It's easy enough to decide to go to bed strictly at a certain time, but actually doing it is another story. We often get carried away in the late hours of the night, trying to knock off just a few more things we wanted to do, whether it's for work or fun. The next day, we're tired and filled with regret, yet we don't stop. If this sounds like you, it's time to start "force quitting" yourself at the end of the day. Here's how.
Photo by Alberto Zornetta (Shutterstock).
Part of the reason it's so easy to ignore your set bedtime is that the world around you doesn't stop. The lights can stay on all night, and so can your computer, television, music player or whatever else. Making things worse, you have few distractions in the evening when stores are closed and people are home in bed. You should be one of those people, but working at night gets very attractive when you have nothing to stop you from focusing on what you want to do. Of course, when regret sets in the next morning, you remember why staying up too late is actually a bad idea. But you have to work through your fatigue, so you do, sometimes with the aid of caffeine, guarana or some other substance, and then you can't get back to sleep at night. And the cycle continues.
There is no easy fix to a bad sleep schedule, but there is a way to force yourself into one. You have to force quit yourself, or more specifically, make the world around you shut down so your only option is getting to bed at the right time.
Automatically Shutdown Your Computer on a Schedule
It's a lesser-known feature of your computer's operating system, but you can actually shut down (or sleep) your machine at a set time every night. You can even have that time vary from night to night if necessary. If you find yourself working on your computer too late, this feature is incredibly helpful. You'll know it's on and that it's coming and you'll need to finish your work before the computer tries to close it without even asking. If you want the computer to be ready to go again in the morning, you can schedule a startup time, too. Whether you're on Windows or Mac, just follow these instructions to set it up.
Automatically Shut Off Your Lights
While it might get a little expensive if you need to get into the wiring, much of the lighting in our homes is handled by lamps and other plug-in sources. To make those lights shut off automatically, all you need is an automatic timer. While you might not mind working in the dark, when the lights turn off it'll be a cue that it's time to wrap things up and remind you to get to bed. You'll need to employ a small amount of willpower to avoid turning the lights back on, but if you employ these other methods, you shouldn't have too much trouble.
Schedule An Interruption
We generally use our alarms as a means of waking up in the morning, but scheduling an alarm to tell you when to go to sleep can be useful as well. Although you can use a standard alarm, choosing one that requires you to actually do something can be a lot better. You don't want to exert too much energy or you'll wake yourself up, but performing a small task can shift your mind away from what you're doing and break your concentration so you'll feel better about calling it quits. Our favourite Android clock app, Alarm Clock Xtreme, has an option that requires you to do a maths problem to shut it off. Something this simple can be very effective. Math Alarm will do the same thing for iPhone. Alternatively, Morning Routine forces you to scan a barcode or two. Either way, this distraction can make it much easier to stop doing what you're doing and get to sleep.
This Won't Be Easy (at First)
In the beginning this process will be hard. You'll sit awake in bed, unable to fall asleep. Your mind may be full of thoughts, and you may need to suffer through the boredom of being awake in bed for a little while. Eventually your body will take the cue and you will fall asleep when you want. Just stop with the caffeine (at least after 2pm), don't take a nap, and suffer through the fatigue until you're back to normal. It's unpleasant, but eventually you won't need to bother force-quitting yourself every night. I used to use this plan way back in high school when I kept falling asleep in class. I told my teachers what I was doing and to shake me if it looked like I was falling asleep. I managed to get things under control in about a week, and now I can tell myself I'm going to stop working at a specific time no matter what, and then I will actually do it. If you decide to give this a shot, I highly recommend setting your force-quit time an hour prior to when you actually need to go to sleep. This way you can plan to do everything you need to do before then and give yourself an hour to do whatever you want before you have to sleep. Good luck and sweet dreams!