Well-Being//

The Bedtime Routine That Helps Me Calm Down Each Night

After making these changes, I’m sleeping like a baby.

Zoff-photo/ Getty Images
Zoff-photo/ Getty Images

I have worked from home for well over a decade. In fact, in the course of my career managing events, looking after one of the U.K.’s biggest online communities, and running my own communications business, I have gone to bed with my head buzzing over 5,000 times.

Throw four newborn babies (including a set of twins) into the mix, and the logistical demands of running a household of six, I would regularly get into bed and just be drifting off to sleep when ZING! a thought would zip into my mind. “Oh no,” my brain would say, rushing at 100 mph, “Did you remember to lock the door on the way up to bed?” Or worse, I’d remember something I should have done earlier in the day, and now it was too late.

There are plenty of advocates of the Miracle Morning — change your morning, change your life, they say. But I firmly believe that you need to work with your own rhythms, and for me, I am at my most receptive and creative in the afternoon and evening. I can keep working on a piece until after midnight, but please don’t ask me to get up before 7 a.m. unless there is a plane to catch!

As a mum of four, I am so conscious that I can’t pour from an empty cup. So over the years, I have had to work out how to make this work for me — how to get the rest I need to be operating at my best.

This is how I get calm:

Embrace a sense of achievement about what I did today

Yes, there are days when I get to send a document to a client, or even better, an invoice! But many days are “just keep swimming” sort of days. So to help with a sense of perspective, I keep a “done” list in my notebook. This can include small things like, “Called Mum,” or “Started blog post.” And inspired by Gretchen Rubin, I’ve also just started using a One Line a Day Diary.

Create a sense of purpose for tomorrow

I also write a to-do list for tomorrow in my notebook, and try and ensure that there are relevant verbs attached to each item, so that I know precisely what’s needed. That way, instead of “Call Tony,” I’ll write “Call Tony about marketing proposal.”

I also lay out clothes for the next morning, for both the kids and me.
It’s much easier to follow up on an intention to attend a drop-in workout class after dropping the kids to school if my gym kit is already there to put on.

Switch out of work mode

Many of us can’t stick to the screen time curfews that we know we should, but switching from aimlessly scrolling is a better way of slowing down the brain and making the switch from work to leisure. For me, wildlife documentaries are strangely calming and much less likely to hype me up than higher quality box sets with cliffhangers that encourage bingewatching.

Have bathtime

We give kids baths as part of their bedtime routine because the cooling down following the warm water helps the circadian rhythm get ready for sleep. It works for adults too (and better still, can save a few precious minutes in the morning, which works especially well for a morning-hater like me).

Focus on my physical well-being

Eating early in the evening is said to be better for digestion, but going to bed hungry can also make it hard for me to drop off. I often have a banana just before I go to bed to stave off night time cramps and give my tummy something small to do.

Switch off by checking in with my kids

I can’t go to sleep unless I have checked in on the children, so I kiss their sleeping heads before I get into bed.

I then put my timer on and switch off by listening to 13 minutes of the longest running soap in the world. The BBC has been producing its radio drama The Archers since 1950, and it has spawned books, parodies, and even has its own academic conference (at which I’m speaking in April 2019, ahem).

Focus on calm

It’s rare that this 13 minutes of rural radio is sufficiently dramatic to jolt me awake, so then I just keep my eyes closed, keeping very still, and if I’m not very soon catching some Zzzs, then I cue up a guided meditation on a similar timer.

What do you find works for you?

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