Help Me Wind-Down Before Bed
May 4, 2022 7:32 AM   Subscribe

How do I go to bed on time in a relaxed mode?

I have a tendency to do things not conducive to sleep in the evening such as being on my computer and checking my business email (stressful!). I have well-founded money and health worries which lead to rumination.There are limitations to what I could do with my problems (e.g. my health).

I also suffer from revenge sleep procrastination. I am very busy during the day so I tend to stay up to get "me time". I don't live alone (I am not the homeowner) and the only time I get the house to myself/peace and quiet is when the others are asleep.

Ideally, I would like to stop looking at screens a few hours before bed and be in a relaxed, calm state but I hit some snags.

I tried meditation but I found it boring, hard to concentrate and unproductive. How do I reconcile my desire to be productive and be relaxed?I tried studying my textbook but it's convenient and quick for me to look things up on the internet when I get stuck which defeats the screens thing. I tried playing the guitar but most of my scores are in digital format (I could print them out I suppose despite the cost of printer ink). I could read but I can't afford physical books. I live quite far from the nearest public library so I use the Libby app on my phone instead (screens again) because borrowing physical books often led to overdue fines. I also tend to get hunger pangs just before midnight (I eat an adequate though not heavy dinner sometime between seven and nine). I end up raiding the fridge and delaying my bedtime.

Any ideas for a better routine (ideally productive) with specific countdown timeline before bedtime (ideally before midnight)?
posted by whitelotus to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Audio books from the library? I haven't fallen asleep when not listening to an audio book more than a few times in the last ten years. (I've also heard that some people use Marijuana for this; it probably won't help with regard to trips to the kitchen.) Best wishes.
posted by eotvos at 7:50 AM on May 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

What sort of meditation did you try? I can't really get on with anything that's basically just sitting, but I love Qi Gong, which offers a range of moving meditations. Specifically I do the 18 movements. I find it very similar to yoga, which I also find very soothing, especially if you do a restorative practice rather than an energetic one.

In the UK we can get £1 classic literature books, I don't know if you can buy cheap classics but they are great things to get into, perfect to snuggle yourself into the bed with. And to sound smug...well yes I HAVE read Anna Karenina (for it was £6.99 cheaper than a cheap trashy paperback). I tend to buy a box of them every 5-10 years or so.

Having a regular going-to-bed routine you start at a set time could help you whether you manage to escape the screens, find something else productive to do or not - especially if you use night time modes on the screens so you're not overstimulating your retinas with all that blue light.
posted by london explorer girl at 7:57 AM on May 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

Hot bath before bed, instead of morning shower.

borrowing physical books often led to overdue fines

I'd check with your library (maybe their web-site) about this; during the pandemic libraries loosened their rules, and some (like mine) have now stopped collecting those fines altogether. They also make renewing materials really easy, on the web-site.
posted by Rash at 8:12 AM on May 4, 2022 [3 favorites]

Kindle in bed works like a charm for me. Books are cumbersome in bed, but Kindle is cozy. And, if you follow the above mentioned classics suggestion, Amazon has tons of classics for Kindle for free.
posted by charlesminus at 8:15 AM on May 4, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Wanting some 'me time' resonates but bear in mind that being productive and winding down can be mutually exclusive? And consider what 'me time' represents as well.

By all means pursue a hobby after you finish work and have eaten. But at some point you have to stop and put things away and get ready for the next day and go to bed. So pick no more than one such activity per evening, give yourself a start time and an end time for that and then you do your wrapping up the day, getting ready for the morning routine and go to bed.

That routine may entail putting some things away and perhaps getting your bag, breakfast etc ready for the next day. It may entail some stretching, a bath or shower. It may entail some kind of reflective practice. It may entail a soothing hot drink and snack. And then you go to bed. Other than sleep, the only things I do in bed are read and have sex...

I find that not all screen time is equal. I can absolutely wind down reading a book on my tablet. If the problem is distraction by the internet find a 2nd hand earlier model ebook reader with v limited functionality beyond downloading books and reading them and use that.
posted by koahiatamadl at 8:26 AM on May 4, 2022 [7 favorites]

I came in to say Anna Karenina gets me to sleep within 10 minutes. I’ve been reading it for months, just at bedtime, it works like a charm. I’m now 70% through (I read it on my phone, but kindle works for me too) and I’m a little worried about what I’ll turn to when I’m done. It really does the trick, no matter what. It’s got some slow boring parts, while also being a great book. (I guess War and Peace is next.)
posted by SomethinsWrong at 8:31 AM on May 4, 2022 [3 favorites]

I’ve been using this mindfulness body scan technique to help me get to sleep.
posted by dhruva at 8:31 AM on May 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

Bedtime yoga (lots of videos on YouTube) plus keeping my phone out of my bedroom works great for me. I read physical books or magazines before falling asleep too; if you can't get to the library maybe there's a little free library or used bookstore somewhere?
posted by bearette at 8:34 AM on May 4, 2022

It's nice to make a cup of sleepytime extra tea before bed. I have a tea station in my room with a bunch of teas, an electric kettle, and a jar of honey. The tea itself helps make you sleepy. And instead of "Doing Meditation (tm)" I find it helpful to just commit to drinking the tea with my eyes closed, gently thinking only about the tea, until it's gone. I never really liked herbal tea until i realized you need at least 2 teabags or more depending on the size of the mug.

