Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
21 Feb

12 Healthy Ways to End the Day

nightAfter last week’s post on healthy ways to begin the day, how could I not cover the flip side? Just as our mornings can mirror scenes of rampant pandemonium, evenings for many people are remarkably unhealthy in their own right. We collapse and barely move from the couch. We spend hours in front of media entertainment, basking in blue light way past our intended bedtimes. We succumb to the day’s stresses and take them to bed only to lose the chance for mental rest as well as physical relaxation. There’s a better way of course. It doesn’t take much hoopla or energy to make for a healthier or more Primal evening, but the benefits will carry us through the night hours and then some.

Enjoy Physical Touch

Yes, sex was on last week’s list, but let’s expand the concept. Cuddling your kids, massaging your partner’s shoulders, or petting your dog or cat gives you a pleasant shot of oxytocin, which can help you relax and fall asleep.

Fast

Food intake, like light and sound, can trip (or trick) our circadian rhythms. Finish dinner and call it a day food-wise. Your body will benefit from the longer stretch without metabolic stress, and you’ll likely sleep better.

Choose the Messages That Bookend Your Day

Just as I think it’s important to begin the day with the messages that set the course for our morning, what we end the day with can have repercussions as well. What thoughts do you want to bring to your sleep (or subsequent lack thereof)? Consider that the local news or that hefty financial bestseller might not inspire the deepest repose. Skip the doom and didacticism in exchange for something inspiring or plain old escapist.

Carve Out Some Solitude

In that spirit, claim a little time for yourself each night – especially if you’re at work all day. Everyone could use the time to hear his/her own thoughts. Enjoy the mental space for doing whatever activity feeds and relaxes you or for doing absolutely nothing.

Set an Alarm to Go to Bed

How many of us lose total track of time as we go about our evenings? Whoa, how did it get that late? I’m not a big fan of alarms for waking up, but they can be a great reminder to turn in when you should and not when you finally remember to.

Create Order for the Next Day

A few minutes tonight will allow you to begin the next morning without undue stress and turmoil. Take care of business, write your to-do list, and you’ll sleep better knowing you’re ready for the day.

Power Down

I’ve written pretty extensively about how blue light throws off our circadian rhythms. As countercultural as it is to power down at night just when “Must See T.V.” is at its height, your health is more important than some late night show. Turn off the electrical equipment (including the smart phone) as early as possible in the evening, and dim the lights at least an hour before turning in. Fire is a nice alternative – and Primal to boot.

Spend Time in Natural (Outdoor) Darkness

I think it’s strange how we tend to avoid being outdoors once the sun sets. At no time in our evolution was this ever the case. Sure, there’s crime in many neighborhoods, but when we put the fear in perspective given our individual environments, do we give ourselves reasonable opportunity to enjoy the moods and views of the darker hours? When and wherever you can, spend some evening hours under the night sky. Notice how much different you feel there than you do simply parked on the couch.

Move

Primal truth be told, it’s never a bad time to move, but there are specific benefits to working out at night. A University of Chicago study found better hormonal responses (cortisol, thyrotropin, and glucose) in subjects who exercised in the evening or nighttime as opposed to the afternoon or morning. Even if you’re somebody who prefers to put in the heavy stuff early on in the day, use the evening as a time when you can work in some low level activity (e.g late walk around the neighborhood). Get in that last bout of activity a couple hours before bed, and then you’ll feel that blissful afterglow descend right as you’re ready to hit the sack.

Incorporate Some Mindful Movement

It’s movement, yes. Most people I know, however, see it as more relaxing. (Perfect for evening, no?) It could be a few restorative yoga poses, a few minutes of Tai Chi, or some focused stretching. Neuromovement expert, Anat Baniel, says any time we bring awareness to our movement, we’re creating new pathways. We’re working our muscles and our minds – increasing the creativity and productivity of both. Use the time to get out of your mind, so to speak, and into your body.

Follow a Ritual

I had a roommate once who literally did the exact same thing every night – same order, same timing, same activities for the same duration. After a month, his nighttime routine made me tired. When it comes down to it, we Homo sap-saps are complicated and all, but we’re just about as trainable as Pavlov’s dog. Use this inherent simplicity to your advantage. Create a regimen for the last half an hour before bed. Over time, you’ll find you may not even get through the full list anymore before you’re compelled to doze off.

