How To Go To Bed Earlier

I swear on my life that tonight is the night…


I hit a few people in the face and/or the nip with my stupid canvas duffle bag on the way to write this intro.

My intention was to make a smart time-related decision for once in my life — to close my laptop early and stand up casually instead of in a panic, to saunter rather than run through three train cars because in order to exit at this particular Connecticut stop you cannot be in the precise car that I was sitting. But then I fell asleep. Just for a true minute. And I woke up just as I was about to miss my stop, jumped up with that familiar fear and fucking booked it.

I booked it and all of those faces and some of those nipples. And here I am again. Writing. Waiting for my ride, which is late.

That is life. Things get in the way, like surprise naps and humans, and they derail our fabulous plans. It’s also the paradox of sleep, if you want to start reading about what you clicked into this post for, because how many times have you promised yourself, a half-dead koala bear clutching your morning bed all, “WHYYYYYYY?”, that tonight is going to be the night that you go to bed early.

Then the next thing you know it’s 3 a.m. and you’re memorizing the lyrics to “Bohemian Rhapsody,” but in Spanish, just in case.

All of which is to say that it’s easier promised than done.

But you actually can do it. I’m still in the process of trying, and these are the things that work:

1) Melatonin and drugs and couch medicine, apparently, but I don’t touch that stuff. I once took a quarter of a Klonopin because I seriously thought my body was going to abduct itself (fun ’bout of anxiety) and my friend had to Weekend-at-Bernie’s me around. So I can’t speak to this.

2) Be a strict mom and put a screen ban on yourself two hours before your intended bed time. Two because everyone knows it takes an hour after you say you’re done to actually be done. (But if you can truly do two, it’s that much more *restorative.* Three is straight up saintly.)

Screens include televisions, in case you forgot. And yes this includes Kindles. Sure they have non-disruptive screens or whatever; yes there are apps for your phone but don’t create excuses! It’s a gateway drug. Buy cheap, used paperback books on Amazon or rent from your local library until you can be trusted.

3) Notify all friends, family, loved ones and necessary parties that you are going dark from here on out at X time every night so that you avoid waking up to texts like, “Are you alive?”

4) Make a curfew for yourself to be home, and make it at least one hour before you shut your screen off. Now make it mandatory. It’s crazy what a concrete excuse can do when it comes to getting out of…literally anything.

“Sorry, I can’t. If I get home after 9:30 my self grounds me.”

5) If you have a mattress partner, get them on your sched. They’ll be relieved because everyone wants to go to bed earlier. You will not succeed if they are stay-up enablers.

6) Keep a pad of paper next to your bed with a pen. Any time you have a “to-do” pop into your head, write it down. You can’t do it now anyway so no use stressing your sleep hours away, right? Right. This takes practice but it helps.

7) You know what else is a nice, relaxing, sleep-inducing activity? Journaling. Keep it short and sweet.

8) Drink a cup of tea. That’s what your mom would say!

9) Create a nighttime ritual that you genuinely look forward to. I’m about to sound like a ~*ladiez magazine*~ for a second but this works: make an evening playlist the next time you have 20 minutes to focus on it. Then play it. Light a candle that doesn’t make you choke or sneeze. Do a four-step face routine. Try a few yoga moves. Find your routine and then make it a true habit. Like story time does with toddler, this will signal to your brain and body that it’s almost time for bed.

10) Read, but maybe not The Girls. Nothing that gets you jazzed! Choose a book that you’ve always been meaning to read — the one you lie about and say you have read just because everyone always references it. Again, you cannot be trusted! No mercy. Read the jazzy book before work — this post said nothing about being on time for the day.

Photographed by Emily Zirimis.


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  • Kelsey Moody

    This makes me want to be a better person, I need to switch out the glass of wine for tea, woops…

    Also re: #1, sleep drugs and I do not mix. On a plane ride to Seoul, Korea awhile ago, I took an Ambien, couldnt fall asleep, watched “The Graduate” and fully bugged out, and then when they served the next meal, I proceeded to vomit all over myself. I would say it was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life but it doesnt quite break into my top 5. Not a good look but the women of Korean Airlines are saints. Ill stick to sleepy time tea instead of the hard stuff

    • pterridactyl

      I’m sorry but that story genuinely made me laugh so hard!

      Typing this from bed, my bad!

  • Screens are key here. I pooh poohed the notion for years but my late night Gilmore Girls (no shame here!) Netflix binges on the iPad are proving me wrong… I need to stop watching by 8pm but how??? Maybe a grittier show would tire me out emotionally? Or I could go back to reading a physical book as Amelia suggests. Then my Kindle gets neglected. The struggle is real.

  • Lauren

    I stayed up till 2am reading The Girls on kindle. Double offense.

    • Lindsay D

      That book is hard to put down!

  • Went out and ordered a cute little cube radio alarm clock from etsy and instilled a “no screen” policy in our bedroom to avoid the look-at-screen-before-sleep/as-soon-as-we-wake-up problem. This might not be practical for everyone but this has made a serious difference for me. That, and using the f.lux app regularly on my laptop (adjusts the screen display for a less harsh blue) and the new iphone software has it too.

