New Year, New Sleep Routine: Creating Healthy Sleep Habits for Success
You’re flipping open a calendar full of blank pages as the Earth begins another trip around the sun. It’s the perfect time for a fresh start. But while people everywhere set goals for things like eating healthier or getting more exercise, another crucial aspect of wellness often gets overlooked: sleep.
Getting better rest might be the most impactful New Year resolution you can make. That’s because healthy sleep habits can help with just about anything else you want to achieve in 2024. Being well-rested enhances your memory, your creativity, your physical health, your problem-solving skills, and even your ability to lose weight.
Making sleep quality improvement one of your top New Year goals could make all the others easier. Here’s how to set and achieve sleep resolutions for the year ahead.
The Significance of Healthy Sleep Habits
The science is clear: getting plenty of restful sleep is crucial for daily functioning and well-being. When you’re sleep-deprived…
- Your memory is impaired
- You’re less able to focus and think clearly
- Your productivity declines
- You’re at a higher risk for unwanted weight gain and obesity
- Your mental health may suffer
- Your social skills are worse
- You’re at a greater risk of negative health outcomes like heart disease, diabetes, and poor immune function
On top of all that, poor sleep habits have been linked to lower motivation and diminished impulse control. As such, getting proper rest could be vital if you want to stick to any of your other New Year goals.
Setting Sleep-Related New Year’s Resolutions
Though many people are skeptical of New Year’s resolutions, there are several reasons why the start of the calendar year can be an excellent time to start working toward your sleep improvement goals.
For one thing, there’s a powerful symbolism in linking a new period of time to a new habit. For another, the early months of the year may have fewer distractions, since there aren’t many major holidays. Common reasons for travel, like weddings and vacations, are less frequent during this period. Meanwhile, the days are beginning to get longer, creating a natural sense of growth as you pursue your goals.
Researchers have found evidence that New Year’s resolutions can be a helpful source of motivation, especially if they’re approach-oriented rather than avoidance-oriented. In other words, motivation is easier when you’re working toward something instead of trying to stay away from something.
This suggests it may be best to frame your sleep resolutions in positive terms. For example, instead of “I resolve to stop drinking caffeine before bed,” you could say “I resolve to improve my sleep quality.” Rather than “I’m going to stop staying up late,” you could say “I’m going to adopt a healthy sleep schedule.”
Here are a few healthy sleep habits that could make good New Year’s resolutions:
#1: Make Your Room a Sleep-Friendly Environment
Sometimes, the places where we sleep are surprisingly bad at enabling rest. Optimizing the bedroom for slumber can lead to substantial improvements in sleep quality.
For instance, it’s often best to minimize artificial light. Nighttime brightness may disrupt your body’s internal sleep signals, especially bluish short-wave light. Removing or covering up electronic devices that emit this type of light is a good start. Covering windows that let in light from streetlamps or car headlights can also help.
Reducing outside noise, especially artificial sounds like traffic, also make for a better sleep environment. There are several ways to reduce these sounds, including hanging thick, muffling curtains or using a white noise machine.
Temperature is another important factor in enabling quality sleep. A somewhat cool ambient temperature, between 60℉ and 67℉, is to be best for promoting sleep. (The ideal range may be a bit higher for children and older adults.) Setting the thermostat lower at night, or using appropriate ventilation, might help you get more rest.
#2: Establish a Consistent Sleep Schedule
One of the most helpful things you can do to fight insomnia is to set a sleep routine and stick with it. The human body is wired to sleep and awaken on a steady schedule (your circadian rhythm). Throwing off that schedule by going to bed at irregular times can make it harder to fall asleep quickly, leading to daytime sleepiness and fatigue.
If possible, it’s best to choose a set time to get to sleep and wake up each day. Try to figure out when you need to get up in the morning, then pick a bedtime that will still allow for 8 hours of slumber. Maintaining this consistent sleep schedule should help you drift off quickly and wake up refreshed. You can use BetterSleeps bedtime reminder feature to stay on track.
#3: Practice Mindful Sleep Hygiene
Many of us have poor sleep hygiene — bad habits that make it harder for the brain to transition into sleep. Replacing these with positive nighttime behaviors can help you doze off faster once you get to bed.
Some good sleep hygiene practices include:
- Screen time reduction. Studies have linked the use of mobile devices or laptops after 9 PM to poor sleep quality.
