Do you have a bedtime?

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Are you getting enough sleep? If you’re like most people, the answer is probably no. Some researchers have suggested that sleep debt is so widespread many of us don’t even recognize that we’re chronically under-rested. Work schedules, extended commute times, technological distractions, childcare, eldercare, stress, and health issues are just a few of the many factors that can contribute to not getting enough sleep. There are lots of lifestyle changes and technological tools that can help improve the quantity and quality of your sleep, and I’ll be writing about several of them over the coming months.

But today, I just want to focus on the simple idea of setting yourself a bedtime. In her book The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin identified getting more sleep as one of the cornerstones of her approach to living a happier life.

In a blog post earlier this year, Rubin offers a very simple but very powerful strategy:

    Children have a fixed bedtime; we know they need their allotment of sleep, and we pack them off to bed when it’s time. But many adults just go to bed whenever they feel like it.

    The problem with this approach is that it’s far too easy to stay up too late. The TV, the internet, your email, your book…these distractions keep you alert past the point at which you should head to bed. Many of us know we ought to go to sleep sooner, but we just can’t manage to pull it off.

    One suggestion: Give yourself a bedtime. Even if you don’t actually go to bed on time, at the very least, you should know that you’re “staying up past your bedtime.” Just the realization that it’s an hour past your “bedtime” might help you nudge yourself into bed. Most adults should get 7-8 hours of sleep each night, so do the math.

I know Rubin is right about this, because whenever I have been diligent about setting — and sticking to — a bedtime, I have been able to consistently get more sleep. And yet, it’s not a habit I’ve been able to maintain over the past couple of months. Some travel, some new projects, and the longer daylight hours of summer have made my sleep schedule more erratic than usual. So I’m setting myself a new bedtime for the next month, in hopes of paying back some of the sleep debt I’ve accumulated.

And that way, even on the nights when I fail to go to bed early enough — I can enjoy the extra thrill of “staying up late,” since I’ll have a clear definition of what “late” really means.

How about you? Do you have a bedtime? Let us know in the comments!

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