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Nothing good happens after midnight.
I first heard this phrase while in the military.
It was true then; it is true now.
All sorts of shenanigans happen to those who stay up late, especially past midnight.
Think of the common reasons to stay up to the wee hours of the night:
So if you're one of those night owls who want to increase productivity and have a happier lifestyle, then going to be earlier may be the perfect solution. In this post, we will detail 13 strategies you can use to go to sleep earlier in the evening.
If you're looking for more reasons to sleep earlier, take a few minutes to watch the video below to learn about the benefits of waking up early:
Let's get to it…
Sleeping Our Lives Away: How Much Sleep Do We Need?
One of the things many people wonder is how much sleep we actually need. Chance are you've heard that people need 8 hours. That means that 1/3 of your life is spent sleeping.
The infographic below shows the new recommendations from NSF, and you may be in for a surprise with the recommended number of hours for teenagers and older adults.
Moreover, sleep experts have found out that it is not only the quantity of sleep (the number of hours) that’s important. How well we’ve slept is also a factor to gauge if we’re getting the full benefits of our slumber.
The majority of American adults wake up between 6:00 AM and 7:30 AM. So, depending on your sleep requirements and work schedule, that means you should aim for a bedtime of 9:00 PM to 11:30 PM.
And once you adapt to this new schedule, you'll notice a variety of positive benefits to your health. Primarily, you’ll experience less stress, you’ll tend to be in a better mood throughout the day, and your skin will develop a definite glow to it, making you look better. Furthermore, you will have a safer commute.
Sometimes, we fail to overlook how sleep deprived we are. We are cranky and we go about our day under a cloud of gloom. This 3-minute video from The School Of Life reveals that many of life’s issues could be resolved with a good night’s sleep.
Now, let's talk about the specific strategies you can use to go to sleep early…
17 Healthy Ways to Fall Asleep Earlier
Like all habits, if you get to sleep earlier than normal for 30 days straight, it will become part of your routine. Over time, you will find that you won't need to “force yourself” to do this every day.
That's why we recommend implementing the following 17 strategies to help you get to bed earlier in the evening.
1. Expend energy during the day.
This one is simple. If you are exhausted from physical exercise it is far easier to sleep at night. However, working out just before you sleep is counterproductive.
Studies have shown that workouts done at any time of the day can help give you a better quality of sleep, however, you may find it difficult to fall asleep directly after a workout. High adrenaline levels are to blame, as well as an increase in your body temperature and the stimulation that is associated with exercise.
If you enjoy getting a little physical activity before going to sleep, try doing some relaxing exercises such as yoga or light stretching, which can help you wind down rather than amp you up.
If you have trouble sleeping after doing strenuous nighttime exercises, schedule your workout at least three hours before your regular bedtime.
Try to get your workout in first thing in the morning.
Not only will this help prevent you from skipping your workout, but studies have actually shown that people who engage in cardiovascular exercise at 7:00am sleep for longer periods of time, have deeper sleep cycles, and spend 75% more of their nights in the most restorative sleep stages than people who work out later in the day.
2. Create an evening bedtime routine.
If your goal is to be in bed by 10:00 PM, then that doesn't mean you should think about going to bed five minutes before.
Instead, create an evening bedtime routine that starts at a specific time — I recommend one hour before your targeted bedtime. Our bodies thrive when they’re in a consistent routine, as our systems learn how to anticipate and prepare for the next step.
Living with consistency helps your body automatically wake up as it nears your wakeup time, helps activate your digestive system prior to meals, and it helps you become tired before your scheduled bedtime.
Getting into a routine and having a sense of rhythm will encourage your body to learn what is coming next and prepare itself appropriately. And during this bedtime routine, you want to include a number of the strategies that we talk about in the rest of this article.
3. Use soothing sounds.
There is a reason why lullabies put babies to sleep. The mind and body desire rest when they hear restful and peaceful sounds.
One reason most people are able to sleep when listening to white noise is that our brains tend to categorize these sounds as non-threatening. It lulls us into a sense of security, similar to the effect of a lullaby on a baby.
Furthermore, if you are woken up by noise, it isn’t the actual sound that interrupts your sleep–it is the sudden change in noise that alerts you. White noise can mask unwanted sounds because it is consistent noise that consistent on every frequency level that humans can hear.
This means that any outside noise that you may hear while you’re sleeping is already playing through the white noise, so your mind won’t be jarred from an abrupt change.
4. Cut out caffeine, alcohol and cigarettes before bed.
Caffeine, alcohol and cigarette interfere with falling asleep and can make you feel “wired” throughout the evening.
Consuming any or all of these three can adversely affect the quality of your sleep, as a study published in the Journal of Caffeine Research has shown.