Get to Bed Early

Given the time-sensitivity of sleep cycles and related hormonal secretions, every hour before midnight really is invaluable. Besides, as a friend of mine says, every decision made after 10:00 p.m. is a bad one. All the more reason to call it a day.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Be sure to share your ideas for ending the day on a Primal note.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Nice list Mark; very peaceful. Thank you and have a good night.

    Susan wrote on February 21st, 2013
  2. Good stuff Mark.

    With most things, I’m a huge fan of finding something that works and sticking with it. That includes diet and daytime or nighttime patterns. It brings a level of comfort to everyday.

    Bryan wrote on February 21st, 2013
  3. I’m planning to play ping-pong tonight with my husband – Spring is giving me the restless twitches and dinner’s been in the slow cooker all day, so it’s time for fun!

    I love the quote “every decision made after 10:00 p.m. is a bad one” I agree and will be informing by other half of this too (he works waaaaay too late)

    Thanks Mark and good night :-)

    Primal V wrote on February 21st, 2013
    • and no,’Ping-Pong’ is not a euphemism, it’s actual table tennis :-)

      Primal V wrote on February 21st, 2013
      • lol, it might also be that fuller moon this weekend. i know i am always more alive on brighter nights

        jessica rae wrote on February 21st, 2013
        • Good point!

          Primal V wrote on February 21st, 2013
      • “table tennis” reminded me of the conversation under the table between Scarlet and the little girl about “boinking” in the movie Four Weddings and a Funeral ;)

        Kathleen wrote on February 21st, 2013
    • Yeah I seem to know a lot of people that get their main sugar cravings after 10 pm too. Any idea why that is?

      Alexander wrote on February 21st, 2013
  4. I really try to get these done, but it is just not working. If I an at work early and/or my kid has a class, we’ll be in the rec centre from after work till 5 or 6 pm. Then I need to throw the dinner together while my kid (and if teaching gods are merciful) my husband doing their homework. I am lucky if the dinner is ready before the 7 pm alarm that tells us to wrap up. I don’t even think about watching TV, but I would read (to myself or my child) or play a game and drink tea after supper is cooked, served and cleaned away. I try to lit up candles for every supper, but even that is sometimes too much to handle in the short space.

    I need to go to bed at 8 – 8:30 pm, and by then I can literally crawl upstairs. I get up at 4 to start the day…. There is just not enough hours in the day. I try to fit in a short meditation and stretch about 2-3 pm unless I am too busy at work or the quiet room is occupied.

    That drinking tea and snacking as I do it – I know it is a substitute for the true relaxation, but if I try to stretch, my kiddo will jump right in, and I have to guide the session with her, which is not relaxing at all, though it is fun…

    I am trying to take up a craft. I tried crochet, but I can’t figure it out, so I decided that a pointless craft that doesn’t have to be functional, like cross-stitching could be better.

    I don’t know. Evenings are just bad. Particularly on the weekends. So tired, so many things to do, so much guilt about things not done. Like this being outside in the evening… (or in our case – the pool, since it’s freezing out of doors, and not much to do with a kid after dark on the street). I feel so guilty when I can’t fit it in, but there is homework, and dinner… even if I cook in batches, you still have to cook, because three people eat a lot of dinners, lunches and breakfasts….

    How d I stop eating after supper? It’s just so relaxing to have that tea and the good book and the nibble.

    In a year or so we will finally renovate the bathroom, so the bath I guess will be an option, but I am still not sure it will be an option with the child, and it might end up with more guilt if the child ends up watching TV while I am not there to get everyone doing something else….

    leida wrote on February 21st, 2013
    • Your days sound so much like mine, except add 2 kids, 2 dogs, a cat and 35 chickens. O.o It’s so hard! I’ve found that if I meal-plan and pre-cook as much as I can on the weekends for the weekdays, it helps. DH also gets home hours before me most days and it helps so much when he’s able to take care of some chores before I get there with the kids. He also is the one who does most homework help (for our 2 school-age kids) and toddler-distraction (for our almost-2-y/o).

      Our kids are in bed by 7:30PM on school nights. DH is usually in bed by 9PM. In the past I’d stay up until 11PM or later just to try to get a jump on the next day, but I’m slowly moving my bedtime earlier and earlier — 9:35PM last night! I’ve had to let some stuff go (my house is a mess and laundry is a weekend-only activity), but just recently I’ve made “me-time” a big priority. I started working out most days, and that time is sacrosanct. In 10 years of marriage I never made time for ME before and it is saving my sanity and my health.

