Ever wondered what effect your nighttime routine might be having on the following day? If you’re not getting enough sleep or waking up to a mess, for example, there’s an excellent chance your mood and productivity will suffer.
The good news is that with just a few key steps caregivers can look forward to smoother mornings that lead to getting more done throughout the rest of the day.
Catch those Z’s
It might sound like a cliché but the importance of a good night’s sleep cannot be overstated. Not only does it affect your mood and productivity, but not getting enough rest can harm your memory, immune system and even your heart. High-quality sleep will ensure you have the energy to get a jump on the morning and power through the rest of the day.
While you probably already know to aim for at least seven hours per night, it’s not quite that simple for everyone. Untreated insomnia can make it difficult for some people to sleep more than a few hours at a time and may require medical intervention. Fortunately, most folks can benefit from a few small tricks to entice slumber, such as drinking a warm glass of milk or breathing exercises. Even better: By adding the following steps to your nighttime routine your mind will be able to unwind and worry less about the next day. Now that’s the ultimate sleep aid.
1. Make a to-do list
In the 2011 film “I Don’t Know How She Does It,” Sarah Jessica Parker’s character highlighted the ubiquitous “List” — a mental rundown of to-do’s that caregivers of all types can get stuck obsessing over when they should be drifting off to sleep instead. Making an actual to-do list before you climb into bed is a great way to acquiesce a busy brain. By writing down each item on paper or in an app, your mind can let go and rest easy that sleep won’t cause you to forget anything important. Writing a to-do list at night also aids in efficiency because you can get straight to it first thing upon waking, instead of taking time to ponder what needs to be done.
Apps can be a great way to keep track of a to-do list. Tick Tick (available for Android, Windows and Apple operating systems) comes with calendars and timers for the ultimate organizational experience. Microsoft fans can go with Microsoft To Do, which can sync with other apps on the platform, such as Cortana and Outlook for a seamless experience. Google has its own version – Google Tasks – which works with Gmail and Google Calendar but offers a simpler interface. For Apple loyalists, OmniFocus and Things are both excellent options. If you’d rather do without all of the bells and whistles, a note-taking app is an excellent way to keep a to-do list on your phone.
For those who prefer pen and paper, make sure your lists stays somewhere visible, which will increase its effectiveness. If you start your morning with coffee or tea, for example, consider leaving the list near the coffee pot or kettle. The bathroom counter can also be a good spot.
2. Meal prep and planning
Without fuel, the next day’s productivity will inevitably be shot. Making meal prep a part of your nightly routine can help alleviate stress and ensure you’re not running on empty—even if it’s as simple as packing a lunch for the next day. It can also be helpful to plan out any meals to be cooked the next day to guarantee all ingredients are on hand.
“Meal prep definitely helps in terms of having healthy meals ready to go when you want to eat,” explained Leslie Moon, founder of Life Balance After 50. “It prevents us from ordering unhealthier takeout food because we aren’t prepared. It also helps prevent us from skipping meals on the days where exhaustion has taken over.”
3. Clean up!
Waking up to dirty dishes in the sink, cluttered counters or a messy bedroom can wreak havoc on your mood first thing – causing stress and anxiety – and it may even make it hard to sleep at night. Safeguard your morning productivity by making a quick cleaning session a part of your evening routine. Make sure the dishes are washed—or at least loaded into the dishwasher. Put away any laundry that’s still lying around, clean off tables and counters, and pick up any clutter off the floor.
4. Choose your clothes
Take the stress out of deciding what to wear in the morning by picking out your clothes the night before. Additionally, by physically laying out your clothes it will be easy to see if a garment needs to be mended or replaced before the morning rush hits.
Seeing clothes laid out can also jog your memory, Moon said:
“I lay out my workout clothes the night before. This helps to ensure that I am more likely to take the time to exercise.”
5. Wind down
It’s important to have a consistent bedtime routine that signals to your mind and body it’s time to shut off and rest for the night. Whether it’s reading a book or enjoying a cup of chamomile tea, the ritual will help prepare you for that good night’s sleep that’s so imperative. This can be difficult for caregivers whose loved one lives with them and may have unexpected care needs. Moon gave the following tips for such a situation:
- Ask family members to provide regular help.
- Hire outside help.
- Adjust your evening routine around care needs but don’t neglect it.
- Join a caregiver support group or community.
While it can be difficult to ask for help – especially at the end of the night when it might feel like you just need to push through – Moon makes this reminder:
“We are no good to anyone else if we aren’t caring for ourselves. Eating right, exercising regularly, and sleeping are all a part of this.”