Things you can do at night to make your morning easier

Even if you are one of those lucky "morning people," as a woman of the modern world, there is no doubt that you sometimes fall prey to the chaos that a work or school morning can fling at you, especially if you are a working mother. You also must have experienced the sad truth that a crazy, hurried, or unsettling morning can contribute to those same harried feelings hounding you throughout the rest of your day. It's like a doctor's appointment book — if you start late, you're going to run late, and if you run late in one area, you're going to run late in another. You get the picture.

How can you achieve calmer, more manageable mornings for yourself and your family? There are really only two ways to get more time at the start of the day: get up earlier (no thanks!), or get more done the night before.

Use a sleep app

Elle Mejia, retail executive, author, and founder of the #PrettyGirlsWork platform, told me via email that she swears by the Sleep Cycle app, which she credits with helping her nix the habit of hitting snooze a million times before finally dragging herself out of bed. "With this app, I set my alarm for a range, not a specific time," Mejia said. "I place my phone under my pillow, and it analyzes my sleep based on my movements during the different phases, making sure to wake me up when I'm in my lightest sleep phase within the range of time that I've specified (i.e., 5 a.m. to 6 a.m.)."

I have used sleep apps in the past myself, with mixed results, so I wanted to check on the science behind them. Jordan Gaines Lewis, Ph.D., and professional sleep researcher took on the topic for an article published in Psychology Today: "Sleep Cycle App: Precise or Placebo?" Dr. Lewis reports that the measurement functions on apps like this have enough room for error that they are not without their "fundamental flaws," but that people do continually report better feeling sleep when using them. What's her takeaway? "While sleep-tracking apps are certainly not the most accurate way to assess your sleep, the upside is that people are becoming more attuned to their own circadian rhythms and the effect of sleep (or lack thereof) on their bodies," which makes them more attuned to giving their bodies what they need.

Bribe yourself

In addition to utilizing a sleep app to help her optimize her mornings, Mejia also mentioned that she has had a lot of success "turning late night guilty pleasures into early morning rewards." For instance, the desire to watch "just one more episode" of your fave TV show when you should really be heading to bed instead can be parlayed into a promise to yourself that you can watch it while making a healthy breakfast tomorrow morning. "Now I'm not only cutting out a bad evening habit that's sure to leave me exhausted the next day," she told me, "but I'm [also] giving myself a little extra motivation to get up and get going a little earlier on any given weekday. Win-win!"

If you need a little extra help bribing yourself because your willpower is low, Wired recently wrote about a new life hacking app with a corresponding lock box called kSafe that might do the trick. Users can "put something [they] want in the box (think: TV remote, candy, iPad) and set a goal on the app… Only when you achieve that goal can you access the goods. Save me from myself, kSafe!

Close up shop for the night

Lauren Haynes, a home cleaning expert at the U.K.-based home cleaning and organizing business Star Domestic Cleaners, told me via email that she recommends "spending 15 minutes every day [before bed] on a quick cleaning and organizing" session. Nobody likes to wake up to a mess, so spending a few minutes loading the dirty dishes into the dishwasher or putting away folded laundry before you go to bed can help you get the feeling of a fresh start in the morning. And she's not the only expert who feels that way!

Marie Kondo, Japanese cleaning consultant and New York Times bestselling author of the organization book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, writes eloquently on the subject of a tidy house leading to a clear and productive state of mind. "Once you have experienced what it's like to have a truly ordered house," she writes, "you'll feel your whole world brighten." Would you like to wake up to order or chaos? You decide.

Don't leave prep until bedtime

I spoke with Rachelle Isip, a widely quoted author and professional organization and time management consultant, about her tips on what you can do at night to make your mornings easier, and she had a lot of good wisdom to impart. One of the most interesting suggestions she had, however, was that you shouldn't leave all your next-day preparations until the last thing before bedtime. Why? Not only will you be sitting around dreading those chores all evening if you do, but you'll also wake yourself back up with work after you've already gotten yourself unwound for sleep. Instead, she suggests "setting an evening cutoff time for morning prep," ensuring not only that you'll get everything necessary handled, but also that "you'll have enough time to relax, unwind, and enjoy your evening." So how much time should you leave? According to this "order expert," you'll want to "aim to finish your morning preparations at least one hour before bedtime."

Keep writing materials by your bed

Yes, your smartphone can work to take notes (turned to the nighttime light setting, of course), or you can leave a pen and paper on your bedside table. Either way, Isip recommends making sure you have something to write with nearby your bed so that you have an antidote for those errant ideas and to-dos that many people report pop into their heads as they try to fall asleep. Rather than let these ideas swim around in your head and keep you up, Isip says that by jotting down these "flashes of inspiration," or nagging, undone chores, "you can rest easy knowing you've written down and captured your ideas, and can head right back to sleep."

Shower at night

The obvious benefits of showering at night versus in the morning are hard to ignore. Depending on how quick you are, you'll save between 15 and 60 minutes in the morning if you don't need to bathe and wash and dry your hair. Speaking of drying, Dani Faraj, a professional stylist at Brighton Salon in Beverly Hills, told Bustle that one of the reasons it's better to wash your hair at night is that it can help you avoid needing to dry your hair with damaging high heat. "It is better to wash your hair at night rather than the morning so the hair has time to dry naturally [without high heat]. Especially for [hair that's been colored]," Faraj said.

