THE MOST IMPORTANT ROUTINE IN MY DAY STARTS THE NIGHT BEFOREJul 10, 2020
(As published in Sixty and Me)
Everyone always talks about the importance of our morning routine, and I would agree that starting our day in an intentional way sets the stage for our entire day.
I, like many, have a very routine morning. However, my – and everyone else’s – morning routine does not start when the alarm goes off. I will argue that our morning routines start the evening before.
It Begins Early in the Evening
Every decision that goes into our evening routine affects the amount and quality of our sleep, and, in turn, the effectiveness of our morning routines. If we eat dinner late, drink too much wine, or stay up past our bedtime, our routine the next morning will be affected. As will the entire day.
My morning and evening routines have been a work in progress throughout my entire adult life. And they change and evolve as my daily schedule and priorities do. They look much different today than they did when I had two young boys at home and was managing their schedules as well as my own.
Nowadays, I need to be the best that I can be to manage my job, my writing, seeing my grandchildren as often as I possibly can, helping with our senior parents, and squeezing in a date night with my husband! My nighttime routine is instrumental in making all of that happen for me each day.
The Four Components of an Effective Nighttime Routine
There are four building blocks that will determine how well rested you will be in the morning:
Knowing When to End Your Day
If you are still working, your nighttime routine begins the minute you put work away for the day. If you are retired, it should begin at around the same time each evening.
For me, this is somewhere between 5pm and 6pm each night. I review my journal entry from the morning and jot down a few things about my day in my journal. Some examples include:
- How the day went – what I did well and what I could have done better.
- How I’m feeling physically and/or emotionally.
- Why I’m looking forward to tomorrow and why tonight’s evening routine is so important.
I then shut off my computer and vow to look at my phone as little as possible. If I’m honest, some evenings I’m more successful at this than others, depending on what’s happened during the day.
Healthy Eating and Drinking Choices Throughout the Entire Evening
You need to be intentional when deciding what to put into your body each night and when. An ideal dinner should be ¾ green, plant based foods and should be eaten no later than 7:30pm. The earlier the better. This helps both with quality of sleep as well as weight loss or maintenance.
Limit your alcohol intake and establish a clear signal that tells your brain you’re done with food for the evening. For me, this is a cup of herbal tea. Once I drink this, I’m finished eating or drinking anything else other than water.
Other signals might include an after dinner drink of some sort, a particular television show, or taking the dog for a walk. It doesn’t matter what you choose. Just do it each night. Eventually, your brain will learn this habit, and it will become effortless for you.
Maintaining a Clear and Consistent Pre-Bedtime Routine
My pre-bedtime routine is simple: By 8:30pm each night I am washing my face, laying out my clothes for the next morning, and turning on an episode of whatever my current Netflix fave is.
Yours will be different. However, laying out clothes for the next day is a highly recommended component – it makes your morning more effortless.
Defining a Consistent Bedtime Routine
Close the day at the same time each night. Your cell phone should be in another room with the alarm set. Research shows that the blue light on the phone interferes with sleep and the production of melatonin. And having the phone in the next room when the alarm goes off will ensure that you get right out of bed to start your morning routine.
Spend 15-30 minutes doing something quiet – meditating, listening to music, or reading a book.
Turn the light out and sleep tight!