A few weeks ago, while listening to an episode of the Melissa Ambrosini Show about blue light, I realized that my family’s bedtime habits needed to change.
When school started in August, I thought the early wake-ups would naturally shift all our circadian clocks into holy alignment and everyone would gladly fall into slumberland as soon as bedtime hit.
Ha! Yeah, freakin’ right.
My daughters, 9 and 5, share a room and would constantly squabble at 8 pm bedtime. The older one, ready to zonk out, always demanding the younger one to Just. Be. Quiet.
But I didn’t have it in me to deal with the situation. The baby was usually still awake, and I needed to get her ready for bed. I didn’t have the patience to babysit the girls and get in the middle of their screaming matches.
I sometimes screamed back.
My son, 12, had a 10 pm bedtime, but he would routinely stay awake past that, oddly deciding then was the best time to rearrange his closet or practice his clarinet.
Normally, I was lucky to get myself to bed before midnight. With a shower.
Mostly, there was no shower.
Did I say I miss my husband?
Anyway, listening to that episode on Melissa’s podcast made me realize that I was probably f-ing things up and was, in fact, enabling the bedtime shenanigans.
You’d think I’d know what I’m doing by now (’cause four kids), but clearly, I had no clue.
So, here are four things that I’ve done to turn our bedtime around so that everyone (myself included) can have an easier sleep transition.
1. Hey! Who turned out the lights?
One of the things I love about this house is the bright white recessed lighting.
I hate living in the dark. As soon as it’s morning, I fling open the curtains to allow all that beautiful, wonderful sunlight to stream in.
When it starts to get dark, I’m quick to flip on the lights.
At least, I used to be.
One of the things that I learned from that podcast episode was the effect artificial light, especially bright white lights, have on our circadian rhythm.
Our natural sleep rhythm, our circadian rhythm, regulates our sleep by making us sleepy when it’s night and waking us up when it’s morning.
However, many things, like artificial light, mess up that natural cycle.
Instead of signaling “time to sleep” when the sun sets, when we sit under bright lights in our homes after dark as we often do, our body has a hard time figuring out if it’s time for bed.
Well, no wonder my kids didn’t want to sleep! All these dang lights were keeping them awake!
Luckily, I didn’t have to go out and change any light bulbs because I had enough lights in the house that already had yellow bulbs in them (range light, fridge water dispenser light, closets, ceiling fans, lamps, nightlights, etc.).
When it gets dark, I only turn on the yellow lights (also known as warm lights) and only keep on the ones I absolutely need.
The girls used to have either the bathroom or hall light on (white). It was only on until they fell asleep. I’ve stopped using those and instead flip on the yellow light of their closet, cracking the door open about 3 inches.
In my bathroom, I brought a nightlight over from my bedroom so that when I wake up for bathroom breaks (err…the baby), I won’t need to turn on the bright AF white lights to see.
I’ve made my son use a bedside lamp as his only light source before bed.
On evenings when I shower (or give the baby her bath), I only use the yellow light above the toilet instead of the white recessed light directly above the shower or the white vanity lights.
I think you get the picture.
It’s all about getting the ambiance lighting in the house conducive to falling asleep.
To summarize: white – no. Yellow – yes.
2. You gotta wear shades.
Three things: blue light glasses, iPhone night shift, and movie mode.
I bought a pair of blue light glasses several months ago because I found that when I spent a lot of time on my phone or laptop, I would get a headache.
Since getting them, I can’t even look at my devices without them for longer than a few seconds.
Crazy, I know!
If you listen to the podcast episode from Melissa, you’ll learn the science behind what blue light is and how it affects us.
But the mom version you need to know is this: the light from your devices is f-ing with your (and your kids) circadian rhythm.
While you wait for your pair of glasses to arrive (I bought mine from Baxter Blue), there are things you can do to help tone down the blue light – night shift (iPhone/iPad) and movie mode (your tv picture settings). On Kindle Fire devices, it’s called nightshade, I believe.