      Elizabeth wrote on February 21st, 2013
      • so you did not see this coming wen you thought it would be fun to have 2 kids, 2 dogs a cat and a dozen chickens? People don’t think ahead nowadays,

        john wrote on February 22nd, 2013
        • That’s a bit rude. This woman assuredly gets great joy from having her 2 children, her pets and her chickens. It is not a question of thinking ahead, and I’m sure she didn’t just acquire children, pets and chickens on a whim because she “thought it would be fun.”

          Kate wrote on February 22nd, 2013
        • Lol, wow! I actually have 3 kids, not 2, and 3 dozen chickens. My life is very busy but a priority for our family is to produce as much of our own food as possible. That makes for a busy life. We do as much as possible to simplify our lives, and as our children get older they’ll help more and the pressure on my husband and i should ease a little.

          I simply wanted to share with the OP that I understood where she was coming from. But feel free to make all the assumptions you like. :)

          Elizabeth wrote on February 22nd, 2013
        • Sorry but I have to agree with John…it doesn’t sound like she “gets joy” and they are not assumptions but her words. I hear it from my friends all the time who defended their excuses for being fat. Did I miss something here? Did the human race just start having kids so the lifestyle and sacrifices that comes with kids cough up to you as surprise? Are we supposed to be more ‘understanding & supportive’? Umm no, your joy your problems.

          Any time I hear “I love my kids and family but they are so much work and I don’t have time for xyz’…what really reads is “I screwed up but the return policy is bad…”

          After you have kids it is not about You any more nor about Your fitness nor Your free time…and if you want to make it as such then you have to sacrifice twice as much as the rest…or stop whining in public. Everybody with some common sense knows the steps above but it is something that you work & tweak as you go along.

          New generations lack spine.

          jack the rapper wrote on May 9th, 2013
      • Yeah, I try to pre-cook as much as I can, but there are still veggie chopoping for the sides, fruit plate, table setting, dishes. Plus, I dunno, I do 2 chcikens and 2 roasts at the time, but between lunches and dinners for 3 people it is good for 2-3 days at best. And folks like more labor intensive cooking as well, like meatzzas.

        leida wrote on February 22nd, 2013
    • How old is your kid? You seem to blame alot of your stress or lack of time on him/her. Although having a child is a great responsibility, it can also be a great joy. Is he or she old enough to help with dinner and chores? Is your husband more like a second child or is he an equal partner in life’s responsibilities? Why in god’s name do you get up at 4am? These are all lifestyle choices and decisions that pile up and affect sleep habits. Simplify a little – and delegate some of your responsibilities – and you’ll free up time to wind down in the evening.
      I’m not at all trying to sound judgmental and I apologize if I do, but your comment seems like a plea for help.

      I’ve also found that making meals that cook on their own – like whole roast chicken – free up time to do other stuff while the food is cooking. A few minutes of prep, like throwing together ingredients for a soup or stew, plus an hour or so of cooking, means that you can help with the homework while dinner cooks.

      Also, if having a light snack with a cup of tea relieves stress at the end of the day, don’t stop doing it, especially if it’s not currently affecting your sleep. A small amount of the right kind of food shouldn’t be harmful, as long as you’re not taking down double cheeseburgers or banana splits right before bed.

      Mark A wrote on February 21st, 2013
      • Yeah, you do sound judgmental. Do you know personally what it’s like to work all day and raise a family? She sounds like she loves and enjoys her children, so why would you assume she’s blaming them for her lack of time? It’s just a fact of (her) life.

        Mary wrote on February 21st, 2013
        • Like I said, I apologize if it sounded judgmental, but there are plenty of words in the post that make her sound pushed to the edge. I can quote some of them if you’d like, but it’s all right there. I was just trying to offer a few tips to keep from feeling resentful about the time it takes to be a family member. I never said that I didn’t think that she doesn’t love or enjoy her child. It’s just that feeling overburdened can sometimes add to the stress and take away some of the joy and contentment.
          Would you rather that I say, “yeah, having a kid really sucks the life out of you. Carry on!”?

          Mark A wrote on February 21st, 2013
        • “Do you know personally what it’s like to work all day and raise a family?”

          I do and so may the above poster.

          I don’t think the post was particularly judgmental in the sense of naming the original poster a bad person. It can get uncomfortable, however, to get reasonably close to the truth.

          Personally, I tend to agree with the previous poster’s assessment. The real issue is not the child, it’s her reaction to the child and choosing to completely fill up her life with what’s “good” for everyone else except her.

          So, I’m going to add my “take them or leave them” thoughts on that issue.

          -Unless there’s some hideous commute involved, yes, I’d agree that no good decision happens before 6am. If commute is problem, a pay cut may well be worth it.

