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How to Stop Self-Sabotaging Your Sleep
Stop us if this sounds familiar —
HEART: That episode ended on a cliffhanger. Let’s watch the next one and find out what happens.
BRAIN: But it’s 10:30! We should’ve gone to bed at 10:00.
HEART: C’mon, it’s only 40 more minutes. If we skip the recap and credits, we’ll be in bed in half an hour.
BRAIN: But we still need to meditate…
HEART: Finding out what happens in the next episode will ease our anxiety.
BRAIN: OK, but we’re going to exercise first thing tomorrow morning, right?
HEART: Haha, sure thing, buddy. Hey, hypothetically speaking, how many times do you suppose we could hit the snooze alarm and still be on time for work?
If the above was your internal dialogue, verbatim, just last night… you’re not alone. In a 2011 Stress in America survey, more than a quarter of participants cited a lack of willpower as their most significant barrier to change. (1)
We already know most of what it takes to sleep (and be) our best:
Eat the green leafy things. Exercise. Spend time outside. Drink water.
Enjoy intoxicants in moderation. Meditate. Nap.
Carve some you-time out of each day.
You try to stay on target, but y’know... Those dollar cheeseburgers scratch an itch that a salad just can’t reach. Water tastes like a blank sheet of paper. Working out would be a lot more approachable if it didn’t have “work” right there in its title.
And to top it off, there are 15 new shows in your Netflix queue that you’ve got to check out before you run across spoilers online.
Self-control is something we all struggle with.
Because it takes willpower to resist temptation, and when your brain is already stretched to its limit by multitasking, anxiety and distractions, you simply don’t have the energy to make good decisions consistently.
That’s why you need to pre-emptively call in some reinforcements to help you use less willpower as you more consistently embody that best version of you. As always, technology is here to help.
Let’s take a look at a few ways you can put your great-sleep routine on autopilot:
Put ‘Em in Lockdown
Many of us have shifted to a work-from-home dynamic — and it can be difficult to resist slipping into not-so-great lifestyle habits when you’re surrounded by the creature comforts of home.
When the pandemic struck, comedian Ron Funches found himself in the same position as many of his fellow entertainers: without an audience or reliable stream of revenue. As he frequently discusses on his podcast Gettin’ Better with Ron Funches, he dealt with the stress and uncertainty with his go-to comforts: weed and snacks.
His salvation came in the form of a time-lock safe. His temptations went into the vault, and they were inaccessible during the day so that he could focus on reorienting his career and living up to his vision board.
Whatever your poison, you can take the same approach with a time-lock bin (available for under $100) that’ll keep impulses out of sight, out of mind until the hours you specify.
And, while we’re on the subject of time...
Cut the Juice
If binge-watching has become your bane, running your entertainment system through a timer outlet is a definitive way to say no mas to those late-night Narcos marathons and stay true to your bedtime goals.
Timer switches are inexpensive, simple to set up and program, and they’re easy to find. You may even already have one (presuming you dare to risk the unbridled chaos of the kitchen miscellany drawer to find it).
The nice part is that once you’ve established a solid groove, you can repurpose the timer for your plant lights, holiday decorations or as a deterrent to would-be burglars when you’re away.
There’s an App for That
If, on the other hand, your bedtime is sabotaged due to doomscrolling social media or just one more round of Fortnite (now that you’re warmed up and can practically taste that Victory Royale), you can use the digital equivalent of a timer switch.
Freedom integrates all of your Windows, Mac, Chrome, iOS and Android devices into one handy control panel. You set the schedule to blacklist specific apps, games and websites, and they’re unavailable to you on all of your devices. (That prevents you from, for example, just grabbing your laptop when Twitter is turned off on your phone.)
It’s $6.99/month for the subscription, but its users report an average of 2.5 more hours of productivity per day, so it’s money very well spent.
Give Your Phone the Night Off
Since we’re already giving your phone a break, let’s give that hard worker some extra time off and skip using it as your alarm clock.
There are plenty of reasons for this, but right now we’ll address how easy it is to turn off the alarm in the morning and immediately start scrolling through notifications.
Your intentions for an early, peaceful start to the day are thwarted by the rabbit hole of temptations now sitting in the palm of your hand. (And when your morning is derailed, it sets the tone for the rest of the day.)
To take back your mornings, go with a conventional alarm clock. That plain digital model that woke you every day for school — the one with the alarm that sounds like a garbage truck backing over an angry robot will do nicely.
But if the snooze button is your best frenemy, consider an alarm clock with its own defense mechanism. Clocky rolls away on all-terrain wheels when the alarm sounds, forcing you to chase it down.
And if you’re still able to snooze even after a hunt, try Ruggie — it’s an alarm clock you have to stand on until its countdown is complete to turn off the alarm.
Develop Good Habits
Once you’re up, it’s a fresh day of new decisions to make. The appropriately-named Fabulous app can set you on the path to making the ones that’ll lead you to Peak You.
Developed in the Behavioral Economics Lab at Duke University, Fabulous helps you incorporate positive changes into your life by starting small, with simple tasks like drinking water, taking vitamins and exercising for 10 minutes to complete your daily checklist.
After an initial survey of your lifestyle and goals, Fabulous custom-tailors a program that adds new habits each day and gradually increases existing ones.
The downside, though, is that it carries an annual subscription price tag of about $40.
If you don’t want to get out your credit card, Habitica is a free alternative with a huge appeal to gamers. It boasts a social network 4 million users strong that’ll help keep you inspired.
Offer a Bribe
Of course, we don’t expect you to spend all of your time battling urges for the things that make you feel good. Those are what make life worth living.
They can also help keep you motivated.
While technological assistance can help keep you on track, don’t forget to reward yourself for your efforts. Want to just sit and zone out to your guilty-pleasure TV show? (Ours is Catfish.) Offer that as a payoff for doing 45 minutes on the treadmill.
Self-bribery isn’t just an effective means of enforcing good habits and achieving your goals. It also ensures that you’re taking adequate time for self-care and you-time during your day.
And you deserve no less.
HEART: Hey, what gives? The power went out right in the middle of our show! Did you forget to pay the electric bill?
BRAIN: Nope, it’s just time for bed. We’ll watch more tomorrow — after working out.
HEART: What? This is an outrage! We’re still going for ice cream after work, right?
BRAIN: Sure thing, buddy. Hey, hypothetically speaking, how many calories do you suppose we’d work off by biking there instead of driving?
(1) ”What You Need To Know About Willpower: The Psychological Science of Self-Control.” American Psychological Association, https://www.apa.org/topics/personality/willpower. Accessed 25 Mar. 2021.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this website or provided through our blog, e-mails, or programs is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment that can be provided by your healthcare professionals.