I have my iPhone set to automatically switch into night shift mode between sundown and sunrise. And, with the most recent iOS 13 update, you can also set your phone to go into Dark Mode during that time, too.
I love it!
If you wear scripts, you can order a new pair with blue light blocking technology built into them like my husband did when he got new glasses last year. Just ask your people at your optometrist office at your next visit.
My tv also has an ambient lighting detection setting so it adjusts the brightness down when the room is dark. This feature, combined with movie mode, helps wind things down in the evening.
3. You know I’m gonna say it.
I know you’re waiting for me to say it. I have to say it: Electronics before bedtime is a big no-no.
We all know that.
But we don’t listen, do we?
So here’s what I’ve been doing: the tv viewing time stops at 7:15 pm for the girls, 9 pm for my son.
I really thought I would get more push back, but I didn’t.
I think combined with the dim lights, the kids are already more zen and ready for bed anyway, so maybe that’s why.
(At this point, does it really matter why they are cooperating? I mean, hello!)
My son is allowed to read after tv hours until he’s tired. (He’s currently on the final book of the Twilight series.)
He went to bed at 9:30 pm the other night.
Compared to the 11 o’clock hour a few weeks ago, this is a victory.
For myself, I’ve been ignoring my devices after 7:30 pm.
I’ll answer a call or text from my husband, but that’s about it.
This is a big deal for me because the end of the day is typically when I used to catch up on social, email, tv shows, podcasts, blogging, you name it.
But I realized that all the feed watching and email reading was doing was wiring up my mind. Suddenly, instead of feeling tired from a long day of taking care of the baby, I felt like I could tackle my to-do list.
So what are you supposed to do instead of browsing Instagram on your phone?
Because, the rule is this: When you remove something bad, you must replace it with something else. Or else you’ll just be left with this giant gaping hole of time that you’ll feel the need to fill. (And something tells me you won’t fill it by folding that pile of laundry you washed three days ago. Just saying.)
(Hint: Keep reading to find out what you can do instead.)
4. Did someone say bedtime yoga?
We started with the first season and are currently in the second season. (Spoiler: The format of the first season is better for kindergarteners. For some reason, my five-year-old isn’t getting that same zen effect with the second season.)
The podcast is a combination of yoga, meditation, and storytime.
They are short episodes – 7 to 15 minutes long.
The first night I tried it, I made sure they did everything they had to do before we started: brush teeth, go pee, drink water.
I turned on the closet light, leaving it open about a foot. You know, set the mood.
By the end of the episode, my youngest looked like she was going to pass out and my older one didn’t make a sound.
It’s been a huge hit every day since.
For me, I’ve been doing 10 to 15 minutes of yoga, normally bedtime yoga (I love Sarah Beth Yoga).
What’s the difference between bedtime yoga and just plain yoga? The movements and postures for bedtime are more relaxing, less taxing on the body. No downward dog here.
For the longest, I didn’t want to do yoga in my room after the baby fell asleep. But then I realized I could wear headphones so that I don’t disturb the baby. Why didn’t I think of that sooner? (BTW, the baby’s sleep habits are a whole ‘nother story that I’ll share sometime after she lets me get a full night sleep.)
Studies have proven that yoga helps promote relaxation and reduces stress so adding the more relaxing poses to bedtime just makes logical sense to me.
Hey, it’s better than checking emails. (You know that Inbox will never be empty, right?)
Ready for bed?
Since making that first step to keep the lighting to a minimum, a lot has changed in our house at bedtime, as you just read.
I’m normally in bed by 9 pm, reading a book on my Kindle Paperwhite (with the brightness adjusted way down, my Baxter glasses on).
And starting bedtime sooner means I’m getting more sleep (even though little miss is still interrupting my sleep several times a night).
Honestly, I’m falling asleep faster and I feel more rested in the morning.
And I’m getting a lot more things done in the day.
Who knew a few simple tweaks could do sooo much good?
Are you ready to shake up your bedtime habits?
Share your thoughts, ideas, and tips in the comments below or shoot me a DM on Instagram.
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