Bedtime for Grownups

Posted by Lisa_Hidgon_Professional_Organizer on August 24, 2012  /   Posted in Blog

One of my Facebook friends recently posted that he’s getting his kids ready for the start of school by having them set their alarm clocks to wake them up earlier and earlier each morning until they hit the wake up time needed for school. The same day, a seven year old asked Dear Abby for advice about his bedtime. She suggested that he figure out how much sleep he needs and work backwards from the time he needs to wake up.

There is much emphasis on being sure children are rested and ready, but we often ignore the importance of sleep for ourselves. As adults we accept tiredness as a fact of life. Because of this, we don’t feel our best or perform at our best. Also, it can be dangerous. Have you ever put the car in park at a stoplight because you think you might fall asleep? I have! It’s scary to be that tired.

You may ask what any of this has to do with organizing. We can look at it two ways: Being organized affects how well you sleep, and good or poor sleep affects how well you can become and stay organized. The organization of your time, talent, and possessions affects your whole life. So sleep has everything to do with organizing.

To start with the first point: Organizing affects your sleep. My business tag line, “Clear your space. Clear your mind,” applies to the bedroom. Bedrooms are easy to ignore because generally no one sees them but family. However, making them a priority is essential to your well-being. Your bedroom doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should be clean, uncluttered, and well ventilated.

If you were to pick one thing can you do to make your bedroom a better place to sleep it would be to pay attention to your bed! Make it in the morning when you get up and it will be inviting at night when you are ready for it. This does not have to be perfectly done. Shake up the sheets a bit and smooth them out. Fluff up the pillows and cover it with a blanket or comforter. Change the sheets often. Please don’t use your bed as a closet! There are people who sleep on a bed full of clothes; and people who just sleep on the sofa because the bed is full. If you are “solving” this problem by putting clothes on the bed during the day, and throwing them on the floor at night, it adds to the chaos. If you don’t put all your clothes away, have a designated place for things that you leave out.

When I was a teenager, my mother used to complain that the chair in my bedroom was always full of clothes. It did look bad I suppose, but in retrospect it wasn’t a bad thing. My closets were really quite organized, but there was always a pile that circulated through the chair, either on the way to be worn or on the way to the closet. My bed was clear, I slept well. It was part of how I operate and it still is. So don’t beat yourself up looking for perfection. Your closets may need clearing out, but that’s not the main point here. If you start with the bed, you will probably find that you’ll go on to improve other things.

The second point: Being well rested affects your organizing. If you are well rested you have a fighting chance of accomplishing the things you want to during the day. You are less likely to put off the picking up, straightening up, meal planning, mail sorting, laundry, etc. Procrastination creates a downward spiral, culminating in chaos.

Try to think of it as an upward spiral instead. For one week, emphasize good bed rest. Give yourself a bedtime. Just like Abby told the seven year old; figure out what time you have to get up and work backwards. The research I’ve read explains that we naturally sleep in 90 minute cycles. If you set your alarm to sleep the standard eight hours, you will have slept for five cycles plus one interrupted cycle. This may leave you less refreshed than six hours of sleep – four full cycles. If you use this theory to plan your bedtime, you also have to consider how long it takes you to fall asleep. I generally need 20 – 30 minutes of reading time before the book falls on my face. So… If I need to wake up at seven a.m. and I want seven and a half hours of sleep. I subtract that plus the half hour reading from seven a.m. This puts me in bed and reading at eleven p.m.

To be truly relaxed, wear something comfortable to sleep. Have your clothes for the next morning ready. It’s amazing how much this takes off your mind. Don’t watch television in bed and consider it bedtime. Some say you shouldn’t watch it in bed at all. I’d say it’s okay to watch, but if bedtime (sleep-time) is eleven, turn off the TV at eleven. Most televisions can be programmed to turn off at a certain time. This is a good idea if you tend to find yourself getting sucked into the next program. Try setting your morning alarm for the latest time you can get up and still have a sane morning. If you have based you sleep time on the 90 minute cycles it is possible that you will wake naturally without the alarm.

The object of bedtime is to make your well-being a priority. It’s so easy to not to; but if you don’t you aren’t helping yourself or others as effectively as you could. If you are a parent, be firm about the kids’ bedtime, because you have a bedtime too. When you wake refreshed you will have a better day. Remember that old saying, “When you feel good you do good!”

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