The battle over bedtime
I’m a night owl, as you may have deduced from the time stamps on my blog posts. 😉 I actually like mornings, I do!, but for years I’ve been in the habit of doing my creative work (and often my less creative work too) late, late at night.
Nothing wrong with that. Being free to stay up and sleep in is one of the main reasons I became self-employed all those years ago. (It is true! Maybe the main reason.) But this style works less well for me than it used to. I feel tired and behind the curve a lot of the time—kind of in a state of perpetual jet lag. I do seem to have more potentially productive energy in the morning, on the occasions when I’m awake—I’d like to take advantage of that. And the late-night schedule presents problems when I have to get up early to lead a workshop.
I experimented with shaking up the late-night habit on my mini-vacation last month. I got a spa treatment in the afternoon, which left me super-relaxed. I fixed a simple dinner at the place I was staying, watched a low-key movie on DVD, and went to bed at 11pm. 11pm is early for me! Ah, the benefits of being out of my usual environment, without the usual stimuli, and with lots of pampering.
I was able to build on the post-vacation-early-to-bed momentum for a few days. But as with previous campaigns, I quickly slipped back into my old ways. Nevertheless, I continue to examine this habit with an eye to changing it! One idea seems key:
Turn off the computer by 8:30 or 9:00pm. This also includes stopping other work, such as bill-paying. So that I have the time I need to wind down before bed.
Habits—not so simple
This intention has a lot of sub-issues attached to it, making it not so easy to stick with. For example:
I need to get used to stopping before I feel finished. (This principle alone could be a whole series of blog posts.) Also, I need to practice accepting that a lost day doesn’t have to be paid for with a late night—or another way of putting it, accepting that for an earlier night to happen, there may be Less Accomplished and that’s OK. It doesn’t feel OK! Need to work with that.
And there’s a big piece in all of this about not wanting to miss anything. I’m like the little kid—I was that little kid—who wails, “Do I have to go to bed? Can’t I pleeeeeeze stay up longer? When I grow up, I’m going to stay up as late as I want!”
I need compassion for the part of me that doesn’t want to Miss All the Fun.
Another piece: Often what throws me off the Earlier Bedtime Project is an imminent deadline. Staying up half the night seems to be a major way I cope with the anxiety of turning nothing into something. Whether it’s the lack of distractions, or sheer exhaustion that eventually wears away my resistance, it’s hard to give up a successful, if dysfunctional, coping mechanism.
So, when I inevitably slip back, for whatever reason, I’d like to not be surprised or overly discouraged by it. To notice the pull of the old habit and let that be OK…and then get back on the horse.
Inviting, not just avoiding
Some positive incentives might help too. For instance, really noticing what my energy is like in the morning. Do I create/think better then? If so, acknowledging and running with it might be self-reinforcing. Also self-reinforcing: Luxuriating in the post-computer time. I worry about being bored. What if I looked forward to watching a TV show I love, fixing a nice snack. Thinking of it as really treating myself to lovely, restful evenings. Enjoying my evening Sabbath. So that I’m going toward something I value, not just giving something up.
One other thing: Not freaking out if I take a long time to fall asleep on a given night. Tossing and turning for a while doesn’t mean the plan is flawed or that I should give up. I need to remind myself that one night, a couple of nights of restlessness are not a big deal.
These are all great-sounding ideas, but a lot to keep in mind—more than I can keep in mind when feeling the tug of the usual way. My focus:
Computer off at 8:30 or 9:00. Treat myself to some lovely rest. Kindly thoughts for the worker bee whose work never feels done, and for the kid who doesn’t want anyone to tell her she has to go to bed, ever.