We’ve all been there. We make a New Year’s resolution, and we’re excited. We’re determined to see it through, to fight our way through January without dropping the new you. And yet, we’ve all let it slip away, bit by bit, until it’s suddenly December and we’re thinking of trying that resolution again. This time, it will stick. But you’re tired of making the same resolution, and tired of the effort to keep it. Whether it’s exercise more, eat better, or spend less, it’s a cycle that we’re all in. However, a new resolution might be the answer. What about getting better sleep?
What’s the Big Deal About A Good Sleep?
Sleep is essential to maintaining your physical and mental health, as well as your wellbeing. However, less and less of us are getting a good amount of sleep. In fact, a third of us go about our day on as little as five to six hours a night(1) when we should be getting seven to nine hours. However, it’s not just the length of sleep that’s important, but the quality, too. If you don’t get a deep, restful sleep for consecutive nights, you could start to feel physically sick, anxious, and stressed. These feelings can stop you from easily going to sleep, and a challenging cycle has started. Lack of sleep leads to sleep disorders, like insomnia, but sleep disorders can prevent the good sleep you need to ease them.
Poor sleep quality will lead to being unable to rationalise your worries or thoughts, and it can also make you feel lonely or isolated as you mightn’t feel up to socialising with friends and family.
When you sleep well, you’re also more likely to eat better and move more, and you’ll feel less stressed, think more clearly, and your mood will generally improve. With a better sleep, you’ll be happier.
The start of a new year is a great time to assess your sleep quality and change any old habits that might be keeping you from getting a great sleep.
New Year’s Resolution Ideas to Help You Sleep
Stick to a regular schedule. It’s easier said than done, especially if you’ve got children or work shifts. However, keeping a regular bedtime and wake-up time, even on weekends and holidays, will help you get a good sleep quality.
Exercise. It’s not just an urban myth – exercise really does help you sleep! Regular exercise is good for both your physical and mental health. If you’re doing more vigorous workouts, exercise earlier in the day. Use the evening for gentler activities, like yoga. If you workout too much before you go to bed, you’ll make it harder for yourself to go to sleep.
Limit alcohol and caffeine. The first cup of coffee in the morning is a real treat, but drinking caffeine in the afternoon and evening will actually keep you awake when you want to go to sleep. Alcohol has a similar effect. While alcohol can make you feel drowsy, it prevents you from getting the deep, good sleep that your body needs. It’ll also upset your sleep patterns and could wake you up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. You may find it hard to get back to sleep.
Watch what you eat. Avoid heavy meals late in the evening, and don’t eat two hours before you go to bed. Rich or spicy foods take longer to digest, and this makes it harder to fall asleep.
Turn off the screens an hour before bed. We’re surrounded all day by technology – the computer on your desk, the phone in your pocket, the tablet in your bedroom. We’re glued to our TV screens, and it’s very tempting to watch just one more episode before bed. However, looking at these screens close to your bedtime won’t do you any good. The blue light that’s emitted from them suppresses melatonin, the ‘sleep hormone’. This disrupts your sleep quality and sleep patterns. Instead, read a book for an hour before you go to sleep, or take a relaxing bath.
Think of what you’re sleeping on. Your mattress may be old (you’ve had it for at least eight to ten years) and lumpy, which could be keeping you from sleeping well. Consider investing in a new mattress – you could also think about how to discard your old one, with mattress recycling an important debate in helping our environment.
Establish a relaxing bedtime routine. By having a relaxing routine before going to bed, you’ll signal to your brain and body that it’s almost time to go to sleep. Try relaxing activities, like reading or listening to soothing music. Soaking in a warm bath could be helpful, too. If you’re consistent with this, you’ll find falling asleep easier – and the sleep quality will be better, too.
Have a healthy sleeping environment. It’s best that your bedroom is dark, cool, and quiet. If your bedroom is too bright at night, consider investing in blackout curtains or an eye mask. You should also only sleep in your bed. If you work or study in bed, your brain will associate your bed with this, and it’ll become the last place you want to go to sleep.
Don’t hit snooze! Hitting the snooze button multiple times doesn’t help you get any more sleep. It’ll actually leave you feeling more tired. Try leaving your alarm away from your bed, like at the other side of the room, so that you have to get up to switch it off.