- Stress management techniques. You can unwind before bed with calming activities like mindfulness meditation, reading, yoga, listening to music, or taking a bath.
- Eating earlier. A large meal shortly before bed can delay sleep.
- Caffeine avoidance. Drinking caffeinated beverages later in the day may make it harder to fall asleep.
- Limiting alcohol intake. Heavy drinking at night can lower your sleep quality.
- Restricting activities in bed. Try making a point to do nothing in bed besides sleeping or having sex. That way, climbing under the covers will signal to your brain that it’s time for rest.
It may be helpful to combine some of these habits into a consistent pre-sleep routine that tells your body to prepare for shut-eye. Here’s one possible example:
Beginning about 45 minutes before you plan to go to sleep, make yourself a warm beverage with no caffeine or alcohol. Sit down in a comfortable chair and read from a book or other non-electronic medium for about half an hour. Then turn on some soothing music as you brush your teeth, put on pajamas, and go to bed. Before falling asleep, switch off the music and turn on some white noise.
This routine might look different for different people. For instance, you could substitute gentle yoga or meditation for reading. The point is to choose relaxing activities in place of sleep-disrupting habits.
Tracking Your Progress With Sleep Apps
Staying on target with any goal, including sleep resolutions, is easier if you keep a record. One helpful way to do this is by using a sleep app with progress monitoring functions. Seeing yourself getting closer to your goals can help you maintain your sleep routine commitment.
BetterSleep works great for this purpose. Our app’s built-in sleep recorder can monitor your breathing and other ambient sounds during the night, giving you a detailed look at your patterns of sleeping and waking through the night. You can view past nights in your journal, which highlights your sleep patterns and helps pinpoint possible sources of disturbance.
Don’t get discouraged if you run into setbacks. It’s normal to need some time to adopt new habits. If you stick with it, you should see your stretches of healthy sleep continuing to grow over time.
Overcoming Sleep Challenges
You may run into some obstacles as you try to put your new sleep improvement strategies into practice.
One common problem is waking up too late in the morning, or hitting the snooze button over and over and staying in a state of groggy half-sleep. This can disrupt your circadian rhythm, causing your body to fall asleep later.
To combat this, you can open the curtains to let in some sunshine as soon as your alarm goes off. This should help you shift into “daytime mode,” tuning your circadian clock. Daylight-mimicking lamps can serve a similar function if you’re waking before sunrise.
It may also help to put your alarm where you can’t reach it from bed — simply getting up on your feet can help you wake up. And you can use sensory cues like the smell of coffee to tell your brain that it’s time to get going.
Anxious, repetitive thoughts often contribute to insomnia. If you find yourself lying awake at night, going over the same worries over and over, try distracting yourself with something simpler.
Concrete but pointless thoughts tend to work best. For example, you could try making mental lists of things like flowers or cars, or choose a word and then think of other things that start with the same letter.
Visualizations might also help. Close your eyes and picture yourself walking, gliding, or swimming through a peaceful environment. Fill your imaginary surroundings with lots of vivid details like colorful objects or soothing sounds. You may shift into dreaming without realizing it.
You might also be struggling with staying asleep once you doze off. Addressing this issue may require figuring out what’s waking you up in the night.
Stress is one common cause of nighttime wakefulness. Consider adopting some stress management techniques like deep breathing exercises, constructive hobbies, meditation, regular exercise, and spending time in nature.
As we noted above, lights, noises, and other distractions can also make it hard to get good sleep. You may want to double-check that your sleep environment is free of disruptive influences.
It’s also possible that you might have a medical condition like sleep apnea that’s disturbing your rest. If you can’t figure out why you’re not sleeping through the night, try talking with your doctor.
Embrace a Successful Sleep Routine in 2024
Consistency is the key to succeeding with your New Year’s resolution for better sleep. By keeping your bedroom environment peaceful, getting to bed at the same time each night, and sticking to a calming pre-sleep routine, you should be able to get much better rest.
You may find it easiest to start with just one or two key changes to your sleep habits. Once you get those under your belt, you can start adding more. And don’t forget that BetterSleep can help you maintain your sleep routine commitment with tools like guided meditations, sleep tracker functions, soothing pre-sleep activities, and more. Try it for yourself and see how improving your sleep schedule can help you live out your dreams in 2024.
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