          -1 or *no* after school activities for the child/children. This is hard in our hyperactive/competitive society. Every single “enrichment” activity has a cost beyond the monetary one. We’ve gained so much peace after we dropped organized sports. If your kid really is a sports protege or artist to be, they will let you know and be willing to focus.

          -Try not to leave all the house work for the weekend. Flylady is a wonderful resource. Don’t let the kids watch TV or play while you clean the house. Make a clean living space a family effort, every time. It takes time but they will learn to do it well. In the meantime, let the less the perfect go.

          -Drop the whole craft idea until you’ve got some margin in your life. It just adds to the stress of an undone list. Sit your butt down with a cup o tea and blank slate.

          -Simplify the child/children’s bed time routines if they are long. I confess that I have no idea how we got to the point where the “standard” routine is an 1/2 hour to 1 hour long process of a bath, brushing their teeth, PJs and then a bedtime story. From the “bad but sane” mother files, my kids got in the PJs, brushed their teeth, and hopped into bed with a kiss. Baths are a once a week thing. The older two have learned to read well without every evening turning into storytime.

          -It’s not necessary to give in to every whim your child has, even if you work for pay 50+ hours a week. If you need to stretch/meditate, put your child off until you are done. Timers work wonderfully as an objective judge. My kids were always willing to go along with a timer.

          -Especially if your child is young, be willing to push back on the teacher about the homework. There’s a terrible trend now a days where elementary school teachers seem to think the job is to design arts and crafts projects for the whole family. Remember that only the 3 R’s are critical and there’s a lifetime for the rest.

          If it seems like it’s becoming your job to teach your child the basics, I think it would be well worth the time to talk to the teacher and the principal about the impact on your homelife when these things don’t get done in school. And have the courage say “no” in advance to the fluff. Trust me, many of the parents are thinking the same thing.

          Amy wrote on February 21st, 2013
        • I found this series to be a classic woman brain/man brain call and response. A woman posts her thoughts to express herself. A man responds with actions to take (i.e. potentially solve a problem). In “woman-ese” she is not really looking for answers, she wants to communicate and work her way through it.

          Am I way offbase with observation?

          As a guy I totally understand Mark A’s logic and response.

          Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on February 21st, 2013
        • Bon -

          LOL – You’re probably right about the Mars/Venus thing. However, as a woman of the female gender, I too, occasionally get frustrated with my gender’s proclivity to complain without actually wanting to change. ;)

          Besides, her life really does sound..well crowded. You can vent all you want, but overfilling the day, regardless of gender, won’t change with a few “tips and tricks”.

          Amy wrote on February 21st, 2013
        • I agree with Mark and Bon on this one. It is hard not to sound judgemental when offering solutions to what appears to be someone on the edge. I heard only someone offering help. But I’m a guy. I would also add that if there are any households with 2 parents that work 50+ hours, that is just a recipe for disaster.

          Nocona wrote on February 21st, 2013
        • I think this lady sounds like a whiny brat. Stop whining, teach your kids to help out, get your lazy husband to help out and stop getting up at 4 am, because it’s insane. There’s no reason ONE child should cause a parent to implode that way. Unless of course you are not prepared to be a parent, like so many other lousy parents out there.

          Blue wrote on February 22nd, 2013
      • It’s not judgmental, it’s just hard to understand living in our city. It is really bad. Very dynamic, huge urban sprawl, badly overloaded infrastructure and services. I have to work downtown, since everything is downtown here that is connected to my field.

        My husband is in his second year of full-time teaching after having had been out of work for many years (IT woes) and going back to school to get his second teaching degree, so he works endless hours on marking and prep. His only chance to make carrier in what’s left of our worklife.

        He does laundry, I do cooking, we split the dishwasher duty and we have house cleaners. Normally he does the mornings with the kid, and I do the evenings till I drop off, but now I am taking that PD course, so I work later so I am also doing mornings.

        Plus, he never braids her hair which is frustrating to me. I am thinking to cover mornings at least 4 days a week from now on to make sure she doesn’t look like a witch with a hairband. And, maybe then he can come home a bit earlier too, by like 7 pm, that’s all I want.

        We live in a dynamic city with a huge urban sprawl, the most expensive parking n the world, and half the down town starts at 6 am. So we are typical. The earlier you go, the shorter is the commute.

