For the chronically sleep-deprived and frequently exhausted, every January represents a new opportunity to dedicate more time to sleeping. It’s one of those resolutions people make year after year: “This time, I’m sleeping eight hours a night, EVERY night.”
Plus, as a Casper representative notes “Sleep is becoming a big part of health and fitness.” Translation: if you set major goals this year to run a marathon or do your first pull-up, sleep is going to help you get there.
Getting eight hours a night sounds achievable, simple even. After all, all you have to do is go to bed earlier, right?
Well, not exactly. Sure, going to bed at 10 pm instead of midnight is part of getting more sleep. But what about that time spent scrolling through Instagram before you fall asleep clutching your phone? What about the racing thoughts that seem to surface as soon as your head hits the pillow? What if you’re just not freakin’ tired when you want to be?
Building healthy sleep habits is the way to take baby steps towards getting those aspirational eight hours a night. After all, resolving to get eight hours of sleep a night every night for all of 2018 is a little much to ask for at once, right? Instead, let’s break it down into three healthy sleep resolutions you can commit to for just one week — and build from there.
Say goodnight to your devices 30 minutes before bedtime
We’ve all heard that blue-light emitting devices can throw off your circadian rhythm , suppress melatonin production and keep you up even after all lights are off and phones are put down. And if the experts had their way, you’d shut everything down two full hours before you go to bed in order to fall asleep faster and sleep soundly.
But remember, it’s all about the baby steps. Commit to setting your alarm, charging your phone, and turning it facedown just 30 minutes before you turn out the light. Think about it this way: 30 minutes is probably just about the amount of time it takes you to pack a lunch, lay out tomorrow’s gym clothes, wash your face, brush your teeth and climb into bed. If you’re occupied by getting ready for bed, you won’t even miss that last late-night Twitter scroll.
Once you feel good with 30 device-free minutes, up it to 45 minutes and include a little bit of reading to unwind even further.
Keep a sleep journal
Much like tracking your food is an easy way to spot habits, tracking your sleep is beneficial to zero in on how many hours you need to function at your peak.
Grab a notepad or open up your Notes app to take stock of the following on a daily basis:
- Last meal and what time you ate it before bed (psst … include any alcohol here too)
- Any exercise you did that day and what time you did it
- Time you got in bed
- Time you actually fell asleep (an estimate is fine!)
- Time you woke up
- How you felt when you woke up
If you have a sleep tracker on your phone or smart watch, jot down any interesting stats from there too (like how much time you spent in each stage of sleep). Personally, I think it’s weirdly fascinating to see how many times I woke up during the night without even realizing it — that helps me get an idea of the quality of my sleep and just how restorative it actually was.
The point of this exercise is to prove or disprove sleep myths you’ve always kind-of believed in. For example, you might think alcohol helps you sleep, but you could discover that you’re dragging on mornings after you’ve had a nightcap (fun fact: alcohol helps you fall asleep, yes, but it tends to block REM sleep and interrupt your circadian rhythm so you wake up more frequently). Or, maybe you feel great after seven hours of sleep but sluggish after more than eight. Knowledge is power!
Inventory your sleep environment
When it comes to sleeping, you’re only as relaxed as the room around you. Building a calm, peaceful environment will signal to your brain and body that it’s time to shut down for awhile. Here’s a few things to check for specifically:
- Your bed: Is your mattress working for you, or is it the same one you’ve had since college? If so, an upgrade may be in order. Casper, the award-winning mattress company, is hosting a pop-up shop in the Fulton Market District until the end of March to give people a chance to try out their famed mattresses before purchase. A store representative notes, “Mattresses are a big purchase, and a personal purchase. We wanted to bring the product to life.” Casper recommends evaluating a mattress based on support, durability and temperature to get the best night of sleep possible. You can book a nap at the pop-up here to get the full experience.
- Your lighting: Is it too bright in your room to fall asleep, or does the sun come in your east-facing window absurdly early? Consider adding blackout curtains to block out any unwanted light. You might also add dimmers or a subtle bedside lamp so you can read or stretch in low light before bed.
- Your stuff: I have a hard time falling asleep if my room is a wreck, and that habit has only intensified as I’ve gotten older and added on a boyfriend-roommate. To that end, I take about five minutes every night to straighten up my bathroom, unpack my “drop zone” of clothes, tidy up any surface and even make my bed (yes, I do this knowing I’m going to get into it in five minutes).
- Your peak relaxation: Is there anything else you can add that would make your bedroom a little more peaceful? I take great pleasure in the ritual of lighting a candle and spraying lavender scent on my pillows before crawling into bed with my current book. You might enjoy a diffuser, a white noise machine or a plush sleep mask. If there’s any little luxury you can add to your bedtime routine to incentivize going to bed, make it happen this week.
Stick with these healthy sleep resolutions for just seven days, and you’ll build habits that will set you up for a successful year of sleeping.
What healthy sleep resolutions are you making this year? Have you ever kept a sleep journal?