The 1993 movie Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray may have been more appropriately titled New Year's Day. It seems that most people wake up New Year's Day with the same resolution they had the previous year! Are we destined to fail at diets, smoking cessation, exercise programs, or simply finding more time for ourselves? Maybe we should stack the deck in our favor by getting the right "mindset" for achieving our goals. It all starts with sleep -- pair any resolution you have with more sleep for the best results.
It should be no surprise that people across the world are committing less time for sleep and when they do sleep, it's poor quality. I'm certain you have caught yourself saying, "I am just too tired to ________" -- and simply fill in the blank. This lack of sleep has been shown to impact motivation, concentration, energy, and weight gain/loss. Conversely, making a commitment to get the proper quantity and quality of sleep can help you get focused, feel motivated, and have energy to achieve your goals.
The Best Time for a Successful Sleep Resolution Is Now
The winter months -- January, February, and March -- mark a great time to make a commitment to kick-off a new sleep routine. Here's why:
- Social activities around the holidays are over and we tend to spend more time at home.
- With shorter days (and no daylight savings times) we are less drawn to doing outdoor activities that keep us up later than we would like.
- The early darkness also causes us to get sleepier earlier in the day, making it easier to fall asleep when it is time for bed.
- Increased darkness allows us to produce melatonin naturally, which makes us drowsy and promotes good sleep.
- Finally, the later sunrise will allow us to sleep in a bit each morning without the sunshine peeking in the window, which disrupts our sleep.
Five Tips for Victory!
So, you're ready to get started -- great! Here are five tips for a successful sleep resolution:
1. We Are Family: Get your family involved! Tell your children that research has shown if they keep electronics out of the bedroom and get to bed on time they may do better on tests, have higher GPAs and have more energy for athletics and activities. Plus, getting the family involved will minimize the temptation to "cheat" on your own resolution. Of all the popular New Year's resolutions, this is one where the entire family benefits from the results.
2. Sleep Schedule: Get your sleep partner on the same schedule. And if that fails, make sure they relax outside of the bedroom. Do not let them watch TV in your bedroom while you are trying to sleep. Great bedroom accessories include eye masks and earplugs, which minimize noise and light if one partner goes to bed later or gets up earlier. White noise machines are also great at helping to mask environmental noise.
3. Watch the Clock! You must make a time commitment -- for both quantity and quality sleep. That means no late nights. Instead, organize your chores and errands to do a little each night. If you have a late-night show that you just can't miss, record it to watch early the next night or on the weekend.
4. Get the Right Sleep Tools: Make sure you have a comfortable mattress and pillow that allow you to sleep without discomfort. This will make it easier to fall and stay asleep, and you may just find yourself wanting to go to bed.
5. Keep Cool: Make sure the room temperature is cool -- 65 to 68 degrees is ideal. This is key because in order to fall asleep and maintain sleep we need a decrease in core body temperature. The cooler outdoor temperatures of winter make this easier to achieve. Go ahead and use as many blankets you need to stay warm. Simply exposing your head to the cool temperatures will help to lower core body temperature.
So, here's the bonus for when you're finally sleeping better: By making a commitment to sleep, your other New Year's resolutions will be easier to keep. You will have more energy to exercise. Your motivation will be higher to not smoke. You may be less hungry and it can be easier to lose weight. Cognitive thinking skills may increase, making it easier to learn and get more organized. You may even find yourself with more patience for those family members you committed to hang out with more often.
Can't sleep? Find out which home remedies really work:
For more by Dr. Robert Oexman, click here.
For more on sleep, click here.