What does bedtime look like to you? Laying on the mattress, reading a book by the night light? Nodding off as soon as you hit the pillow? Maybe it’s more like being up on your computer or on your phone, not even in bed, as you try to will the clock on your wall to stop advancing for just a tiny little bit. Maybe it looks like breaking dawn.
If bedtime looks like the first two, then savor that precious peace before sleep. Too many of us find that state of slumber hard to come by. Some of us struggle to remember what it was even like. It’s something to cherish and protect, so protect that restful rest with all due gravitas.
If bedtime looks more like the third situation - the sleepless one in which I write this very post - then you are in good company. Our modern schedules conspire against our sleep. Whether it’s friends, events, or work spread all across timezones, shifting clocks, the engineered addiction of doomscrolling, the noise of city streets, or the profusion of circadian-desyncing blue lights in modern tech, it’s a battle with our environment to get sound sleep. Overhauling your sleep hygiene could make a huge difference. Make a consistent effort there first and see if that doesn’t turn your nights around.
If you fall into the last group, where you see the sun before you see your bedsheets, there’s still hope. The more you can cut out caffeine, alcohol, and the like (at least for a fixed time), the better. You only have to start with tonight. Tomorrow night will take care of itself. Fixated on a game? Nudge yourself with a reminder that you’ll perform better after a full night’s sleep. Your subconscious might ignore the first few nudges but, with persistence and self-directed kindness, it may yet relax and acknowledge that fact. Working hard on an unfinished task? Ask yourself which parts you could skimp on or skip over entirely; manage that scope aggressively. The tunnel vision of a tired mind makes it hard to see the simpler solutions, after all. These solutions may seem too simple to work, but how many of them have you tried tonight, and how many times have you tried each? More than any particular tactic, keep track of what you try and of how well it works. With enough data and enough experiments, you can figure out what exactly works for you.
But maybe it’s harder than that. It could be night terrors, or uncertainty about the safety of your sleeping situation. Perhaps deep-seated unconscious procrastination suppressed to the point that you no longer recall what you’re even procrastinating on. Such cases call for professional help. You’re not alone in needing the sleep you deserve and you don’t have to be. Get what therapy you can. Ask others for accommodation. Take an aggressive stance on stripping away the optional commitments that keep you up late (and many are far more optional than they seem, especially to the eyes of someone who’s had enough sleep). Whatever you do, get some rest. You’ll thank yourself in the morning.