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Want to conquer the world? Get to bed on time

(MoneyWatch) COMMENTARY Mornings are a great time for getting things done. You can tackle important priorities that life has a way of crowding out. Research finds that our supply of willpower is highest after a good night's sleep. That makes mornings a great time for exercise, strategic thinking, creative work -- or other things that require internal motivation.

There's just one problem with using one's mornings: It tends to mean getting up early. And often, in the morning, as the weather is turning colder and the sun is rising later, we really just want to stay under the covers. The snooze button beckons. Why get up when you can sleep?

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It's a good question. I think sleep is great, and many people don't get enough during the week. But that's not because we're too busy. It's because most of us have trouble putting ourselves to bed at night. We get our kids tucked in on time, but then -- perhaps rebelling against our own bedtimes of old -- we stay up late puttering, watching TV, surfing the web and otherwise wasting time. Because we go to bed late, we can't get up in the morning to cross over to the lark side. We're groggy, and the day starts off badly. The goal is to pop awake at about the time you'd like to get up and feel alert. And yes, that is possible.

But how do you get in bed on time for that? Here are a few ideas.

1. Give yourself me-time during the day. If you're a working parent, you know that evenings can be rough. You've dealt with office stress all day, then you deal with the stress of chasing small children or arguing with school-aged kids to do their homework. Once they're asleep, you crave time to just chill. But many people can find time to chill at other points, too. Escape to a conference room and read a novel for 20 minutes. Read a gossipy magazine on the bus. Watch funny videos on your lunch break.

2. Set a timer. We all need to decompress, but you get most of your relaxation done in that first hour of wandering around the house or watching Jersey Shore reruns. Set your watch for an hour, enjoy yourself until it goes off, then put your pajamas on.

3. Rekindle your love life. If you and your spouse spend two hours watching TV together at night, how about trying one show -- and then hitting the sack together? People complain that they're too tired for sex, but if you're used to watching another 90 minutes of TV, you won't be. And sex has been known to put people to sleep. It's win-win.

4. Make sure you're waking up to something good. I'm much more inspired to get to bed on time on nights I know I'm waking up at 6:20 for a trail run than the nights before mornings I know I'll just be tackling chores. If you love your Zumba class -- or even just watching the sunrise from your porch with good coffee -- bedtime will seem like a small price to pay.

What inspires you to get to bed on time?

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