“I believe you are being dogmatic”, I was told by a lady in the audience during one of my wellbeing workshops in reference to the advise I was giving as to what is the ideal bedtime for adults. This comment came as no surprise to me since I am quite accustomed to experience pushback when I share the science that supports the recommendation of going to bed around 10pm.
“I’ve got work commitments” , “I’ve got social engagements”, “I catch up with my partner at that time”, “I watch the news at 10pm”, “At 10 pm it’s “me” time”- these are some of the reasons that are given to me quite often to justify why going to bed around 10pm is “unattainable”, “unrealistic”.
Each and every time, I remind people that wanting to attain even higher levels of wellbeing ultimately comes down to awareness and choice. Every day there are three simple choices available to us when it comes to how we want to feel the following day. We can choose to:
1) Feel groggy and blunt-minded. Your decision making will be slow and uninspired.
2) Feel just OK, able to cope during the day and just get on with it. Your decision making will be ordinary.
3) Feel great, vibrant, sharp, bright with energy to spare. Your decision making will be fresh, intuitive, decisive and sound. Brilliant alternatives and courses of action will just flow to you.
If option 3 is what you are aiming for, then you should align your internal biological clocks with the rhythms of nature (circadian rhythms) and get adequate amount of sleep before midnight.
Research shows that non-REM sleep (the deepest and more restorative stage of sleep) tends to dominate your slumber cycles in the early part of the night. The later we go to bed, the less restorative our sleep will be, even if we manage in the end to get 8 hours of sleep. So in order to fully refresh you mind and your body, going to bed at around 10pm will certainly help.
We are all biochemically and psychologically unique, so experiment with different bedtimes and gage how you feel the next day based on the options I outlined above. If at the moment you feel like you are going to bed too late and don’t feel clear and refreshed when you wake up in the morning, try implementing the following suggestions:
• Bring back your bedtime in 15-minute blocks. If at present you go to bed at 11.30pm, try going to bed at 11.15 for two weeks. If you are able to sustain that, then bring back your bedtime to 11.00pm – keep bringing back your bedtime in 15-minute blocks until you reach the bedtime that is optimal for you.
• Unplug from the world. Exposure to light in the evening, whether its natural or artificial, will suppress melatonin excretion, the hormone responsible for making us fall asleep. Try to limit your interactions with electronic devices (smartphones, tablets, TVs, e-readers, etc) two hours before bedtime.
• Wrap up the day. Consciously deciding that your work day has officially ended will help you to psychologically shift into another phase of the day. Write your to-do list for the next day/week, make notes about important things you need to consider, finish off whatever you need to and then say to yourself out loud “my work day is over”.
• Meditate for 15 to 20 minutes. The benefits of a daily meditation practice are far-reaching for every aspect of your wellbeing. When it comes to using meditation as a tool to decompress and clear your mind, this practice is second to none. Choose the meditation technique of your liking, meditate between 15 and 20 minutes two or three hours before bedtime and you will see how this practice will synchronise your internal clocks and align your sleeping habits for greater wellbeing.