In the spring I created a rule and a few exceptions that helped me go to sleep at a sane time. From my sleep pattern You can see that I actually managed to have a fairly regular bed time from the beginning of april to sometime in july.
I realized that usually the reason that I went to bed too late was that I didn't feel tired, so I would just continue randomly browsing the internet. I rarely have a good reason to be up past midnight, so I just chose that as my threshold and created the main rule: If I'm not already in bed by midnight, I have to go to bed. I should still follow my regular routine (brushing teeth etc.) and I don't have to rush, but I may not do anything else.
The rest of the rules are just exceptions that allow me to stay up if I have a good reason:
- Being on my way home from somewhere counts as part of the "going to sleep routine", so it's fine as long as I go to bed and to sleep when I get home.
- If I am not at home (e.g. I'm being social somewhere) I don't have to drop everything. Instead I am allowed to gracefully finish what I am doing.
- I can decide in advance (say 24 hours at least) that I don't have to go to sleep at a specific time. I usually do this for social events.
The nice thing about these rules is that I can honor them while staying up late according to one of the exceptions, so I don't break the streak. I don't have to be in bed by midnight either, I usually just have to stop what I am doing (immediately) and go to bed, which I can typically do in about 10 minutes, so it's close enough.
Midnight is just an upper limit I chose. In general I would like to go to sleep earlier, but I also want my bedtime to be fairly regular and I didn't want to use the exceptions too often, so I chose a time that is late enough that I don't usually have a good reason to stay up later than that. As we can see from my sleep pattern in the image linked above, going to bed at midnight is clearly better than what I do by default.
Following these rules can be really hard for me if I am doing something that I feel is really interesting, but for a long period of time I was able to do it by reminding myself that if I really cared about what I was doing, I could just continue it tomorrow, and tomorrow would come faster by sleeping. These rules say nothing about waking up, so if I want to I can just wake up early and do whatever I want. It also helped that having a regular bedtime made it easier for me to fall asleep fast.
What is allowed and what isn't is usually clear to me, when I just consider my initial reasons for creating this system. My problem has been that I simply stopped following them. Now, motivated by this thread I am starting a new goal with a weekly rate of 7 where I get 1 point if I follow the rules and 0 points if I don't: https://www.beeminder.com/styrke/goals/bedtime