For many of us sleep is hard to come up—especially if we’re parents. Maybe you pull a split shift, and work late into the night. Maybe you clean your house and tackle other tasks. Maybe you like to zone out in front of the TV. Maybe your mind won’t stop racing with all the things you still have to do. Maybe you use your phone to wind down, and find that you’ve been scrolling for an hour—or two.
And most of the above happens on most nights. Because when the house is finally quiet, and night sets in, you find yourself staying up way too late—and regretting it in the morning. Because if you’re honest with yourself, you’re tired. You are downright exhausted, and sometimes that makes for really tough days.
In her fantastic book Time to Parent: Organizing Your Life to Bring Out the Best in Your Child and You, professional organizer and time management coach Julie Morgenstern offers a variety of excellent strategies for helping us savor sleep and get enough of it. Here are some of my favorite tips that I hope help you, too.
Flip your thinking about sleep. Do you think of sleep as the end of one day or as the beginning of the next day? According to Morgenstern, “People who think of sleep as the ‘end’ of the day often have trouble letting go at night—like the kid who refuses to leave a party for fear of missing out.” Which is why she suggests flipping our thinking: “When you view sleep as the start of your next day, you feel excited to charge up your batteries and fill your fuel tank for the next day’s adventures.”
Add something fun to your morning. This is another way to let go of the day—and reward ourselves for going to bed early. Maybe you go to your favorite yoga class in the morning. Maybe you spend 30 minutes reading. Maybe you meet a friend for breakfast. Maybe you work on your novel. Maybe you eat your favorite meal (whether it’s “breakfast” food or not). Maybe you finally start working on a project that’s really important to you.
Create a bedtime routine with the same steps. And do these steps every night in the same order. Try to start the ritual at the same time every night, as well. The key is to pick three or four soothing activities. Begin by setting an alarm to ding an hour before bed, which signals it’s time to shut down your devices. Dim the lights, put on relaxing music, and try an aromatherapy diffuser (e.g., lavender is calming). Do something creative, such as playing the guitar, knitting, or drawing.
Morgenstern also suggests putting “a bow on the day”: “Reflect on the day through prayer or journaling.” This can look like reflecting on what you’ve learned and what you’re grateful for. It also can look like forgiving yourself if you’re upset about something you did—and feeling grateful “for recognizing an opportunity for growth.”
And you can finish with a bedtime story for yourself: Read “something peaceful that transports you,” such as poetry or a short story (or maybe even your favorite children’s book).
Keep a notebook to capture allll those thoughts. It never fails: As soon as your head hits the pillow, you suddenly have 100,000 ideas for work. You also have the same number of tasks that you need to remember, and do. Right now. It can help to keep a notebook on your nightstand, and jot all that stuff down, knowing it’s on paper, and you won’t forget it.
Lull yourself to sleep with relaxing imagery. Morgenstern writes, “Imagine breathing out to the ends of the universe and breathing in from there back into your body.” Feel yourself sink deeper and deeper into your mattress, “descending farther with each breath.”
Another practice is to “imagine being massaged by a swirling cocoon of light”: Imagine a light spiraling around your body, which “starts at the top of your head and travels down to your toes with each inhale, and back up to your head with each exhale—like a full body massage of light.”
Make your bedroom inviting. This might mean investing in a good-quality mattress or an egg-crate foam-topper. It might mean getting sheets that are extra soft, and washing them weekly. It might mean turning down your thermostat, and using a white noise machine with sounds of a waterfall. It might mean keeping surfaces clutter-free, and doing whatever else makes your bedroom feel like a sanctuary.
We hear about the importance of sleep so much, that over time we start to dismiss it. After all, you’re very busy. And sleep just sounds like a boring, mundane part of self-care.
Yet, sleep helps us be at our best and do our best. As Morgenstern writes, when you’re sleeping, “you’re restoring your body and mind in a way that no other activity can.”
And you absolutely deserve that kind of nourishment.
(If you’d like to read more of Morgenstern’s excellent advice on effectively managing time as a parent, check out my new piece.)