Furthermore, researchers have found that using nicotine and alcohol within four hours of trying to fall asleep has the greatest impact on one’s sleep cycle, even when factors such as age, gender, and stress are controlled.
Nicotine is especially harsh on people who suffer with insomnia, and it often results in the loss of over 40 minutes of sleep overall.
When it comes to alcohol, this substance may help you fall asleep faster, but as alcohol breaks down in your body, it has a stimulant effect, meaning it could wake you up long before the night is over.
5. Imagine a relaxing scene.
Picture yourself walking along a beach, garden path or getting a relaxing massage. This visualization makes falling asleep far easier than worrying about what's going on in your life. Leave the heavy thinking for the daytime.
Practicing “guided imagery” by imagining the waves of the ocean crashing on your feet or swinging on the hammock in the fall can allow you to feel less helpless when you’re unable to fall asleep because you’re taking control of your thoughts and actively putting yourself in a positive state of mind.
6. Do not go from TV/PC directly to bed.
Studies have shown that back-lit screen use (TV, PC, cell phones) at night can lead to sleep disorders.
Exposure to the blue light that is emitted from these devices delays your body’s release of melatonin, which is a hormone that is released during the hours before going to bed that helps induce sleep. This delays your body’s internal clock and impacts your natural circadian rhythm.
It is far better to do a bit of paperwork, read a book or just unwind with your loved ones before going to sleep.
Dr. Charles A. Czeisler enumerates the different ways that sleep can affect our health in the 6 ½-minute video below. Dr. Czeisler also discusses the numerous negative effects to our body when we are deprived of sleep. He also talks about disrupted sleep cycles and insomnia.
If you “need” to use technology in the last few hours before bedtime, then try to wear blue light blocking glasses.
And if you're someone who feels bored when not watching TV, then check out this article where we talk about 99 things you can do instead of plopping in front of the boob tube.
7. Reserve your bedroom for sleeping.
Keep the modern distractions out. Get rid of the TV, laptop, and stereo in your bedroom. Make it a place to get your full night’s rest.
Instead of keeping gadgets and appliances inside your bedroom, transform it into a haven for sleep. Invest in lighting that can be dimmed to promote sleep, and get into the habit of making your bed as soon as you wake up to ensure that your body is reminded that this is only a place for sleep.
This will also help your body know that when you pull back your covers at night, it’s time to go to sleep.
The color scheme of your bedroom can also contribute to a more restful slumber. Your walls, sheets, pillows, and decor should be done in soothing colors.
If you're looking for ideas, then here are a number of products that can help prepare your mind, body, and bedroom for getting a great night's sleep:
- Use blackout shades for your room.
- Use a white noise machine in your room.
- Buy the right kind of pillow that offers proper neck support.
- Wear a sleep mask if you can't buy blackout shades or there's too much light in the room that you can't control.
- Take magnesium supplements.
- Drink tea that makes you feel calm and sleepy.
8. Fix the temperature.
Like Goldilocks, you want your bedroom temp to be “just right.” Your bedroom should be cool, but not cold, to help promote sleep.
Based on the recommendation of UK’s Sleep Council, the ideal temperature in the bedroom to promote sleep is the coolness from 60 °F to 65 °F (16 °C to 18 °C).
As the night approaches, your body temperature naturally decreases, which sends a signal to your brain that it’s time to wind down and rest.
By keeping your bedroom temperature cooler, you’re reinforcing that signal to your brain that is telling it that it’s time to sleep. If your bedroom is too hot, it could impede your natural instinct to fall asleep and cause you to stay awake for longer periods of time.
9. Get a comfortable sleep environment.
If you consistently wake up tired or with stiff muscles, it may be time to replace your mattress or pillow. Mattresses typically last for ten years, but if you notice that your mattress has rips or lumps in it, it is time to get a new one.
While it may seem like an expensive investment, it is an important one, as you spend nearly 1/3 of your life in bed, so the money you spend will be worth it in the long run.
You should also keep your sheets fresh and laundered. Make sure your pillow is comfortable and you’re not finding yourself having to turn it multiple times throughout the night.
Pamper yourself as you get ready for bed by wearing cozy pajamas or having sheets that are made of natural materials.
10. Practice deep breathing.
Deep breathing can relax your nervous system and prepare your body to go to sleep. Training your breath is similar to other exercises in the sense that the more you practice, the better you will become at doing it.
As you’re lying in bed, place one hand on your lower abs and the other on your chest. Take 5 deep breaths, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.
Focus on the rising and falling of your hands as you take these deep breaths. Imagine the air running through your body and then exiting as you exhale.
Focusing your attention on your breath will activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which will reduce your heart rate and prepare your body to sleep.
Another way to fall asleep quickly is to apply the 4-7-8 technique. Practice this technique until it becomes a pre-bedtime habit to help you achieve a more peaceful slumber.
