If you’ve been with us for awhile now, you know that we are creatures of habit (especially Mike). Our morning routine, in particular, has evolved into a well-organized practice. Early wake up, stretching or yoga, coffee, journaling, quiet time with each other over more coffee (alright, alright…we both drink at least three a day, stop counting!), and sometimes exercise. The reason this morning routine works so well is because we also have an evening routine that, when adhered to, gets us ready for a restful night of sleep before the early morning wakening.
But when anything messes with said routines, we’re left feeling groggy, sometimes for several days. If social plans or alcohol consumption keep us up past 10 PM (gasp!), all bets are off. And oh boy, if and when we ever have kids (don’t worry, parents…if you’re reading, it’s ‘when’, I just like the saying ‘if and when’), we have been made fully aware that these routines will fly out the window. But in the meantime, we’ll to stick to our curmudgeonly habits, thank you very much.
London is a characteristically late city. So when a fellow city-resident finds out about these habits, they’re usually incredulous. Just last week, I spent the better part of a half hour explaining to a new acquaintance what time our alarms go off.
“But…that’s by choice? Don’t you work for yourself? Can’t you sleep in till nine?”
I gave the usual explanation – yes, I could theoretically get up that late but I’d end up feeling like a slug, and I’d also miss out on peaceful time with Mike before he heads off to work.
“But you must have to go to bed at a ghastly hour to be able to wake up that early!”
“Well,” I said, “I’m not sure what you mean by ‘ghastly hour’ but yes, we go to bed fairly early.”
“But how do you go to sleep that early? You can’t possibly go to the pub and watch programs before bed then?”
“Er, yes you’re correct. We don’t really do that during the week if we can avoid it. And we don’t have a TV anyway.”
“So…you’re just…well rested? All week long?”
“Um, yes, I suppose so, that’s the goal anyway,” I replied.
“Good grief, I haven’t felt rested since before university.”
This conversation made me aware of just how odd our habits may seem to others, so by no means am I suggesting that the below routine is for everyone. Everyone is different. Some people are night owls, like my business partner Kyle who will send me a work email just before he goes to sleep, which I then see a few minutes later when Mike and I wake up. Others don’t need these sorts of routines to keep themselves productive. But if you’re at all interested in what our evening routine looks like, and you’d like to adopt some of the habits into your own, I’ve listed them below.
Cook a meal from scratch
For some, cooking a meal after a long day, or on any day for that matter, may seem like a chore or a major production. But for me, it’s therapeutic. On the weekdays, we tend to cook healthier, simpler meals. The healthy, simple meals also tend to be faster to prepare anyway, so they fit right into our busier weekday schedule. And on the weekends, it’s an all out kitchen-fest to experiment with indulgent recipes and new techniques. Balance right? Either way, the preparation process is calming to me. It allows me to process the day’s events almost the same way as going out for a run. When I’m dicing vegetables, or pan-roasting chicken (in our trusty cast iron skillet of course!), I’m really thinking about that meeting I had earlier that annoyed me. Then I can leave those thoughts behind with the day, and enjoy the upcoming meal with Mike.
Have dinner by candlelight
Awhile ago, Mike read about the benefits of having dinner by candlelight on Mr. Money Mustache’s blog. MMM reminds us that fire, and thus candlelight, has been a long standing symbol for gatherings. Enjoying an evening meal by candlelight, in lieu of bright artificial lighting, encourages us to relax and focus on how lucky we are to be enjoying a healthy meal with delicious ingredients.
Wind down with post-dinner tea
I’m not quite sure when we developed this habit. Mike thinks it’s when I had a cold one time and drowsily begged him for some tea (MC: actually I think it’s because you’ve gone full-on British). I think it’s just something I started once after dinner. Regardless, most weekday evenings we enjoy a nice evening cup of herbal tea after dinner. This acts as a nice substitute for dessert (no, I’m not lying to myself!) (MC: but definitely not speaking for the both of us) because it closes out the meal. According to several health websites I read when writing this blog post, it also prevents night time flatulence – good for any marriage, indeed! (MC: pretty sure tea doesn’t slow me down #thunderbritches)
Usually we throw a combination of fresh mint, lemon, ginger, turmeric, and honey together. Mix it with very hot water. Allow to steep. Enjoy over the same candlelight with some gentle tunes in the background.
Set aside screens and read
I’ll admit it – before living with Mike, I was addicted to falling asleep with the TV on. Any ’90s sitcom would do, but Friends was usually my first choice (it’s probably why I can recite all ten seasons – a skill which horrifies Mike, but I choose to call it a ‘skill that might win me big bucks in a pub quiz someday’.) But we’ve all read the stats recently about how screen time before bed can negatively impact quality of sleep. So I tried to see it as a opportunity to improve my health, rather than an annoyance, that Mike would never adopt this Friends-before-bed routine when we got married (MC: that should probably read Friends-before-anything-or-any-time-of-day-or-night if we’re being totally honest here).
Since moving to the UK, we actually haven’t had a TV. And I honestly don’t miss it. In fact, when we go to other peoples’ houses now and the TV is blaring, I find it bit alarming. We do watch the occasional Netflix movie on our laptop on the weekend, but I’ve kicked my TV before bed routine out the window and my sleep is much happier for it. Lately, we’ve actually been leaving our phones and laptops in a separate room after dinner and only chatting or reading before bed, and my sleep has been golden. I fall asleep in about ten seconds instead of forty five. And Mike, who’s a much lighter sleeper than I am, counts less than a thousand sheep before shutting his eyes, which we’ll call a win.
Go to bed at the same time every night
It doesn’t have to be 10 PM like us ‘crazy’ folks. But if you follow any of our habits, this is probably the one I’d choose – at whatever time works for you. It’s the most important habit that helps reinforce the morning routine. If we go to bed around the same time each night, then obviously we’re more likely to wake up around the same time. It also helps our bodies feel like it’s time for bed, which is especially helpful for Mike and his occasional insomnia.
So there you have it – the evening routine which we strive to maintain. We aren’t always able to make it work, since social plans do happen despite Mike’s best efforts. However, we both definitely notice when we’re able to get a few days in a row of consistent morning and evening routines as we experience improved energy levels and emotional well-being. At the very least, it makes for a nice ice-breaker when meeting new people. We have on occasion been introduced as, “This is Mike and Casey, they’re weird and it’s way past their bedtime!”