        We have to live in suburbia because otherwise there are no decent schools. At least in our neighborhood my daughter is covered by a no busing schools till grade 9 and we’ve got her in the before/after school care right in the school finally (accomplishment!) and she is on the waiting list for that for the next school in 3 years, so fingers crossed! After she is done Grade 9, we’ll move downtown to eliminate the commute.

        The climate here is horrid, so I make sure she is in sports after school so she gets to move around. Come May-June, when it is hopefully warmer, she won’t be in sports, but in the backyard while i am gardening.

        Maybe we dot on our child too much, but that’s just how we are.

        I don’t think her homework is unrelated to school. It’s writing, reading and music. We’ll probably cut off music next year, because she pushes back so much lately, but I dunno. It will be a pity.

        I have already cut out walking to the bus stuff from my schedule, and the only other thing I can cut out is going for a run or walk at lunch and the gym time. Which is something I like doing and don’t want to lose.

        All and all I just need to push myself not to soothe myself with tea but with something else, that’s all.

        leida wrote on February 22nd, 2013
        • Herbal tea? Some of them aren’t very satisfying, but I’ve found some good ones that don’t interfere with sleep. I like blueberry rooibos. Anything with chamomile and/or mint are also good at night. Not a fan of Celestial Seasonings brand though – I think they powder the ingredients too much so everything comes out bitter.
          Anyway, best of luck – it sounds like your child has great parents who really care. Careers and continuing education can really take a toll, so hopefully the sacrifices now will mean more peace of mind in the future.

          Mark A wrote on February 22nd, 2013
    • I’ve done both cross stitching and crochet. Cross-stitch sound easier, but it’s more work. And stay the HECK away from “counted” cross-stitch.

      oxide wrote on February 21st, 2013
      • Lol. Have done those counted cross-stitch. Always pretty, but NEVER perfect.

        Beth wrote on February 21st, 2013
    • Leida – Pretty please don’t let this list stress you out more or give you guilt if you can’t do ALL of these things. It sounds like you’re stressing out because of the things you aren’t able to do because of time restrictions, but you shouldn’t. You’re a mom and you work full time – it sounds to me that you’re doing a great job. Don’t focus on all the things you aren’t doing, go easy on yourself. Feeling guilty is no way to unwind and no one can do everything in the world that would benefit them. Find the things that you can easily fit in given your life, and feel good about that. :) If you’re working, raising a kid, and feeding your family quality home-made meals, you’re a rockstar!

      Susie wrote on February 21st, 2013
      • +1!!!

        Mary wrote on February 21st, 2013
  5. Excellent list indeed! Good evening and good night from Kabul, Afghanistan!!!

    Jesse wrote on February 21st, 2013
    • Making an assumption here, but:
      Thank you for your service!

      Beth wrote on February 21st, 2013
  6. Great list. I had set an alarm to remind me to get to bed… and would snooze it too! Still working on a way to get to bed earlier…

    again +1 on the sex thing.

    bjjcaveman wrote on February 21st, 2013
  7. Mark, these are great suggestions and I already do several of them; however, my girlfriends works as a nurse from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. 3 days a week.

    Her sleep schedule gets really messed up because it’s not the same 3 days every week and she is sometimes on call, which further complicates things.

    Do you have any suggestions or resources for regulating sleep cycles for people with irregular schedules?

    Alex wrote on February 21st, 2013
  8. These are some great tips. I use to have so much trouble sleeping and I think it is because I use to do the opposite of all these! After some time I was able to get back on track and get some good sleep!

    Ed wrote on February 21st, 2013
  9. I’m a night shift worker – 3 12-hour shifts per week, 7PM-7AM, rotating days. I’ve developed quite a few coping mechanisms, but I am always looking for more! Being primal is the #1 help for surviving this schedule and even liking it. I of course want everyone to be primal, but especially people with irregular schedules/sleep cycles.

    Siobhan wrote on February 21st, 2013
    • You’re not the only night worker here. My body’s always been more naturally attuned to being awake at night than during the day, and the advantages of working at night, namely, more pay, and more time with my family during the day, keep me on this shift.

      Primal lifestyle has helped me immensely. I’ve lost weight and I feel more alert and energetic than ever. But I wonder if Mark has any advice for those of us who can’t switch to a day schedule. :)

      Amy wrote on February 21st, 2013
      • I think Mark has written about those of us who work graveyard shift. You just have to adopt as many primal habits as possible. Obviously there are many that we cannot follow because of our sleep schedules. Just do the best you can. You’re already doing so much by eating primal!

        Jen wrote on February 21st, 2013
      • This was a great article he wrote a while back: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/dear-mark-late-night-work-shifts/#axzz2LZ2LMRrf.

