EARLY BEDTIME HABIT OF THE FITTEST EXAMINED Jackie Veling makes a good point in her piece for on ACTIVE.com, “Nighttime Habits of the Fittest People”. She says articles tend to focus on their morning routine, how they get going early, fit in a workout, get a nutritious breakfast, and possibly meditate. All fine and dandy, she indicates. But what about people for whom mornings tend to be unpredictable and frequently hectic, like people with substantial commutes, or children?
She contends that a well thought out evening routine is the “most important predictor for the following day”. I love that she is highlighting this issue. The disappointing workout mornings I’ve experienced in terms of my fitness life have occurred because high hopes for a killer start were not realized due to poor adherence to a sensible pre-sleep night time routine.
The most common scenario which is a set-up for a non-productive morning involves my going to bed later than intended. Specifically, I have woken too late in the morning to exercise because the time at which I started readying for sleep pushed actual bedtime back an hour or more. Worse than that situation, would be my simply falling into bed, totally skipping any night-time preparation, because it is too late and I am way too tired.
Veling explains each of 10 nighttime behaviors she says are exhibited by model fitness buffs in her article. Earned Runs is focusing on the first: “They go to bed earlier than they think they should.”
This habit is probably similar to the one observed in highly prompt individuals: they depart for an intended destination before they think they should, and end up arriving on time.
Pick a time and go to bed earlier simple, right? But how early? Mathematically, if 7-9 hours is ideal, back time your desired wake up time by 7-9 hours, and then another 15-30 minutes. The “Bedtime” app on my iPhone clock does this for me so I easily know the exact ‘bedtime’ and ‘wake’ alarm hours. I have it set for 7 hours 30 minutes of sleep, between 9:30pm and 5am.
I try to follow the directions of the brief but sweet 9pm chime reminder that I have the option of setting. Not always, but most times.
So, getting to bed on time is not a matter of knowing when to do it, or of alerting alarms. It’s a sequence of preparatory actions that occur a bit earlier in the evening (one is in the morning). Here’s my suggested list:
1. Shortly after waking (for me that’s 5am): make or at least tidy the bed and surrounding space, such that it is an appealing place to sleep that night.
2. Before dinner: shop as needed for pre-sleep protein snack food to carry to work or school, and ‘wake-up’ beverage items.
3. After dinner: clean-up the coffee ‘center’ and nearby counter space (or tea/alternate beverage center), including the cup or travel-container to be used in-house or out-the-door. Set out materials. Do the same for the materials/area you use for fixing food carried out for breakfast or lunch, but set cold food in easy to see refrigerator space. Include vitamins, protein bars, juice, yogurt cups, nut packs, etc., that you will take.
4. Determine the latest show/ screen event you most likely will settle into watching/working on, note the end time, and set the app clock reminder for that time.
For example, if your show ends at 10pm, set the reminder for 10pm with bedtime at 10:30pm; If you plan to stop working on the computer at 10:30pm, set the reminder at 10:30pm for a bedtime at 11pm.) Be sure the reminder alarm gives you enough time to prepare for bed.
5. After the show: wash-up and dress for bed as is your custom, make sure wake alarm is set, devices are charging etc.
6. Get into bed at the designated time.
And that’s it, right? All good. No!
The habit Veling has written about says the fittest people go to bed BEFORE they think they should. They likely start pre-bedtime preparation in step 4 earlier that the chime reminder time. For me, with a 30-minute pre-bedtime chime, it would move pre-bedtime preparation to about an hour before the time I wanted to sleep, and would have me getting INTO BED at the time of the chime.
Realistically, this means I cannot watch the program I am planning to view or work as late on the computer as planned. It means a very boring evening, leaving my husband watching TV alone, not making a phone call, and sometimes not going to a mid-week movie. In the height of summer, it almost means getting into bed before sunset.
This is the tough choice that the “fittest people” make about bedtime. To set an early time is not an easy decision. It means giving up other pleasurable activities. It means having the luxury of being able to do this because no others rely on you for their bedtime prep. It requires that individuals living with you agree not to interfere with or disrupt with your quiet restful time.
I am not the fittest person, but I SOMETIMES AM ABLE to set an early sleep time. I make the effort because sleep is being discovered by scientific studies as the period during which many body processes undergo repair or renewal. But usually only I manage it once in a week. And the night coincides with one my husband thinks is perfect for turning in early. It has become less difficult to do, still seems indulgent, but feels less weird.
This habit of the fittest people of going to bed early makes good sense health-wise. If the entire household’s schedules can be arranged, and priorities regarding entertainment and work adjusted, it can be achieved. But since establishing and maintaining close relationships with others also contributes to longevity, this habit will require balancing with the need for social connectedness.
Veling cites 9 other habits that may not be as difficult to adopt. Check out her article and start with the second and third habits (concerning night time and breakfast eating), if the first is too tough to manage at this point in life.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
BRIDGE TO PHYSICAL SELF
Running, walking, and fitness activities enable us to experience our physical selves in a world mostly accessed through use of fingers on a mobile device.
EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. I began participating in road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health.
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