You’ve probably already heard about the magical life-changing powers of the morning routine. It’s a phenomenon that scientists don’t quite understand yet, but when you wake up early, brew a cup of coffee using the most hipster method possible and copy the morning routine of a powerful CEO or YouTuber, then you’re virtually guaranteed just as successful as they are.
Why else would morning routine videos be so popular? But if you’ve already created a morning routine for yourself and you haven’t yet gained your guaranteed fame, success, and superpowers, it might be because you skipped out on the most important step.
A good night’s sleep. Many animals have evolved to be nocturnal, but humans are not among them. Still, that hasn’t stopped us from covering our cities and homes with a blanket of artificial light and concocting an ever-expanding number of reasons to remain awake long after the sun has gone down. And so often we do this to our detriment.
Delaying the onset of sleep, even as tomorrow’s work keeps our wake up time, stubbornly fixed in place. So many of us can’t seem to break this habit, our good intentions being overwhelmed by short term desires and pleasures.
If you’re anything like me, then you probably find yourself dealing with this problem on a fairly regular basis. You should be going to bed, but there’s just so many more interesting things to do at night.
So what can we do about this problem? Well, one simple solution is to create a night routine.
A night routine is just like a morning routine but in reverse. Instead of helping you wake up and get ready for the day, it helps you to smoothly end your day and also make sure that you get to bed in time to get enough sleep.
But there is another benefit to having a good night routine. In addition to helping you wind down today, it also helps you prepare for the next day as well.
So today, we are constructing a one-hour nighttime routine. And with this routine, we’ve got three different goals in mind.
Number 1, wind down the day so you feel relaxed when it’s time to go to bed.
Number 2, actually get yourself in bed on time. So you’re getting enough sleep.
And number 3, do a few things to help you prepare for the next day.
And to achieve all those goals, we first have to go through a couple of preparatory steps.
You need to figure out what time you should go to bed.
Everyone has a specific and unique amount of time where they’re getting the optimal amount of sleep. We’re all unique in that way.
But according to the national sleep foundation, there are some generally recommended times for each age group. So if you have a specific wake-up time in mind, you can use the information on these charts to figure out when in general you should be heading to bed.
Beyond that, it’s also worth knowing a little bit about the sleep cycle. When we sleep, we go through a cycle of stages. A couple of lighter stages at first, and then moving into a stage of deep sleep.
Finally, moving into that REM stage where you dream and you also consolidate memories. And the main thing you wanna know about this sleep cycle now is that on average, it takes about 90 minutes to complete.
And ideally, you want to be waking up near the end of one of those cycles. If you have an alarm that forces you awake during one of the deep stages, then you are not gonna have a good time.
Anyway, armed with this knowledge, you can now start to hone in on an ideal bedtime for yourself. And once you know that, it is time for the other preparatory step, which is to create a wind-down alarm or as my friend, who wrote the first draft for this article called it, a “start winding down ya doofus” alarm. And personally, I think I’m gonna use that name for my own wind-down alarm.
So you wanna set this for about an hour before your bedtime, and when it goes off, give yourself about 10 minutes to wind up whatever it was that you were doing. At this point, it’s also a good time to be done with screens for the night because the artificial light emitted by screens can mess with your circadian rhythm and sometimes even harm the quality of your sleep.
And while features like the iPhone’s night shift can help somewhat, simply just being done with screens near bedtime is gonna help a lot more, especially if you’re someone who finds it hard to fall asleep.
If you’re one of those people who just are out like a light, the moment your head hits the pillow, well, number one, lucky you, and number two, maybe this isn’t gonna matter that much, but it’s at least good to know.
So like I mentioned earlier, one of the qualities of a good nighttime routine is that it prepares you for the next day. And that is what this next 15-minute chunk is all about.
I think this starts with cleaning up your workspace and in general, resetting your environment. This book is a concept called Mise-en-place, which roughly translates to everything in its place and is a huge concept in the world of professional cooking.
Chefs and professional cooks know that to work clean, to constantly reset the environment, to make sure everything is in its place before work starts are going to number one, cut down on friction, number two, reduce accidents, and number three, just make everything work more efficiently.
And this is a concept that is not limited to just professional kitchens. Everyone can use this to their advantage. So I think it’s a great idea to take some time before you go to bed to clean up a little bit, tidy up your desk, do the dishes, basically reset your living space, so it’s not stressing you out the next day.
You can also get ahead a little bit and cut down on the number of decisions you have to make in the morning by number one, laying out your clothes for the next day. And number two, if you need to go somewhere, packing up your bag, though, personally, I work from home now and I think a lot of you are working from home or doing school from home.
So maybe that one doesn’t apply right now, but hey, one can dream, right?
The next 15 minutes segment should be dedicated to reviewing how your day went. So if you track your habits with maybe a habit tracking app or maybe a pen and paper system that makes sure that everything has been checked off for the day.
Additionally, this is also a good time to ask yourself if there’s anything that you could improve going forward. For example, if something popped up today unexpectedly that prevented you from getting everything done on your plan, you can make a note about it, and hopefully, it’s not gonna derail you in the future.
After that take 5 minutes to do whatever it is you gotta do to get ready for bed. And then finally take 15 minutes to just relax, do some light stretches, do some yoga, read a fiction book, whatever it is, just do something that relaxes you and puts you in a state where it’s easy to fall asleep.
This nighttime routine isn’t some hardcore regiment with a ton of habits, but it really doesn’t have to be. For me, all it needs to do is help me get to bed on time and allow me to start the next day with a plan and a clean workspace.