We’re over three weeks into our New Year’s resolutions now. If you’re the average American yours probably included some kind of health related goal. According to a Marist Poll, 12% of people want to lose weight, 9% want to exercise more, 9% want to eat healthier, and 6% want to quit smoking.¹ However, these wellness resolutions are missing one critical component: sleep.
Sleep has recently been described as one of the most important contributing factors to overall health. In Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Dreams and Sleep, Matthew Walker argues that getting enough quality sleep is more important than exercising and eating well. Not only does sleep affect daily quality of life, but it can contribute to physical diseases and mental disabilities. He points out that in countries, including America, where sleep has declined the incidence of disease has risen.²
According to the National Sleep Foundation the amount of sleep you need varies based on age with most adults needing between 7-9 hours of sleep a night.³
If you think you need to add sleep to your list of resolutions, here are some helpful tips to getting plenty of shut eye:
- Limit screen time starting an hour before bed, this includes TVs, cell phones, and tablets. Reading from a physical book (yes, they still exist) is ok. Also, turn off notifications so you won’t be tempted to check your texts or email.
- Limit caffeine intake to your morning coffee, especially if you’re sensitive. After lunchtime it’s a good idea to switch to decaf or hot herbal tea.
- Make your bedroom your sanctuary. Invest in a comfortable mattress and pillows (we’re partial to Tempur-Pedic, because it’s #madeinswva and exceptional quality). Consider spritzing your pillow case with a calming essential oil like lavender.
- Make sure your bedroom is completely dark. Invest in black out curtains if needed.
- Set your thermostat to a cooler temperature at night. Nobody sleeps well when they’re too hot.
- Aim for thirty minutes of exercise a day, even if it’s only taking a walk after dinner. Exercise is a great way to relieve stress and make your muscles tired. If you exercise outside and absorb natural light that also helps promote natural circadian rhythms, meaning you will be more alert during the day and sleepier at night.
- If you do find yourself tossing and turning at night, get up and try reading or meditation until you are sleepy. That way you don’t associate your bed with a place to lie awake and worry.
- Speaking of meditation, try it. Whether you try visualizations, focused breathing, or progressive muscle relaxation focusing on your mindfulness will relax you before bed. Here are more tips on how to start a meditation practice.
- If it is stress that is keeping you awake try journaling as a way to clear your mind. Five minutes of free writing about whatever is bothering you can help you bring closure to the subject for the day. You could also keep a gratitude journal to help switch your focus to the things you are grateful for.
- And lastly, give yourself permission to sleep. We all feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish everything we need to do, but by not sleeping we are too tired to fully focus on our tasks. How often do you make a mistake because you’re tired and it takes longer than an extra thirty minutes of sleep to fix?
How do you prioritize sleep? Start a conversation with us on Facebook!