It was midnight. My husband (the night owl between the two of us) heard my feet on our stairs and, before I even came into his sight, said—
“Can’t sleep, huh?”
“Nope,” I replied in frustration, heading (of course) for the cereal cabinet.
This exchange had become way too common over the last year, and although I knew several factors could be at play, I had my eye on one particular habit that was likely affecting my sleep.
Before-bed screen use.
But dangit, I didn’t want to give it up! It’s more convenient to read using my Kindle app… It’s so delicious to watch a show in bed… It’s really, really hard to resist that final check-in on Instagram.
But as I’m sure you know, the research on screen time before bed is not good. Blue light suppresses the body’s melatonin production and pushes back our circadian rhythms. Where blue light can be useful in shifting our cycles toward more wakefulness when we need it (like first thing in the morning), it has a negative effect when we want to go to sleep.
But I didn’t really even need the research to tell me that; I could feel that my technology was often given my mind a second wind—right when I wanted it least. When I wanted rest… my mind suddenly wanted to replay every exchange with every human I’d ever met! Great timing, right?
There are other downsides too, like how easy it is to slide into a late night scrolling spiral on social media, which does nothing good for my mind or heart.
But like any normal human, I resisted the idea of shutting my electronics down early.
Until finally, it dawned on me to re-frame.
Instead of thinking of what I was giving up, I began to think of it as—What could I add IN to my bedtime routine that would help me go to sleep feeling amazing?
I decided to give up my screens for one hour before bed (more when I could manage it, but one hour feels doable and realistic for me). Instead of staring at a device and falling asleep feeling as drained as ever, I started taking a hot bath, writing in my journal, finally getting serious about a gratitude practice, listening to mellow music…
In short, it was beautiful.
I’ve done it for long enough now that I could never go back.
That last hour of my day is essential to my mental health. Essential to my ability to keep on giving to the people around me, because I’ve taken the time to fill myself up first.
If you’re under-utilizing your bedtime routine, I’d love to have you take a look at my 7-day mini-course for women just like you. Women who want to end their days on the best possible note—and to see how that intentionality spill overs into the rest of their lives.
PS. Let me know in the comments what your nights are typically like! Is this something you’ve mastered, or are you (like most of us!) a work in progress?