A vast majority of “typical” New Year’s resolutions are directed toward improving our health: exercise more, eat better, lose ten pounds, etc. Right up at the top of those “healthy” resolutions should be one about achieving better sleep habits, because the amount and quality of our sleep has a significant impact on our health and our stress levels.
In today’s fast-paced world, getting good, quality sleep can be a challenge. We live with countless distractions and increasing stresses – pressure to do more with less, finish everything faster, and fit more into every day. Unfortunately, keeping up with the hectic pace comes at the expense of our sleep even though a good night’s sleep is exactly what we need to cope with everything coming at us.
The Center for Disease Control recommends that adults get at least 7 hours of quality sleep each night. Are you getting enough sleep? And is it good sleep? If not, one of the best things you could do this year is to resolve to improve your sleep habits. Here are five ways to do just that:
1. Develop a bedtime routine that involves winding down as you get ready for bed. Your routine could be as simple as brushing your teeth, washing your face, doing some easy stretching and then reading before turning off the light. Whatever it is, establish the routine and stick with it.
2. Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even on the weekends. This can be hard, especially on the days you just want to sleep in, but the consistency will reinforce the natural sleep-wake cycle in your body. Over time, your body will wake up on its own at the right time, without an alarm clock.
3. Avoid using technology right before you go to bed. Doctors recommend that you stop looking at a screen at least 2 hours before you go to bed; but if that’s unrealistic for you, aim for at least 30 min of “screen-free” time before turning off your lights. Use those last 30 minutes to do something relaxing (as part of your bedtime routine).
4. Avoid stimulants before bed time. While it seems pretty obvious that you should avoid caffeine after 2 PM, you may not realize the importance of staying away from chocolate and alcohol in the evening. Even though alcohol might initially make you feel sleepy, it can cause you to wake up later as your body metabolizes the alcohol; and then you’ll have a hard time falling back to sleep.
5. Make sure your sleep environment is comfortable. Different people have different preferences with respect to how they like to sleep. You may like sleeping in a cooler room, or one that is completely dark. Some people need a particular kind of mattress or pillow, or even some kind of white noise in the room. Whatever makes you comfortable at night, make sure you set up your room accordingly to help you sleep.
Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine points out that “Although scientists have just begun to identify the connections between insufficient sleep and disease, most experts have concluded that getting enough high-quality sleep may be as important to health and well-being as nutrition and exercise.” So while you’re making those resolutions to start going to the gym, work out more, eat more protein and cut out the sugar in your diet, add “improve sleep habits” to your list. While you may not be able to adopt every one of the tips provided here all at once, focus on them one at a time until each one becomes a habit. You’ll not only sleep better, but you’ll find you have more energy during the day to accomplish everything on your plate.
Sayonara stress and sweet dreams!