Just after the start of the 2019-2020 school year, while listening to an episode of the Melissa Ambrosini Show about blue light, I realized that my family’s bedtime habits needed to change.
When school started that year, I thought the early wake-ups would naturally shift all our circadian clocks into holy alignment and everyone would gladly fall into slumberland as soon as bedtime hit.
Ha! Yeah, freakin’ right.
Fresh off the summer months of whenever bedtimes, my daughters, then ages nine and five, would constantly squabble at 8 pm. The older one, ready to zonk out from a long day, always demanding the younger one to Just. Be. Quiet.
At the time, I didn’t have it in me to deal with the situation. I was solo parenting and the baby (who just turned one) was usually still awake. I needed to get her ready for bed. I didn’t have the patience to babysit the girls and get in the middle of their screaming matches.
I sometimes screamed back.
My son, then twelve, had a 10 pm bedtime, but he would routinely stay awake past that, oddly deciding then was the best time to rearrange his closet or practice his clarinet.
Normally, I was lucky to get myself to bed before midnight.
With a shower.
Mostly, there was no shower.
I really missed having my husband around to help.
Anyway, listening to that episode on Melissa’s podcast made me realize that I was probably f-ing things up. Unconsciously, I was enabling their bedtime shenanigans.
You’d think I would have known what I was doing by now (’cause four kids), but clearly, I had no clue. (Or maybe somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew better, but I was so exhausted from sleep deprivation, and breastfeeding, and solo-parenting that I just couldn’t think straight.)
These days, bedtime is much less chaotic. And it all started when I began practicing these four things in our bedtime routine so that everyone (myself included) could have a more peaceful (read: less stressful) evening.
1. Hey! Who turned out the lights?
One of the things I love about this house is the bright white recessed lighting.
I hate living in the dark. As soon as it’s morning, I fling open the curtains to allow all that beautiful, wonderful sunlight to stream in.
When it starts to get dark, I’m quick to flip on the lights.
At least, I used to be.
One of the things that I learned from that podcast episode was the effect artificial light, especially bright white lights, have on our circadian rhythm.
Our natural sleep rhythm, our circadian rhythm, regulates our sleep by making us sleepy when it’s night and waking us up when it’s morning.
However, many things, like artificial light, mess up that natural cycle.
Instead of signaling “time to sleep” when the sun sets, when we sit under bright lights in our homes after dark (as we often do), our body has a hard time figuring out if it’s time for bed.
Well, no wonder my kids didn’t want to sleep! All these dang lights were keeping them awake!
Luckily, I didn’t have to go out and change any light bulbs because I had enough lights in the house that already had yellow bulbs in them (range light, fridge water dispenser light, closets, ceiling fans, lamps, nightlights, etc.).
When it gets dark, I only turn on the yellow lights (also known as warm lights) and only keep on the ones I absolutely need.
The girls used to have either the bathroom or hall light on (white). It was only on until they fell asleep. I’ve stopped using those and instead flip on the yellow light of their closet, cracking the door open about 3 inches.
In my bathroom, I brought a nightlight over from my bedroom so that when I wake up for bathroom breaks (or the baby), I won’t need to turn on the bright as eff white lights to see.
I’ve made my son use a bedside lamp as his only light source before bed.
When I shower (which happens daily now that the baby is older), I only use the yellow light above the toilet instead of the white recessed light directly above the shower or the white vanity lights.
I think you get the picture.
It’s all about getting the ambiance lighting in the house conducive to falling asleep.
To summarize: white – no. Yellow – yes.
2. You gotta wear shades.
Three things: blue light glasses, iPhone night shift, and movie mode.
I bought a pair of blue light glasses in early 2019 because I found that when I spent a lot of time on my phone or laptop, I would get a headache.
Since getting them, I can’t even look at my devices without them for longer than a few seconds.
Crazy, I know!
If you listen to the podcast episode from Melissa, you’ll learn the science behind what blue light is and how it affects us.
But the mom version you need to know is this: the light from your devices is f-ing with your (and your kids) circadian rhythm.
While you wait for your pair of glasses to arrive (I bought mine from Baxter Blue), there are things you can do to help tone down the blue light – night shift (iPhone/iPad) and movie mode (your tv picture settings). On my kids’ Kindle Fire devices, it’s called nightshade, I believe.
I have my iPhone set to automatically switch into night shift mode between sundown and sunrise. And, with the iOS 13 update, Apple made it to where you can also set your phone to go into Dark Mode during that time, too.
