I was listening to a podcast a few weeks ago, I can’t remember what it was or who was talking, but there was a bit in it that really stuck with me. They were talking about boundaries, and how we go about creating them for ourselves, and the guest posed a question:
What time do you really want to go to bed?
She explained that bedtimes are a great starting point for thinking about boundaries, because we rarely go to bed at the time we want to. I thought about it a lot and it feels so true to me.
Consider the question for a minute. If you lived alone, felt no judgement when you were out in the evenings, just listened to your body and prioritised yourself – if you were basically a cat – what time would you go to bed? How different is that from when you actually go to bed?
Let’s think about some examples…
Perhaps you’re out with friends, on some work drinks maybe, in the pub, and you get to that point in the evening where you think ‘I’d quite happily go home and go to bed now with a nice cup of tea‘. (We all get there right? That’s not just me?) How often do you listen to that instinct and actually go home and go to bed, and relish having the best mattress and the cosiest blankets? My money is on ‘not often.’
Or maybe you’re at home, and you’re tired, but the washing up still needs doing, or you start faffing about tidying something up, or finishing off a bit of work that could probably wait but feels useful. Really you want to go to bed, but all of these littles chores start jostling for your attention and you end up staying up that extra hour.
For me I think it’s even more generic than that. I’ve always been naturally more of an early morning person, but somehow that just doesn’t feel cool. It’s not cool or fun to go to bed at 9pm is it? Even though by then my brain has completely switched off and my legs have starting twitching, I’ve trained myself over the years to drag out bedtime until after 10pm as a minimum, just because it feels like what’s expected of me.
How crazy is that? Why can I not just notice that I’m tired, say goodnight and go to bed?
It’s become more noticeable as Belle has got older, as she finds it hard to get to sleep and is often awake into the early hours of the morning. That period of time when I’m asleep but she’s still awake is her least favourite, and so she gets sad when I go to bed. I feel guilty, like I should be awake with her whenever she needs me to be awake, which is ridiculous, but as parents we do these things to ourselves. I don’t stay awake with her until the early hours obviously, because I physically couldn’t, and I do understand that she needs to understand that, but I do stay up later every night than I expect I would on my own.
It’s the same when I’m staying with friends or family. I will get to around 9pm and start to feel tired, but it feels to me like letting the side down or being a boring guest if I go to bed. I stay up, but I’m thinking about bed, weighing up in my mind how early I can legitimately go to bed.
I spoke to my sister about it, because she actually likes to stay up late, the crazy fool, and although she couldn’t really identify with wanting to go to bed at 9pm, she said she felt the same pressure but with getting up. When we talked about it I realised that not being a morning person probably comes with even more pressure because there’s way less flexibility in the mornings. Society is set up around having prescribed start times for work and school and most people simply don’t have the option for a later start.
I found it interesting, the way we squeeze ourselves into this schedule that society as ascribed us, even though so few of us naturally fit into what are considered ‘normal’ times for getting up or going to bed.
How do you see yourself in this? Are you a night owl forced to get up earlier than you’d like or a morning person staying up late so as not to appear desperately uncool? Or perhaps you’ve managed to create a lifestyle for yourself that fits around how you want to sleep?
Leave a comment and let me know.