How to Put Your Worries To Bed – Developing a Mindful Bedtime Routine
Not too long ago a client came to me with a problem. Her story is one I’d heard before. She’s a family doctor, has two kids, and she plays roller derby. By the time she takes care of everything in the day she often found herself so stressed and tired that she spent hours putzing around on email and Facebook before going to bed. All of this led to a lack of sleep and a general feeling of overwhelm.
For all the wonders that technology gives us, one thing it takes is sleep. I remember at the monastery when I’d go to sleep to the sounds of crickets. And wake up to the sound of a hand rung bell.
Now I go to sleep to the glow of a computer and wake up to the sound of an I-phone alarm. Without even noticing technology has snuck into every corner of my life. And my guess is it’s the same for many of you.
So when my client came to me the first thing I thought of was the effect all this technology is having on our lives.
On one hand, I relish sitting in bed and typing a blog post in comfort. On the other hand, sometimes I wish that in the morning I’d focus more on the glow of the sky and not the glow of my email.
Of course, it doesn’t have to be this way. There is no reason that we can’t set bounds on our technology and create morning and evening rituals that refresh and nourish us.
Here are some of the best strategies I or my clients have used to let go of work, reconnect with loved ones, and create space at the beginning and end of their days.
Mindful Bedtime Strategies
1. Create a TechnoIsland
No, this is not a hot new resort in Goa or Mexico. TechnoIsland is what I like to call the place you designate to put all of your devices when you get home from the office or before you go to bed.
A client told me once that she noticed whenever technology was near; she was more tempted to use it. So together, we worked to identify a spot where she could place her phone and computer when she got home from work. Not only did this ritual help her be more present with her family and mindful of her computer use. It also helped her let go of her day when she got home from work.
Pick a place in your house that convenient, has a power strip, and is slightly off the beaten path. A home office or kitchen nook are both ideal locations, but you could also use a spot in your bedroom. Whenever you come home for work or aren’t using your devices (for something important) place them on TechnoIsland.
Another trick is to put a note (Like this one) on TechnoIsland that simply asks, “Is this important?” This small question can encourage you to pause and notice before you reach for your device on a whim.
2. Computer Curfew or Wakeup Call –
Another technique I’ve used for both my clients and myself is a computer curfew. All you do is pick a time to turn off all your devices before you go to bed. Setting a computer curfew, not only helps you get better and more restful sleep. It can also increase your awareness of when you’re using technology to escape.
Another similar technique is the technology wakeup call. Just like a curfew this is a time period in the morning that you decide to leave open and absent of technology.
Both of these can be for all devices of just for specific tasks.
For example, for a long time I didn’t check my email before noon. I found that by delaying email I was able to focus more on writing in the morning. I also found I didn’t get caught up in so many small tasks.
3. Mindful Technobreaks –
Another way to breakup our near constant use of technology is to take mindful technobreaks. These come in a two varieties:
A. Working Technobreaks –
These are small breaks you take during the day where you stand up, stretch, and take a moment to break contact with technology. You can set these at certain hours or use software like time out or other timers to help you remember to take breaks.
B. Meta Technobreaks –
These are breaks you take away from technology on a larger scale. They usually involve avoiding technology for a certain number of days every week or month. For example, I occasionally do no media days where I avoid TV, videos, and radio. I use this time to spend time with those I care about and do things I’ve been neglecting around the house.
4. The Super Bedtime Checklist –
The last technique is one this client and I came up with together. I like to call it the super bedtime checklist. The purpose of this list is to help you focus on what’s important before bed and thus let go of everything else.
The first step is to make a list of the top 4 -6 most important things you need to do before you go to bed.
My client’s list looked something like this:
- Spend time with family
- Self care
- Review schedule for tomorrow
Once you’ve created your list, print it out, go to a print shop, and get it laminated. (Here’s a template you can use) Once you have your laminated list, buy a wax pencil and put it somewhere where you’ll see it at the end of the day.
Using the List
As you get ready for bed go, through and check each item off your list one at a time. If you find yourself doing something else, notice what it is and if it’s not truly important then stop and go back to the checklist. Once you’ve completed all the items, you go to bed. Then the next day erase the marks and start again.
To many of us using a physical checklist may seem archaic, but part of the reason an analog laminated checklist is so powerful is because it’s so different from what we’re used to. Plus having a physical checklist allows us to keep track of what’s important without getting distracted by everything else that’s on our phones and computers
The client that I told you about in the introduction used this technique to completely change her bedtime routine. She discovered that when she focused on what was important she spent more time with her kids, less time on social media, and best of all more time to sleep.
There’s no doubt that technology has changed the way we live. While I’m not suggesting that anyone become a Luddite, I do think it’s essential for each of us to notice and take responsibility for how we use technology.
By realizing that these choices have an effect on our minds, lives, and sleep patterns we can learn to make new choices that better support our deep desire to live happier and more balanced lives.