My theme for January was sleep. It's one way I've always really wanted to take care of myself, but I've resisted for a long time. My goal was to get ready for bed and start winding down around 10:30pm. Definitely no more TV shows or movies after that time. The second part of the goal was lights out and in bed by 11:30 pm.
When my kids were small and physical demands were high, I would put myself to bed at a reasonable time. Each might as I climbed into bed, I had no idea how many times my sleep might be interrupted. So going to bed at 10 or 10:30pm was critical.
But as the kids got older, and with a desire to visit more with my husband in the evening, I began staying up later. Before beginning my self-care journey, here was my modus operandi. The younger kids would go to bed between 9:30 and 10:00pm. I would stay upstairs with them, but Wendell would typically be in the basement watching sports or a cooking show by that time.
Around 10, I'd head to the basement. Some nights Wendell would finish his show/game and I would scroll on my phone while we sat together. Other nights, I'd request a TV show we both wanted to watch and we'd watch Shark Tank, Relative Race, or Master Chef for an hour. If Wendell was watching a cooking show, he'd often finish it before we turned on our show. Sometimes the kids didn't go to bed until 10:30pm. In any event, starting an hour long TV program at 10:30pm became pretty normal.
Afterward, Wendell would always get promptly up and go upstairs and get ready for bed. But I wouldn't. Our master bathroom is small. Really only one person can get ready for bed at a time. I'd justify staying the basement. Our basement is quite cool, so most of the year we bundle up in blankets when watching shows. Our couch is a recliner. Sometimes, I would actually fall asleep on the recliner nestled in blankets. But something about the late night TV watching...the inertia just set in. It became a personal battle to get back upstairs.
How did I do?
January was amazing. I really did it! Except for two nights I was in bed by 11:30pm. The first few nights Wendell never thought I'd stick with it. He headed to the basement for the usual 10-midnight TV session and was surprised when he came up and I was soundly sleeping. But after that, he decided he wanted some sleep benefits too, and started coming to bed earlier. He has been incredibly grateful for this goal and pleased at how it helped both of us.
What I learned
I tried reading in bed (leaning on an arm) for my evening wind-down. I loved the reading; hated the leaning. A couple of times, I tried sitting bolt upright in bed, but it didn't stick. I haven't found the perfect wind-down routine. Despite that, I relentlessly put myself to bed at 11:30pm.
I learned that while I'm functional on 7.5 hours of sleep, my body really prefers 8. In fact, I learned that if I give myself 8 hours of sleep enough days in a row, I'll just start naturally waking up. (I learned that on a Sunday morning I was *going* to wake up at 8:00am and instead awoke at 7:00am feeling completely rested.)
I really can't go to the basement. My strategy to avoid the inertia problem has been to not go to the basement. My TV consumption has plummeted. Once I watched a movie with the kids and once with Wendell, both time starting at 9:00pm or earlier in the evening. We were done with my movie by 10:30 or 11pm and I still had time to get to bed.
I need to put my phone away. When I'm tired, I just get into tired scrolling. I'm not engaging, just scrolling and I struggle to stop. By putting my phone away and switching to a book, I'm able to close the book when I'm sleepy and go to bed.
I had thought that going to bed early would have some downsides. I correctly predicted that Wendell wouldn't immediately join me. As an aside, we'd long been bemoaning, that with all of our adult kids up in the evenings we just didn't have us time--time to talk, about life, about the kids, about our day. On the days Wendell comes to bed with me, we actually recoup that time. So we've actually had a little better connection than we did before the change in bedtime.
Most importantly, I've learned (and perhaps even proven to myself) that taking care of me is a valuable undertaking.