I like to put on a podcast also, the kind where the hosts are just pleasantly chitchatting about nothing. Nothing taxing, stimulating or intellectual.

I am also trying to get into the habit of using this app on my phone called SleepTown which is designed to help motivate you to put your phone down and not touch it again until you wake up.
posted by bleep at 8:44 AM on May 4, 2022 [3 favorites]

I think of crafts as productive. I take the point about printer ink, but you could print off beginner instructions for a few different crafts and see if any of them suit you. You'll need materials, but to pick my favourite suggestion, all you need for origami is a sheet of paper. And if you get into modular origami, you'll need more paper (telephone blocks are great for this!), but one page of instructions will keep you going for hours.

If you're interested in learning another language, writing exercises with actual pen and paper might be very worthwhile - depends on how your brain works. Alternatively, copying out vocab onto flash cards might involve a screen for the initial getting-the-vocab-list part, but then you've got something non-screeny to work with for the rest of the evening.

I apologise if this suggestion is completely inapplicable, but reading on paper is definitely better at helping me wind down than reading on my phone, and depending on where you live, you might be able to get second-hand books very cheaply (or even free). Charity shops, market stalls, people getting rid of household clutter, that sort of thing.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 9:01 AM on May 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

There are a lot of types of meditation. I encourage you to try different ones. I can't stand the ones that have you like, visualize a beach and sand or whatever. I like breath/body focused meditations a lot more. I usually do them an hour or so before bed, on a yoga mat, rather than in bed to try to fall asleep. But some people like to do them to fall asleep too.

Body scan by Relax for a While
Calm Your Headspace by Great Meditation
Guided Meditation by MindfulPeace

I have an iPhone and I set DND to turn on an hour before bed so I am not sucked in to text messages and other notifications.
posted by radioamy at 10:34 AM on May 4, 2022

I came in to say Anna Karenina gets me to sleep within 10 minutes. I’ve been reading it for months, just at bedtime, it works like a charm. I’m now 70% through (I read it on my phone, but kindle works for me too) and I’m a little worried about what I’ll turn to when I’m done. It really does the trick, no matter what. It’s got some slow boring parts, while also being a great book. (I guess War and Peace is next.)
posted by SomethinsWrong at 8:31 AM on May 4 [+] [!]

If you want to fall asleep to War and Peace, I'd stick with the Peace parts.
posted by Furnace of Doubt at 10:49 AM on May 4, 2022

Are your housemates awake before you go to work or could you shift "me time" and computer time to before work, pay yourself first, so to speak? If that would work, I'd set up a quiet nightly routine for an early bedtime (some combo of shower/reading/crossword, or whatever you like), then get up early and do your thing. You could even set out your morning activity stuff as part of your bedtime routine.

I decided to stop checking my work email at night and before work (with rare exceptions, like I'm waiting for an important Docusign), and it's transformative. I realized that part of my reluctance to get up in the morning was because the day immediately came crashing down on me, but I was inviting it in, I'm actually NOT obligated to start thinking about my work day at 6am. I told key colleagues to please call or text with anything urgent, emails get dealt with during work hours, and ... they did that. Not starting your day with work-panic makes it easier to get up and have time to yourself, which makes it easier to go to bed on time, which makes it easier to get up...
posted by zibra at 11:37 AM on May 4, 2022 [2 favorites]

I listen to Headspace sleep stories when I go to bed. They have been great. I do have to get myself in bed and devices down first though.
posted by Salamandrous at 5:35 PM on May 4, 2022

Best answer: You will get almost as many suggestions as there are people on this site. But here are some of my tricks:

* Study cards in Anki, but for boring topics. E.g., I wanted to memorize the Greek alphabet, and also the Nato phonetic alphabet, so I put them in an Anki deck and study that while I'm in bed ready to sleep. (I get through about 4-6 letters before I start dozing off.)

* Reading something boring, with no emotional attachment. For me, that's technical books about programming, user manual for my camera, etc. Key points for me are that it mustn't lead to thinking about other things (so, no stories about real or fictional people), or reminding me of my past failures to accomplish something, or associated with anyone I know.

Tip for dealing with screens: use dark mode to reduce the amount of light they emit.
posted by StrawberryPie at 8:27 PM on May 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I do believe that paper books are more relaxing but I did a massive de-clutter a few years back in which I got rid of almost all my physical books, except for some foreign language ones that are difficult to replace. I figured that since I could download English language classics on Libby anytime, there was no point in keeping them. Since then, I have committed to buying no more new physical books except for textbooks that I need.

I am currently in the midst of a craft tool decluttering binge after deciding to give up all crafting permanently in the bid to keep my limited space uncluttered and my money in the bank. So no crafts too. Basically, I am committed to a "No-Buy" philosophy under which I am only allowed to buy consumables (e.g. food/drink, toiletries) in order to keep my space clear and to save money I sorely need.

I've tried a lot of things. Audiobooks make me anxious because I miss a part and worry about losing the thread. I've tried all types of meditation from body scans to visualization, chanting mantras, concentrating on my breath etc. but I've come to the conclusion that I'm simply not designed to sit or lie still and do nothing.

The people I live with get up around 5 or 6-ish so it's simply impossible for me to get up earlier. Unless I wish to get up at 4 a.m. I'm a night owl so they usually go to bed before I do.
posted by whitelotus at 3:41 AM on May 5, 2022

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