        My boyfriend works graveyard as a cop and I have wrung my hands about it for a long time. Eating paleo has made a huge difference for him!

        Susie wrote on February 21st, 2013
  10. I think a new night-time alarm is now in order! Perhaps that will take care of some of the early morning grogginess and lack of muster.

    Brent wrote on February 21st, 2013
  11. I have had trouble in the past where I don’t feel like I get enough alone time in the evenings (Open concept floorplans do have their downsides). It would make me quite grumpy. The perfect solution for me was to take a shower at night. Suddenly I resumed perkiness!

    Jillian wrote on February 21st, 2013
  12. Great list!

    Kathleen wrote on February 21st, 2013
  13. I think everyone should touch everyone they know as much as possible.

    Trevor Montana wrote on February 21st, 2013
    • Ew.

      Madama Butterfry wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  14. A gentle stretch in the evening gets rid of tension that might have accumulated throughout the day in the neck, shoulders and back. A few minutes is all it takes.

    Helga wrote on February 21st, 2013
  15. The more I have organized for the next morning, the better I sleep! Less on the mind. I also installed f.Lux on my phone, and I noticed a big difference in how quickly I can get to sleep now! It’s amazing what blue light can do to ya!

    Paul wrote on February 21st, 2013
  16. I take an after dinner walk, avoid all snacking/food/caffeine after dinner around 6pm. Catch on MDA and other such websites while wearing my orange glasses!!

    Asif wrote on February 21st, 2013
  17. I’ve found using colored “party” bulbs around the house looks cool. Since I started reading this blog I have replaced the blue and green ones with more orange red and yellow giving the house a mellow relaxing vibe.

    Brian Clasby wrote on February 21st, 2013
    • Brian, just don’t put that red light on your front porch!

      Nocona wrote on February 21st, 2013
  18. I recently came to the realization that I stay up too late because going to bed feels like giving up on the day. In other words, I don’t feel like my day has been satisfying enough. If I’m bored at work or don’t accomplish anything on my own time, going to bed just seems like quitting. I’m teaching myself to have more satisfying days by getting things done that I want to get done. I made up a house rule called “one thing,” where I pick one thing every evening to finish that night. It could be a small home improvement task or writing a blog or taking the dogs for an extended walk. If I’m not feeling inspired, I’ll pick something really basic like cleaning the bathroom. At the end of the evening, I can at least look back and feel like I haven’t been wasting time.

    Mark A wrote on February 21st, 2013
    • I do that as well, Mark. I like to feel that I have been productive during the day, so I choose a few things to get done during the day and accomplish at least one of them. It makes me feel better at the end of the day….that it wasn’t a waste.

      Karen DeLee wrote on February 21st, 2013
  19. Stretch! When I get done stretching I just feel like puddy and want to go to bed. Even better if I can get someone else to stretch me!

    Luke DePron wrote on February 21st, 2013
    • I expect you meant putty, but as mis-spellings go it could have been a lot worse.

      Craig wrote on February 21st, 2013
  20. Thanks so much for this list. I’m going to work on making a calm evening routine part of my norm and getting to be at a decent time. Shared this on my page because I know there’s so many folks that don’t think twice about how detrimental poor sleep is to their health.

    Julie wrote on February 21st, 2013
  21. To all the moms and dads out there that are upset about not having time to make a calm nighttime and make dinner as well, here’s a bit of advice: don’t make crazy food for dinner! I have a one, two, and three and a half year old and I work full time at night six nights a week. They eat all their good super foods during the day. Fruits, veggies, tons of protein and of course their milks, but at night I usually leave the nanny with a very light dinner for her to give them. ANY meat takes like 15 minutes under the broiler and ive had no complaints from anyone on the quality of cooking. Add some chopped broccoli steamed for a couple minutes and they’re happy as clams. Especially if they get strawberries or blueberries as dessert!

    It took a lot of time for me to accept that I didn’t have to cook a five star meal for dinner. I literally have no dishes to wash after our dinners cuz I use foil to line the pan in the oven and a non stick rack for the meat. The kids and their daddy have never eaten so well at dinner time before!

    I usually fix it, put it in the oven and get ready for work. By the time I’m ready to leave, dinner is ready and nobody’s been the wiser that I was cooking!

    Shelly wrote on February 21st, 2013
  22. One of my favorite things about summer is being outside at night. Unfortunately in Boston, it’s just not that fun during February!

