How to Get Yourself to Go to Bed At a Decent Hour

If you are like me, and can’t seem to get yourself to get to bed at a decent hour then this post is for you. In order to stay a sane parent you need your rest. This is especially important on weekends when you are spending 95% of you day entertaining your kids.

At night, after the kids have finally gone to bed, you want to relax and do the things you like. But sometimes getting that free time doesn’t come until its already late in the evening and you know that if you stay up any later you wont get enough sleep and you wont be able to function well the next day.

I am always struggling with getting myself to go to bed at a decent hour. For some reason whatever it is, my body refuses to go to bed before 12:30. Some nights I am up until 2am. I hate it. However, it’s the only time during the day that I get to read, watch movies, play time-wasting computer games, and so on. If I go to bed early, I don’t get to do those things.

On the other hand, the short and long-term benefits of going to bed early outweigh the short-term pleasures of staying up late. Here are just some of them benefits:

  • More hours of sleep
  • Feel better
  • More strength and stamina
  • Perform better
  • Better attitude
  • Healthier
  • Think clearer
  • Less stress
  • And more

However, what if you are like me and for some reason you just can’t get yourself to bed early. You know that every morning you regret staying up late. You might get upset at yourself for not having any self-control. Why is it that you just can’t get yourself to bed on time?

You see, the whole issue of going to bed early has to do with accountability. Even if you tell yourself that you must get to bed on time at a decent hour there is nothing stopping you from staying up late again. It happens all the time with me. I wake up exhausted and get annoyed at myself for staying up late. I resent my behavior and decide that I am going to be in bed by 11:45pm the following night. However, when my bed time rolls around I simply push it off until 1:30 and wake up exhausted and annoyed the next morning.

Its all about accountability. Its not like you have someone standing over you making sure you do what you said you would. Why is it that if we have a meeting we need to get to by a certain time we have no problem being on time? You show up on time because you are accountable for your actions. You don’t show up, you will get in trouble with your boss. If you don’t come on time to work, you will lose your job. To get yourself to bed on time you need to do something that would cause you to be held accountable for your actions.

After searching the web for months and not finding any help in this area I put my mind to a solution that works most of the time.

I write myself a mini contract requiring me to go to bed by a certain time and I sign it. I take a small piece of paper from a notepad and write the following: “I, John Doe, will go to bed at 11:30 tonight.” Then I sign my name on the bottom. Sounds so simple yet its so powerful.

There are two reasons why this works. The first reason is that you write down that you want to go to bed at a certain time. The very act of writing it down may be enough to get you to do it. Writing things down holds more weight than making verbal declarations. The second reason is your signature. If you respect signed contracts, then that signature should hold you accountable for going to bed on time. Because you signed it, when the bed time draws near you are not going to push it off. You signed a contract with yourself. If you push off your bedtime then you broke the contract.

While this technique might work for you, there are some things to be aware of:

1. Don’t do this every day because it may become second nature and as a result you’ll slowly start to ignore it. If that happens it means you’ve fallen into a bad practice of ignoring your own contracts.

2. Make sure to write this contract in the morning or daytime. Otherwise, if you wait until the evening chances are you won’t want to write it and you’ll end up staying late and waking up lousy the next day.

3. In order to avoid contract violations, because of not going to bed at the time you’ve written down, consider changing the wording of the contract to allow for some wiggle room. Try writing something like “I will be in bed around 11:30″ This way if you go up to bed and still have to use the washroom and get changed it will be alright if you end up going to bed twenty minutes or so later. Just make sure not to make it a habit because twenty minutes could easily become thirty and then forty and so on.

This post was submitted to the August 6 2007 Edition of the Made to Be Great – Personal Development Carnival hosted over at Made to Be Great and the August 12 edition of the Personal Development Carnival hosted over at Shards of Consciousness.

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18 Responses

  1. Phil says:

    Thanks for this post… I’ve been having the exact same struggle for years. The lack of sleep is taking its toll on my health now. I need to do something, and I WILL do something. Thanks for the ideas.

  2. Eric says:

    Phil, thanks for the feedback.

  3. DerekP says:

    Great post – I’ve been going through this exact same situation for quite a while, with this past week being especially rough – haven’t been able to go to sleep before 2am, having to get up at 6:30. The exact same reasons as well; it is a trade off between personal time and sleep. Mine tends to be mostly computer work/gaming (I’m a computer technician).