Showering at night can even help you sleep better. The warm water can have a relaxing effect on muscles, as well as a soothing effect on your psyche. It's even been suggested that you can go longer between needing to change your bed sheets if you shower at night, since you'll track less sweat and dirt residue into the bed. There seems to be a whole lot of upside to this showering at night thing.

Pack lunches

We're not talking soggy sandwiches here! Packing your lunch at night has been a subject of some contention, since putting mayonnaise and mustard on a sandwich at night leads to some very icky, soggy bread in the morning. But don't tell me that in 2017 you haven't come up with any new ideas for packed lunches than boring old sandwiches? Prepped salads do very well overnight if you keep the dressing separate in a little Tupperware container. Speaking of containers that lock in freshness, highly stylized lunch-packing bento boxes have become very popular for giving kids variety and healthy food in a container that will keep things fresh. Soups notoriously are even better the day after they were made, since the flavors have time to marinate together. Leftover dinners, like casseroles or strips of chicken breast won't go soggy either. You get the picture. There are all kinds of delicious and nutritious lunches that you can make ahead of time and pack the night before, without sacrificing texture, flavor, or your likely enjoyment of the meal.

Create a 'can't forget it place'

Do you tend to forget certain necessary items like your phone charger, your debit card, or your gym bag when you leave for work in the morning? We have a quick fix for that! Heather Lindstrom, an "organization aficionado" and lifestyle blogger at Style*Mind*Chic Life, swears by her concept of a "can't forget it place… where you always store your items to grab in the morning, like a briefcase, backpack, day bag, umbrella, etc."

It could be a shelf or cubby by the front door, or a section of your desk where you have your morning coffee and read emails at the start of the day. It should be a place that you're guaranteed to look at before heading out to start your day in the big, wide world. You won't be able to get anywhere if you don't have your car key or your MetroCard, so stash items you need help remembering in the same "can't forget it place" the night before. This will also nip those hurried morning sessions of running around like a chicken with your head cut off trying to collect everything you need and pack your bag. Lindstrom also advised via email: "Add a charging station to the space so your phone/iPad, etc. will be in your line of sight as you gather your items for the day."

Avoid over-reaching

You've heard of the phrase 'setting yourself up for success,' right? So why do you continue to over-commit your time and set unrealistic goals for what you can accomplish in a given amount of time? Pro business coach and entrepreneur Eugene Gamble says that you should figure out your top three priorities you want to get handled before bed, and plan realistically for how much time your goals will take to achieve. Do you want to tidy the kitchen, lay out your clothes, and finish responding to emails before going off to the land of nod? Don't pretend it will only take 15 minutes to do all that. "Most people suffer from planning fallacy and are overly optimistic at what can be achieved in a given period and underestimate how much effort a task takes to complete," Gamble said via email, so he suggests "allow[ing] 50 percent more time than you think you need."

Setting yourself pre-bedtime goals that you don't end up accomplishing can stress you out right before bedtime (a major sleep no-no), so be kind to yourself and set realistic goals of what you want to get done before you can rest.

Ask for help

It's getting late into the evening, and you have a sink full of dishes, lunches to pack, a shower to take, garbage to put out… looking at all these nighttime prep activities for an easier morning might just look like a tradeoff between having a harried morning, or a harried nighttime at this point, right? Well, Harriet Jones, a cleaning and maintenance expert for Go Cleaners London, suggests realizing when you need help and asking for it. As long as you don't live alone (or with only young very kids), your home comes complete with built-in helpers. "You need help with the domestic tasks, and it is perfectly okay to confess it," Jones told me via email. "Involve your family members in the quick daily de-cluttering and not only you will get assistance, this will also help [any] children [you may have] to develop habits they will need later on."

Don't have kids yet? What about a partner or roommate? These people should be responsible for helping with domestic tasks. And if you do live alone, consider figuring out if hiring domestic help could be in your budget.

Meditate in the evenings

Jenay Rose, a certified yoga teacher and wellness influencer based in Los Angeles, said via email that "before bed meditation has truly changed my life… I used to sit on the couch until 10 p.m. and wind up rushing to bed by 10:30 and roll around for an hour trying to shut off. I would wake up exhausted and once again rush around trying to get out the door." Um, sound familiar, anyone? "You can control your nervous system and heart rate through meditation, actually changing your mindset, body, and vibes before you rest your head. You will awake feeling calm, refreshed, and ready to take on the day," Rose swears. And you know what? I swear, too! I'm with you, Jenay. My meditation habit has definitely made me a happier, more productive person. But does science back up our claims? Yes!

"Although…meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day," says Sara Lazar, Ph.D., of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program and senior author on a study of how meditation can actually restructure brain pathways. So it's not just anecdotal evidence — meditating at night really can help you have a more calm, yet alert and productive, morning. How can you get started? According to Rose, "You can use a [meditation] app like 1 Giant Mind or Insight Timer, or you can just listen to your breath."

Setting yourself up for success

Many of us are not morning people. Or even if we naturally are, being so busy or thinly spread out that we don't get enough sleep can make us too sleep-deprived to cash in on our natural "morning person" wiring. It can be hard to combat the frenzy of a busy work or school morning, leaving us stressed or unprepared for the day. Besides just basically waking up earlier, which is simply not realistic for many of us, all the experts I consulted with agree that a good nighttime prep ritual can do wonders to alleviate morning turmoil. Even simple things, like many of the ones discussed here, can really do a surprising amount to make your mornings easier and set a more positive tone for your day.