    Lauren wrote on February 21st, 2013
  23. NOTHING prepares you for bedtime more than a hot bath, whether it’s a 5 min soak or a 30 min soak. I learned this from my Japanese parents, who learned it from their parents…and so on.

    Jen wrote on February 21st, 2013
    • There’s actual science behind this one. The hot bath or shower raises your body temperature. When you then go to bed your body temperature starts to drop. A dropping body temperature makes you fall asleep more easily.

      That’s why you also want to avoid making your bed/room too warm, and it’s one of the mechanisms behind why sex makes you sleep better.

      Lyn wrote on February 21st, 2013
      • Perhaps also one of the mechanisms behind why exercise at night makes you sleep better?

        Alyssa wrote on February 21st, 2013
  24. Ha, a few weeks ago I started setting an alarm to tell me to “shut down” and go to bed. My husband kept making fun of me for it. Now I can show him, “Well, Mark says!”

    Emily wrote on February 21st, 2013
    • +1!!

      I started using the bedtime alarm a little over a month ago after getting tired of hearing myself saying “I need to go to bed earlier.” I enjoy getting up in the morning with the light but found myself getting ‘stuck’ in front of the computer until midnight. I was getting less than 6 hours of sleep feeling a little like a zombie in the middle of the day.

      When I started using the alarm for bed, I got a few strange looks from my guy but he played along. Now he’ll respond first when the alarm goes off by starting to get ready for bed.

      Turns out I’m not the only one that feels more rested with an extra hour or two of sleep :-)

      Plus, if we’re not quite ready for sleep, there’s time for conversation – or other bonding activities – which was an unintended, but much appreciated side effect.

      Eds wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  25. Two observation on the clear desire of the body to naturally want some of the things Mark is proposing about the right way to get ready for bed. I notice that I have an impulse to eat about 9 pm. (I eat dinner at 5:15 or so generally) When I muffle that desire, I discover that I don’t actually wake up hungry the next morning. I wake up ready to eat, but not hungry. So point number 1 is trust that your body will be more than fine if you don’t eat. Point #2 deals with sleeping and going to bed earlier. It’s another area where you might have a certain level of fear that you aren’t tired enough. When I started to stop thinking and just simply go, I found that my body loved it. There’s a natural quality to just letting your body go to bed.

    Cheryl Boswell wrote on February 21st, 2013
  26. Hard to follow the ‘No TV’ at night advice when you’re half-way through to ‘Game of Thrones’ :-)

    Rocky wrote on February 21st, 2013
  27. All so true…. I knew I woke up early from night shift to read something positive!
    Hope everyone is having a great day!
    Rod

    Rod Hilton wrote on February 21st, 2013
  28. To all mums and dads in the world, “go to bed early regularly” Rule does not apply to you. You will try the impossible as claimed again and again by every parent to your right and left and before you. Parenting is second most important part in your life after reproduction and IS a primal blueprint in itself for the survival and wellbeing of your children.

    If you do it, do it with LOVE so that your children will call it magic. I am proud of my mum for being awake for even whole nights to put up the Christmas tree, cook, bake cakes, watch us when we were sick so that day time she can play and just be with us cos my dad was working.

    And as a mum myself, I actually find night time relaxing while is a sacrifice of the many that a parent does. After all, I call it investment just like breast feeding which it takes 1-2% time of your lifetime but offers the base I the child development and much more…it’s hard to see it this way when our modern society is pushing on careers, materialism and do-it-all efficiency

    I will say it loud and clear:
    I AM PROUD OF YOU FOR DOING IT AND YOU SHOULD BE TOO!
    Just I keep it sane, if you cannot control it and you feel stressed about it, look and find help.
    Sincerely,
    Another mum same like you

    Ionela wrote on February 21st, 2013
  29. I love “Choose the messages that bookend your day” – so very true.
    I have a habit of reading before bedtime (often the only time I have to read). When I was reading the Song of Ice and Fire series, my sleep was awful – both from the horrible imagery in those books and from inability to put a book down once I get into it. That’s when I started keeping one of the Harry Potter books by my bedside to read if I can’t sleep. There’s enough escapism in Hogwarts to give me good thoughts when I finally get to sleep and I’ve read the series enough times that I no longer get into the “can’t put it down” mode. This way, I can read a litte when I can’t sleep, put it down as soon as I get drowsy, and have magical dreams to follow.
    I keep my new reading in the living room.