    I’ve tried different techniques, but for me it is like a mental struggle between my day and night selves. After a couple weeks, night self gets used to whatever is being used and ignores it, then day self has to try something new.

    I do have one suggestion for those like myself who stay up mainly on the computer. Schedule a task to shut down the computer. Alternately, you could schedule yourself a reminder to go to sleep.

    This also makes a great alarm clock if you keep music on your computer. Much nicer than waking up to beeping.

    See for help on how to do it.

  4. Eric says:

    Derek, great idea. Thats a very interesting technique. I would sort of do a similar thing with my laptop. I would take it to the den and leave the power cord upstairs. I have about an hour and a half until the thing goes into hibernate mode. But sometimes I would go back up and plug it in and then stay up late again.

  5. I find for me that the reason I stay up late is because I have to much on my plate or I do a bad job of not wasting time during the day. I often meander around tasks, instead of attacking them and getting them finished. Then at night I feel like I need to do some things before I do to bed.

    Also when I am stressed, I want to stay up late. It is a coping mechanism that only exacerbates the stress.

    I personally find that examining as derek mentioned, my day self, I can identify a lot of changes that can affect bed time.

  6. David says:

    Wow…..I thought I was crazy by not being able to go to bed. Certainly like the contract idea……will do. Wonderful stuff. Cheers….David

  7. Clare says:

    Thank you for suggesting a new approach. The usual sleep advice doesnt really tackle this issue. I dont exactky know why my ‘night self’ chooses to ignore what I know deep down is best for me, but I think holding myself more accountable (and not blaming others!) is a good start. Many thanks, I will try it.

  8. Garratt says:

    Well it’s 2:03 AM and I found this site containing individuals like unto myself, who can’t sleep at night due to so called free time needs away from the kids. Wow, there is a run on sentence. Anyway, I am an at home father who does a great job (self proclaimed) raising my three boys except for when I am to bloody tired to function. Well that’s like all the time now. My wife works 6 days a week and I need free time at night to be balanced don’t I? I I also need sleep. Here’s my solution starting Monday; gym time will be my free time. This way I hope to wind down for bed, get adaquate sleep, have more energy, look better, and play hard with my three little hell raisers. Okay, that’s my therapy writing for the night. Gym days are coming.

  9. sam says:

    i stay up late reading this!!!!!!

  10. Carl says:

    I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one out here battling this problem. I was once in the military and had to be on the job at 7:30 a.m. every morning, and several jobs after that required arriving at 7:30 a.m. I have been self employed for a number of years and have slowly digressed into staying up way too late. This causes me to get started late and it seems to be a never ending problem, with such a simple solution – I just can’t go to bed early no matter how hard I try. Maybe I’m just insane 🙂

  11. Mark Rimmer says:

    Eric & all who have posted – this is great – I too thought I was the only crazy person who couldn’t even get himself to bed.

    I find myself trying to find reasons & excuses or people to blame other than myself!

    I’m going to try the contract – written on a mini white board in the kitchen for all the family to help hold me to it. I will also set the PC to shutdown at 11:30…Mark.

  12. lyn says:

    It’s nice to hear that other people suffer from this problem too (not that i want others to suffer!). Thanks for the tips. I’m gonna try the contract and shutdown tomorrow!

  13. JDD says:

    Thanks for this post. I did want to mention that not everyone who goes to bed late does so willingly. There are neurological conditions that can also affect sleep in very similar ways (e.g., delayed sleep phase syndrome, a circadian rhythm disorder). If you’re choosing to go to bed late, that’s one thing. But if any of your readers actually can’t go to bed earlier but otherwise get good sleep, it might be prudent to talk with a sleep specialist. Thanks!

  14. How’s thing, on occasion I receive a 403 message when I visit this site. I figured you would want to know.

  15. Bew says:

    Anyone know of any apps or sites that will reward you for reaching goals (getting in bed early, etc. ) ? And I mean real rewards, not virtual/pretend ones! Thanks. I really need some motivation 😞

  16. Roshaan says:

    A mini contract. John Doe is more brilliant than any psychologist. He has the sole right to get an award. Contract with self. This amazing.

  1. August 6, 2007

    […] Ellen presents How to Get Yourself to Go to Bed At a Decent Hour posted at Husbandhood. Jane Chin presents A Danger of “Too Much Experience” posted at […]

  2. August 12, 2007

    […] presents How to Get Yourself to Go to Bed At a Decent Hour posted at […]

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