Three Things to Avoid before Bedtime

If you were a fly on the wall of our house around 9 o’clock in the evening, this is what you might hear me say to my dear wife, Katy, “Ok, Love, I am going to do the dishes.”  This sounds much more heroic than it actually is. 

The reality is that doing the dishes is the start of my bed-time routine. It means I have mustered enough willpower to surrender my free-time and am winding down for the night.

[I define ‘free-time’ here as the time parents have each evening between putting the kids down and putting themselves down.]

This vocalized clue to my wife means I would like her to get off the computer and start moving along the same lines. You may think me a cruel husband, but I say it with pure love. Besides, I assume this is what that erudite student of ancient Athens, Clement of Alexandria, means when he recommends that “our talk must turn to sleep” after supper and evening prayers.

You may, at this point, expect a long list of quotes from medical studies demonstrating the deplorable fact that the average America is radically sleep deprived. But do these empirical resources change our sleeping habits, alter the pool of our own experience, or help us reflect on the beauty and mystery of sleep?

[Related Post: "Does Your Sleeping Arrangement Meet These Requirements?"]

The ill effects of sleep deprivation we know, all too well: the modern grouchy, slug and his sister, the caffeine wired maniac. The grogster’s mind befogged, tongue stumbling over the teeth, productivity floundering, while his twin, the addict, appears at work wearing her artificially jovial smile, nervously talkative, sequestering a short fused temper she has acquired from adrenal burnout. Yet we persist in our ways because our emotional attachment to work or entertainment is stronger than our feelings of regard for sleep.

So here is my list of Three Things NOT to Do before Sleep:
  1. Eat Heavy Food and Alcohol. I don’t sleep well after a huge meal. It effects my dreams and prohibits a spiritual aliveness necessary for quality sleep. I sleep better after a day of good exercise, wholesome work, a lighter supper - like soup and salad, and night prayers.
  2. Sit in front of the Computer Screen and other activities under bright electric lights. Darkness stimulates the pineal gland to releases the essential hormone, melatonin. Melatonin gets the body ready for sleep (and boosts the immune system - bonus!) I shut the computer off and start turning lights down around nine o’clock so that I can be asleep by ten.
  3. Plan your Business Growth. My wife and I run a home-based business. We read a lot of books about entrepreneurship and making residual income.  I can’t tell you how many nights I have gone to bed only to lie wide awake for hours thinking about business growth and opportunities. If you are like me and have to read in order to wind-down at night, read a classical novel or something boring.
Some people would also add exercise to this list. As a former Marine, I would have to qualify that as ‘light exercise’. Heavy exercise before bed will put you to sleep in seconds. Trust me, I have lots of experience.

What activities do you need to avoid before bed? Share your experience in the comments below.