Getting enough sleep can be quite the challenge, especially when you have a late bedtime where you can’t even get those precious 7-8 hours of sleep even if you tried. And we get it—you might come home from the office late and want to unwind with television and snacks. Or you might need to work out late at night because you don’t have time to do it earlier. And that can stimulate you, where you end up needing more time to get drowsy and hop into bed.
Plus, there can be just other distractions! Think—your favorite Netflix show, social media (hello Instagram feeds!), late-night chats with your roommate or S.O., sex (although hey, more power to you if you’re getting it on), and more.
“Each of our bodies are equipped with an internal 24-hour clock known as our circadian rhythm. It tells our mind and body when to be alert and when to rest, and craves consistency,” says Bill Fish, certified sleep science coach and co-founder of Tuck.com.
“If someone is a night owl, so to speak, they may have trouble getting to bed early, but they still have to wake up at an early hour for work or school,” he says. Yet, the National Sleep Foundation states that adults should be getting seven to nine hours of sleep on a nightly basis. So, going to bed too late could put your health at risk.
However, as long as you prioritize hitting the hay earlier, you can definitely train yourself to get more sleep each night so you can wake up feeling refreshed and alert. Here are five tips for learning how to go to bed early—trust us, it’ll pay off in the short- and long-term!
Go for small changes
Don’t be too aggressive with trying to change your bedtime—go slow.
“If you are trying to make it habit of getting to bed 90 minutes earlier each night, we would suggest attempting this by starting your sleep ritual ten minutes earlier for nine straight days to give your circadian rhythm time to adjust,” Fish says. You will build it up in time and have to learn to create a pattern with a smaller, more practical goal you can actually attain.
Work out, but not too close to bed
Get in a rigorous workout to sweat it out and get your heart rate up, but make sure to give yourself two or three hours to unwind before when you want to go to bed.
“Some cardio exercise will tire your body, and help you get to sleep at a decent hour,” Fish explains. Go for HIIT, cycling, weight training, or anything that will get you moving. Then, eat a snack or dinner for recovery, start to relax, and hit the sheets.
Turn the TV off
It’s okay to unwind with television after a long day or over dinner, but make sure you give yourself enough time to turn it off and have some quiet space to get sleepy, or else you might be too stimulated to actually begin getting ready for bed and to feel tired enough to fall asleep.
“If you are going to watch television, finish up at least 30 minutes before you get to bed. This will allow your mind to flush and relax,” Fish advises.
Do breath work or meditate
Channel your breath or meditate on your own or with the help of an app, like Headspace.
“Try some simple breathing meditations. Just finding awareness of your breath will allow you to calm your body and mind and prepare for sleep,” Fish says. Plus it can easily become a ritual you do each night as a consistent practice—and that will make going to bed earlier more of a go-to, automatic thing.
Don’t snack too late
Resist the urge to nosh on popcorn with your movie. Once you have dinner and maybe dessert, stop eating and let your body digest. Food can be super stimulating, especially if it’s snack food or has sugar or caffeine, like chocolate.
“Don’t have a meal within two hours of going to bed. The act of digestion is counterintuitive to rest, so if you plan to get to bed earlier, work to find an earlier dinner,” Fish says. If you need a snack, have something with tryptophan to get sleepy, like cottage cheese or a slice or two of deli turkey or chicken.