11. Try aromatherapy.
The sense of smell is unique in that it is the only one of the five senses that is directly linked to the area of the brain associated with memory and emotional reactions.
Aromatherapy takes advantage of this sensory trait by offering a mind/body therapy to help people find relief from stress and get a better, more restorative night’s sleep.
To promote a more peaceful slumber, use essential oils to help you get the rest that you need. Diffusing the scent that encourages your body to relax helps your mind prepare for sleep.
There are many fragrances to choose from. The most popular oils associated with sleep are lavender and jasmine, which promote deep relaxation.
Check out this post for recommendations of the best oils that encourage a restorative slumber.
12. Read a book.
Take a real book to bed instead of an electronic reader that emits blue light.
Reading is considered one of the most relaxing activities you can do because when you’re enjoying a good book, you’re distracted from the daily stressors that keep you awake. You can leave your personal troubles behind and enter someone else’s world for a while.
When you read before going to sleep, chances are you will sleep very well because your muscles become relaxed and your breathing slows down, which helps you feel calm.
Aside from a deeper slumber, reading in bed has other positive effects on your well-being.
13. Play soft music.
While the benefits of listening to soft music may not happen right away, listening to soft music before bed can eventually pay off.
While it can take up to three weeks to be effective, music can slow down your breathing and your heart rate and release “feel good” hormones in your body that will help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Playing soft music to encourage sleepiness has a similar premise as in Tip #1.
Choose music that has 60 beats per minute. It encourages your heart to “tune in” to sleep mode. Listen for at least 45 minutes before going to sleep and see the positive effects it has on your sleeping habits.
Another option is to listen to specialized podcasts that help you sleep. To learn more about them, here's our compilation of the best 17 sleep podcasts that can help you get better sleep.
14. Expose yourself to daylight and darkness.
Your sleep/wake cycle is supposed to run on the same schedule as the sun, so exposing yourself to natural light during the day can impact your internal clock.
Alternatively, having irregular exposure to natural light can disrupt your circadian rhythm and make it difficult to sleep at night and stay awake during the day.
Being out in the sun will encourage your body to stay awake during the day, while the presence of darkness at night will increase your body’s production of melatonin, which is a hormone that is critical for sleep.
This is also why you want your bedroom to be especially dark at night and eliminate any sources of light that may be trying to creep in.
15. Practice mindfulness.
Practicing mindfulness before going to sleep will help you push aside the worries of yesterday and tomorrow and focus on the present moment. You can’t make yourself fall asleep, you can only allow sleep to happen.
Practicing mindfulness as you’re trying to fall asleep will increase your awareness of the functions of your mind and body and decrease any reactions that you may have to a passing negative thought.
As you focus your mind and release stress, you can allow sleep to happen. When you can bring yourself to focus solely on the moment, your breath, the sensations in your body, and your surroundings without placing any judgement on them, you can allow yourself to let go.
Sleep can be facilitated by this mindful approach as you become increasingly aware of the experience of becoming relaxed in your bed and drifting off to sleep.
Watch the video below to learn what mindfulness habits to add to your morning routine.
16. Avoid napping.
While it may be okay to nap for about 20 minutes during the day, anything longer than that will put you into a deep sleep that you will then have to wake up from.
This can leave you feeling groggy and even more tired than before you tried to rest. Naps that are either long in duration or late in the day can disrupt your sleep at night and lead to sleep deprivation.
Some studies have found that people who take long naps during the day get a decreased quality of sleep, display more symptoms of depression, and have limited physical activity.
This is significant because, as previously mentioned, getting physical activity during the day is an important component to getting a good night’s sleep.
17. Watch what you eat.
It is important to eat dinner about three hours before going to bed, and if you are still hungry when it’s close to bedtime, eat something that your body can digest easily, like a piece of fruit.
If you eat a large meal close to when you go to sleep, your body will be trying to digest the food as you’re falling asleep, which can result in indigestion. In turn, this uncomfortable feeling can keep you awake.
Further, studies have shown that eating a high carb/low fat diet actually decreases the quality of sleep you will get when compared to eating a low carb/high fat diet, even if your caloric intake remains the same.
Final Thoughts on Sleeping Earlier
If you follow these tips you should have no problems with getting to sleep before midnight.
It may take some time for your body to get used to this new routine, but once you’re able to make it into a habit, you will reap the health benefits of getting a healthy night’s sleep. (Check out these sleep quotes that emphasize how important a goodnight's sleep is.)
Also, you should consider creating a 30 day challenge, where you make it a mandatory “rule” that you get to bed at a specific time each evening. This won't be a permanent behavior, but it will give you a chance to test drive this new routine to see if it's something that provides value in your life.
If you're looking for more ideas, check out our roundup of free and fun things to do at night. There might be one or two that you can incorporate in your evening routine.