    Julia wrote on February 21st, 2013
    • haha, I do that too — read well-loved familiar books at bedtime otherwise I’m up till 2 to finish a new library book! (I read way too fast!) Children’s books like the Little House series or Anne of Green Gables are perfect. I find cookbooks are good too for bedtime reading…no violence, no plot…

      Anne wrote on February 21st, 2013
    • Lord of the Rings for me. Like visiting old friends. :)

      gibson wrote on February 21st, 2013
  30. There are lots of great ideas on here. I resound with Amy who pushes back on homework for primary school children. I told all my three not to bother with it and wrote to the school to tell them so. There is no evidence to show that it creates smarter children. My eldest got a general excellence scholarship to high school and never did a scratch of homework. And I never read to them either – working full time, coming home and cooking and trying to do ‘readers’ was way too much in my book. Mine also had ten minutes to get into bed and that was that!
    I think the advice here from many people is to be kind to yourself, and not bust a gut to live up to anyone else’s expectations, even Mark the man!
    There is a guy called Nigel Latta who takes a very pragmatic view of parenting, and he delivers as a comedian, worth looking at his videos, they will resonate, and they will make you laugh.

    Mazwegian wrote on February 21st, 2013
    • Loving thut kaway uccent?

      Madama Butterfry wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  31. Great article! I just recently switched from night shifts in the service industry to day shifts. I’ve been experiencing lack of free time because as soon as I come home from work it’s dark and all I want to do is veg out. Usually I would do chores during the day before I started my night shift. Now it seems like my chores are getting pushed over on my days off, so I’ve been stressed out from lack of me/fun time.
    I do like the idea of spending some time outside in the dark. Maybe that’s why I always linger when I take out the trash. It’s nice to look at the stars (the few I can see in the city).

    Rachel M wrote on February 21st, 2013
  32. On the note about sex before bed, I remember in my Human Sexuality class in college I learned that men and women release different neurochemicals after achieving orgasm. Something like the male’s reaction is drowsiness (hence the stereotype of the guy rolling over and snoring 2 mins later) while females release dopamine (WIIIIIDE awake).
    I can relate. Same goes for watching porn before bed… not a good idea. But maybe it’s just the blue light? Lol.
    So has anyone heard of this?

    Rachel M wrote on February 21st, 2013
  33. I light candles all the time at home. If people pass outside walking their dog or just being nosy (yes, i live in a small town) they always think i’m “entertaining”. But no, it’s just me, and the cat and bottle of red wine, and game of thrones (although don’t really suggest that before bed…that shiza be intense!)

    melissa wrote on February 21st, 2013
  34. Going to bed early is paramount in my life. If I don’t get enough sleep I definitely notice the next day and don’t feel as if I can focus on doing anything – aka, I am not productive. I power down around 9:45/10pm every night and then unwind for about an hour by playing games, reading, etc. It really does help.

    Another delicious way to get some good sleep is by getting a massage before heading off to bed… Your your significant other to do it for ya ;)

    GiGi wrote on February 21st, 2013
  35. Morning routine – great.
    Diet – excellent.
    Exercise program – top notch.
    End of day routine – lousy at best, needs a complete overhaul per Mark’s suggestions.

    George wrote on February 21st, 2013
  36. Sometimes bad time sleeping can cause serious health problems and it’s often better to eat 3 hours before sleeping which is good for digestive purposes. Avoid night time cravings with some juice or milk.

    Liam Rubel wrote on February 21st, 2013
  37. I like to eat right up until bedtime. I always get hungry just before I sleep. Then again, I don’t eat solid food in the morning until I’ve been up for at least five hours…just some heavy organic whipping cream in my tea. Reading, petting and cuddling with my cats, yes to massage and partner time. Yes to laying everything out for the next day (food packed for the cooler, clothes laid out). Yes to solitude, happy thoughts. And a nice hot shower and cold beer (OK, not primal. 20 %).

    DThalman wrote on February 21st, 2013
  38. I don’t see anything about a vodka martini here…

    PatrickP wrote on February 21st, 2013
  39. So, I’m reading this at 2am…
    And tonight, I’m doing 2.5 out of the 12. Goodnight anyway.

    Bill C wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  40. Finally started my own blog; if anyone’s interested, just follow my link. I’ve got rants, stories, poems.. This way I won’t feel the “need” to spam so much here, and I’ve wanted to share some of my old saved textual compilations for a while, just never bothered to get around to it. Blame the artificial Red and whatnot. : )
    And since this comment is unrelated to the PB, I understand if a moderator removes it, taking advantage of the new internet regulating laws.

    Animanarchy wrote on February 22nd, 2013

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