    • Ashley

      The problem I have here is that I can never decide on which alarm clock to get. What if I pick the wrong one?!

      • You just have to make sure it has FM! Most of the older alarm clock radios only have AM . You can’t go wrong with a clock radio 🙂 The sony dream machine is v popular.

  • ReadER451

    “Tonight I’ll go to bed early,” – Me every morning

  • Me every day: “I’m going to be more productive and go to bed a bit later so I can get shit done”…then me at 9pm: “I’m going to bed”. I feel like I have the complete opposite problem. Similarity is that we both wish we were doing something more that we aren’t lol

  • Haley Nahman

    Then the next thing you know it’s 3 a.m. and you’re memorizing the lyrics to “Bohemian Rhapsody,” but in Spanish, just in case.

    ^ you’re fucking insane

  • Brianna Hawkins

    Sometimes I feel like my contacts get too dry by 9pm and I physically cannot be out any longer. But what does that say about me if I’d rather be blind and in bed than wear glasses and have a social life?

    • I feel you. Glasses suck. I’d rather be blind in bed too.

    • sarah

      Change to clear care instead of saline! It will change your eyeballs forever.

      • Brianna Hawkins

        I have daily ?

    • Stella Kim

      LASIK is the best investment I ever made; after wearing glasses and contacts since childhood, being able to see unaided was life-changing.

  • xtyb

    Excellent but as a mom I must add:
    Don’t forget to blow out the candle!

  • Molly D

    My anxiety likes me to come to bed – the earlier the better – so we can chat before I actually fall asleep.

    • snif

      BAHAHAHA !

      I may have to tattoo this on my forehead.

  • Nae

    Something that really helps: turn the lights down a few hours before bed. I use my bright overhead light for most of the evening, and around 9pm, I switch to a desk lamp. It always helps me feel more relaxed and signals my brain that it’s time to wind down.

  • I’m curious about this “couch” medicine…

    I’m an insomniac. I have memories of staying awake all night when I was five years old. It runs in my family – my grandfather and mother both averaged 3-4 hours of sleep, and would wake up around 3am. It takes a lot of physical activity for me to fall asleep naturally – like completing a 40 mile bike tour, or running a 10k race & walking up to 47,000 steps in one day.

    So I’m someone who’s taken every OTC sleeping aid and some “natural” alternatives on a daily basis for 11 years. Interestingly, sleeping pills still make people uncomfortable, despite how open we’re becoming about antidepressants and other prescription drugs. Yes, long term use is not healthy. I developed an ulcer. I slowly transitioned from Diphenhydramine to melatonin, which is sold next to vitamins.

    Melatonin and Diphenhydramine are very different from Ambien, even different from Nyquil. Obviously every body is different, but it’s not supposed to be a shock to the system or cause memory loss. That’s why people experience grogginess in the morning – you have to take the pill in the evening, not when you can’t fall asleep at midnight.

    • Mariana

      I feel you. Insomnia is basically my middle name and I had suffered from that since early teenage years, with ups and downs (now is a good phase, yeeeeee :). )
      2 years ago, after a great period of stress, I was sleeping only 3 hour per night and I totally burned out and wasn’t functioning. Fortunately I was at a job position that, even being demanding, I was pretty confident with what I was doing and my boss was supportive so I took 3 weeks of vacations to rebuilt myself. I took a type of xanax for a month and only after a week it began to show effect. Lack of sleeping is pretty serious guys, only when you reach a point as I did you, you see its importance.

      • I was the overachieving type in high school, so I spent the majority of my free time struggling with a learning disability. Combine that with dating (and breaking up) with a boy and dealing with some serious family issues. I couldn’t fall asleep if I tried, and all that stress combined with teenage hormones led to severe depression. I finally got my mom to let me try some over the counter pills (Tylenol Simply Sleep) and a proper night’s rest helped me a lot more than the Prozac I took for a year.

        It got worse before it got better in college. It doesn’t take a genius to recognize I was going through PTSD on top of my existing insomnia. I went without sleeping for 48 hours a few times. Following a strict schedule of waking up around 5am to be in the library by 6am helped a lot. I did it in intervals (Get out of bed 8am one day, 7:45 the next, 7:30, etc) and I was ultimately motivated by how serene I felt walking through a completely silent NYC and NYU

  • LauraP

    “a half-dead koala bear clutching your morning bed all, “WHYYYYYYY?””

    This line describes that feeling like 110 per cent.

  • Tiziana Tizia

    The next thing you know it’s 4:52 and you are reading this article

  • Thivia Mogan

    Amelia, I love love love heart love your writing. You make me 80 different kinds of pleased. That’s all. 🙂

  • I’ve no problem with getting to bed early. Grandma here loves nothing more it’s the whole ready the entire internet and worrying that there’s something I’ve forgotten to worry about that gets me… Zzz!