I love it!
If you wear scripts, you can order a new pair with blue light blocking technology built into them like my husband did when he got his last pair of glasses. Just ask the staff at your optometrist’s office at your next visit.
Check your tv settings to see if it has an ambient lighting detection feature that adjusts the brightness down when the room is dark. This feature, combined with movie mode, helps wind things down in the evening.
3. You know I’m gonna say it.
I know you’re waiting for me to say it. I have to say it:
Electronics before bedtime is a big no-no.
We all know that.
But we don’t listen, do we?
So here’s what I’ve been doing: I stop my kids’ device viewing time about 45 minutes before bedtime.
I really thought I would get more push back, but I didn’t.
I think combined with the dim lights, the kids are already more zen and ready for bed anyway, so maybe that’s why.
(At this point, does it really matter why they are cooperating? I mean, hello!)
My son is allowed to read after device hours until he’s tired.
For myself, I’ve been (largely) ignoring my devices after 7:30 pm. I’ll only use it to play my daily yoga video (if I’m doing yoga in the evening like I normally do).
This was a big deal for me in the beginning because at the end of the day was typically when I used to catch up on social, email, tv shows, podcasts, blogging – you name it!
These days, I’m very disconnected from my phone, often going all day without logging onto social and I’ll realize it at the end of the day. But by then, it’s too late and my phone has already locked me out of those apps. There have been a few times where I’ve broken my own rule, but it doesn’t happen often. And the times that I do ignore it, I always regret it.
I realized quickly that my evening feed watching and email reading was wiring up my mind. Once my mind woke up, I felt like I wanted to tackle chores and other to-dos.
Not the ideal time of day for someone like me, who is highly sensitive, to do a bunch of simulating things before bed.
So what are you supposed to do instead of browsing Instagram on your phone?
Because, here’s what I always keep in mind:
When you remove a habit, you must replace it with something else.
Otherwise, you’ll just be left with this giant gaping hole of time that you’ll feel the need to fill. (And something tells me you won’t fill it by folding that pile of laundry you washed three days ago. Just saying.)
Use the new time to think about things that you’ve been wanting to do, but never felt you had the time for. I think most people wish they read more, so maybe start there.
Other relaxing before bed activities could be coloring, journaling, meditating, or my personal favorite – bedtime yoga.
4. Did someone say bedtime yoga?
For me, I’ve been doing daily yoga since the beginning of 2021, and most of the time, my yoga happens while my husband is getting the girls down for bed.
I currently follow a yoga calendar from Yoga with Adriene, which helps me avoid spending a ton of time trying to pick a yoga video from her massive YouTube library. But before I did that, I would select more relaxing videos if I was practicing right before bed.
What makes bedtime yoga different? The movements and postures for bedtime yoga are more relaxing, less taxing on the body. No downward dog here.
These days, the baby doesn’t sleep in my bedroom, but for the longest, I didn’t want to do yoga in my room after she fell asleep. I didn’t want to disturb her (she was a light sleeper and boob drinker, which meant she could smell my presence).
But when she was still sleeping in my room, I realized wearing headphones somewhat solved that problem. Not sure why I didn’t think of that sooner!
Studies have proven that yoga helps promote relaxation and it reduces stress. So adding relaxing poses to bedtime just makes sense for anyone looking to wind down after a long day of staying home with the kids. Simply seek out “yin-yoga” or “bedtime yoga” videos.
I don’t miss checking emails before bed. (I’ve accepted that my Inbox, like my kitchen sink, will never, ever be empty for long.)
Ready for bed?
Since listening to that podcast episode from Melissa, a lot has changed in our house at bedtime. We
- only use warm lighting after dark
- take advantage of blue light glasses and screen filters
- stop screentime within 45 minutes of bedtime
- practice calm activities before bed, like bedtime yoga, journaling or reading
Establishing an evening routine with these four things has made a huge difference in how relaxed I feel before going to bed. As a mom, bedtime battles were the single largest stressor in my evening, and with these steps, that stress is practically none existent. Sure, the baby doesn’t always fall asleep right away and she tests us now that she’s in a toddler bed and is free to roam around. But overall, evenings are much calmer these days.
Who knew a few simple tweaks to my evening could do sooo much good for my stress levels?
Are you ready to try these bedtime tips for yourself and your family?
I’d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts, ideas, and bedtime tips in the comments below or shoot me a DM on Instagram.