Suzanne Harrington: What time is too early to go to bed when you're middle-aged?

No more wild nights, these days it’s all about onesies, and duvets, and snoozing.
Suzanne Harrington: What time is too early to go to bed when you're middle-aged?

Answer honestly now – what time is too early to go to bed? You don’t have to be ill, or have a broken leg, or having a duvet day, or a mental health day or whatever human resources are calling it – you’re just going to bed. There’s no hot lover involved either. Just a cup of tea and a dressing gown. What time should your hour of retirement be red-flagged as a pyjama-clad cry for help?

The answer is never. It is never too early to go to bed, provided you aren’t leaving a brace of small children unattended downstairs with nothing but a phone, an online gambling app and a pizza delivery leaflet to see them through. (This could of course be construed as imparting important life skills, although fussier parents may disagree).

Generally, though, when you find yourself having earnest discussions with others about how soon is too soon, with the answer being ‘bed’, your days of parenting small children tend thankfully to be over (unless you’re an OPYK - Old Parent of Young Kids – and if you’re one of them, you’ve got nobody to blame but yourself and your sperm count). For the rest of us, liberated from the evening scrum of childcare, we can happily end up going to bed earlier than we did when in charge of toddlers. What anarchic joy, to shout goodnight down the stairs when it is still early evening. You’re in your nightwear and you don’t care. Teenagers might think they invented rebellion, but they have nothing on a middle-aged woman with a good book, a phone on flight mode, and a locked bedroom door. See ya later, kids.

The only downside is, given how early nights are invariably followed by lark-like mornings and much keen leaping from bed at 6am, you may find yourself falling asleep in the cinema, unable to stay awake at anything showing later than 6pm. Snoring through the latest thriller. Worrying about meeting anyone for dinner after eight, or going to a football match with an evening kick-off. Dozing at the theatre. Nodding off on other people’s sofas before it's even dark. You’re only a handful of birthdays away from saying things like: "I don’t want to drive after dark." 

The "I’ll be awake all night" coffee milestone has already been passed. 

Hearing your kids crashing in from clubbing pre-dawn only makes you hug your pillow tighter in relief – not that they are home safe, but that you are, and have been all night.

These days, in the unlikely event of a wild night out – that is, coming home sober by midnight - you’ll still need 24 hours to recover. The idea of partying fills you not just with horror, but actual terror, and guests who linger past 10pm fill you with abject fear, even when you’re all on nothing crazier than herbal tea. No, these days it’s all about onesies and duvets and snoozing. The daytime nap milestone cannot come soon enough, frankly.

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