Whether it’s because your schedule has changed and you need to start waking up earlier or you just want to sneak in more snooze time, sometimes it makes sense to move your bedtime earlier. The question is: How can you do that without setting yourself up to lie in bed counting sheep? It takes a little advanced planning, but it can be done. Here’s how.
Give yourself a curfew. First, set a specific bedtime for yourself. Turn off all digital devices 30 minutes to an hour before you plan to turn in for the night. The reason: Exposure to light-emitting screens can reset your body’s circadian rhythm, making it harder to fall asleep when you want to. Note: If you are trying to go to bed substantially earlier (like by an hour or two), give yourself curfews in stages—try bumping your bedtime 15 minutes earlier one week, and then 30 minutes earlier the next week, and so on.
Work out earlier in the day. Exercising at least four hours before you hit the sack can help you feel tired before tuck-in time and fall asleep more easily. The exception: Doing some gentle stretches or yoga moves in the evening isn’t likely to wreak havoc on your slumber; in fact, they could help you relax and drift off.
Avoid sneaky stimulants. Steer clear of caffeine (including chocolate and other surprising foods that contain caffeine), nicotine, and alcohol in the evening. The same goes for caffeine-containing pain relievers. All of these can pep you up and interfere with your ability to fall asleep.
Reschedule your bedtime rituals. Get ready for bed—by washing your face, brushing your teeth, putting on your PJs, and relaxing with calming activities such as reading or listening to soothing music—an hour before you want to go to sleep. This will help you downshift into a soporific state. Stick with the same bedtime routine night after night and your mind and body will come to anticipate sleep at an earlier hour.
Set an alarm. To encourage you to stop catching up on tasks around your home and to remind you that bedtime is fast approaching, it helps to set an alert on your phone to go off when it’s time to start your bedtime routine. Think of it as launching the countdown to your journey to the Land of Nod.