This is the year everyone’s talking about how to prioritize sleep for health.
Even influencers like Gwyneth Paltrow have claimed that 2017 is the year when clean sleeping will replace clean eating.
There’s probably a support staff in place to help Gwyneth take care of all the details that overwhelm the average parent. The average person gets to the end of the day and doesn’t know what to do first in order to prioritize sleep. Despite our best intentions, the evening slips away. Where did sleep as a priority go? Did it slip between the cushions with the remote?
We are over-scheduled and over-worked. Often our health takes a back burner to more immediate concerns. How do we claim health priorities such as sleep in these conditions?
There is a first step you can take to move the good health that comes with sleep to the front burner. That first step is this: Observe your bedtime routine.
Just observe. Cultivate awareness. It’s too soon to fix anything. Just observe. And observe without attachment. You can follow Stephanie Bennett Vogt – an expert on clearing from the inside out. In this post she writes about a deep truth: Awareness changes everything.
This is what we need to observe and be aware of: our bedtime routine.
Here’s the thing: we all have bedtime routines. But our bedtime routines don’t serve us when it comes to prioritizing sleep – or even basic health. We can’t change these habits until we acknowledge them.
It’s a bit embarrassing to share, but here’s what my “bedtime routine” looked like during the years I couldn’t sleep.
- Arrive home from work without a plan
- Let email, social media, and phone messages distract me
- Notice that the clock was ticking and I hadn’t worked out for the day, then geared up for a super high-aerobic/weight-lifting workout
- Notice my hunger and scrounge around the refrigerator for something to eat, piecing together a meal from whatever whatever was there
- Finish my meal at 8:45 and the light bulb went on: Now what to I do? Nearly 9 and I hadn’t done anything “fun” for myself.
- Put any self-care routines like taking a relaxing bath on the back burner because…well…there was the weekend for that, right? What could I possibly do that would take less than 2 hours that would make the day feel more productive – outside of work?
- Engage in this analysis paralysis, maybe watch mindless TV until 10 and conclude I should go to bed! Then I can get up at 6, do my workout first thing and have more time tomorrow evening.
- Wear workout clothes to bed so I can jump out of bed at 6 and not waste any time.
- Stay awake – over-stimulated from the aerobic workout too late in the day, my mind not easily transitioning to sleep because I had not done a ding dong thing to signal to my mind sleep was important, falling asleep around 1 in the morning.
- Groan at the alarm going off at 6. Hit snooze til the last possible moment when I could get ready for work and in the office on time.
- Set myself up to repeat the cycle again. And again.
Can you relate? Do you have a similar “bedtime routine” in your life?
I did break that routine. The one that did not have a positive impact on my health or my goals.
That routine changed when I became pregnant. Evenings and mornings became more balanced. The wisdom of the body is so amazing! My body made it easy to prioritize sleep. And I think there was no pressure to be productive – I could just observe and “be”.
There’s nothing like eating for the health of two to clarify how you want to plan your meals. Consistency in all our routines sets us up for sleep, according to sleep experts. If you’re planning on sleeping, you have to plan for sleep. That’s what the Bedtime Blueprint is for. You can get it here.
As for prioritizing sleep as a family, it worked well until we hit middle school. That could be because we also prioritized reading together as part of our bedtime routine. I have spoken with many parents who find transitioning from baby routines to toddler routines and then routines in the early elementary years challenging. Because parents are always adjusting their own sleep patterns and bedtime routines to sync with their children, consistency can be difficult.
And we didn’t over-schedule when it came to after-school activities. Eating in the car, picking up different children at different activities…it’s difficult to put in place routines that prioritize sleep. Which is why we start with observing. Observing without judgment.
Observing your family routines is just as important as observing your own.
If you’ve fostered a calm atmosphere in the home for the evening, but after lights out you’re getting the curtain calls and going back and forth to your child’s room…well, that’s a habit. That’s an association and expectation your children will have with bedtime. Fixing it can be – will be! – overwhelming. So just observe.
I find it helpful to read what others’ mistakes are when I’m observing my own habits. It makes me feel less alone. You can read the 5 Common Baby and Toddler Bedtime Mistakes from The Baby Sleep Site here to see if anything on the list looks familiar.
Right off the top of your head, can you observe how your evening routines are supporting (or not!) your desire to prioritize sleep this year?