
If you want some practical tips and tricks to help you change your bedtime schedule, this article is for you!
Adjust Your Bedtime Gradually
Your body’s internal clock is very complex and requires time to readjust to new routines. When you significantly adjust your bedtime, the effect is similar to jet lag. If you usually fall asleep at midnight, don’t expect your brain to easily go into sleep mode at 9 p.m. the first night you try.
Going “cold turkey” rarely works when it comes to sleep; in fact, that often backfires within a few days. It’s ideal if you can change your bedtime gradually. If you give your body time to ease into a new routine, it eventually becomes a habit.
To get started, bump up your bedtime an extra 15 minutes each week. This might seem like an insignificant change to your schedule, but it’s very significant for your body’s internal clock and your overall health. Eventually, your body adapts to this new routine, and you grow accustomed to falling asleep at your new bedtime.
Avoid Distractions Before Bed
Procrastination keeps most of us busy until the wee hours. From addicting TV series to random YouTube videos, it’s incredibly easy for time to slip away in front of a screen. But these distractions, which you might think help you de-stress after a long day at work, do more harm than good.
The blue light digital devices emit stimulates your brain and makes it think it’s still daytime. This keeps you awake way past your designated bedtime. It also leads to strained eyes, mood swings, and a good dose of regret the following morning. It’s also why the iPhone, new Kindles, and every device in-between, now feature blue-light filtering.
The fact that we have all forms of entertainment at our fingertips doesn’t help our sleep schedules. To fix that, try to eliminate distractions from your bedroom and use it exclusively for its two main purposes: sex and sleep. In behavioral psychology, this is called stimulus control. The intent is that your brain will then associate your bed with its purpose and respond accordingly, making you feel sleepy rather than excited to get on the internet.
So, if you remove your TV, game consoles, and any other distraction that might keep you awake out of the bedroom, it should help. Also, turn off your phone—or at least set it to airplane mode—so you avoid the temptation to scroll for hours. If you like to read before going to sleep, opt for a real book or an e-reader without a backlit screen.
If you live in a situation in which you can’t separate your bedroom from the other physical space (such as a dorm room or a studio apartment), make it difficult to access the stimulating things. Put your phone on a charger across the room. Leave the TV remote under the TV so you can’t just reach over to your nightstand to turn it on. You’re much less likely to use these things if you have to get out of bed to do it.
Go to Bed Earlier
Few people fall asleep within minutes of hitting the hay. That’s why many people spend the evening in a different room, watching TV or using their phones until they’re tired enough to go to bed. This is counterproductive.
The blue light keeps your brain awake. And if you rest somewhere other than your bed, you’re telling your body it’s not time to go to sleep yet and pushing your bedtime later.
Therefore, it’s a good idea to go to bed about an hour before shut-eye time. This means you need to move up your bedtime routine and avoid all distractions by the time you get to bed. Wear comfortable pj’s, and make sure your bed is comfortable enough that you enjoy your sleep.
If you make these adjustments, your brain connects the dots and understands it’s time to sleep. Your body then begins to relax and, quickly, you’ll doze off into dreamland.
Avoid Stimulants in the Evening
Some people like it hot, and others like it on the rocks. Whether it’s coffee, tea, or alcohol, most of us enjoy a beverage before bed. In some cases, the indulgence of choice is cigarettes. They’re all a simple, yet pleasurable way to unwind after a long day at work.
However, coffee and a lot of teas are stimulants that not only reduce the quality of your sleep but make it difficult for you to fall asleep in the first place. As a result, you’ll have low energy levels the following morning, in addition to compromised cognitive function. Alcohol is a depressant, so while it might feel like it helps you sleep, it actually disrupts your sleep patterns and prevents deep sleep.
If you want to improve your chances of getting good shut-eye, avoid substances like caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol in the evening. Opt for something more relaxing, like herbal tea. This will help your brain recognize how tired you are sooner, and you’ll find yourself ready to go to bed earlier than usual.
Play Soft Music
Lullabies aren’t just for babies. While you might not need someone to actually sing you to sleep, if you listen to soothing music, it helps you achieve a state of total relaxation. It’s an easy way to distract your brain from overthinking and keeping you awake for hours.
Different types of music can do the job—it’s all up to your preferences. Some people love classical music, while others prefer slow songs with or without vocals. Whatever your choice, aim for a tempo of about 60-80 beats per minute—studies that compared the effect of music tempo on sleep found this tempo range to be the most relaxing.
Many swear by white noise as the best bedtime music. In fact, given its simplicity and repetitive nature, the brain finds it particularly easy to relax to. It’s no coincidence white noise is commonly used during meditation sessions.
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You can download your favorite soothing tracks to your device and play them every night when you get in bed. If you prefer nature sounds, you might want to pick up a white noise machine that puts you to sleep and wakes you with calming melodies.
Getting used to going to bed earlier isn’t as difficult as it might seem. If you follow these simple steps, you can easily shift your bedtime and enjoy more restful nights.
If you still struggle to get decent sleep, check out How to Get Better Sleep and How to Get Back to Sleep in the Middle of the Night to get some more tips that might help you.