While alot of people make New Year’s resolutions geared toward healthy eating and exercising, not many prioritize their sleep—which can seriously undermine all of your other efforts.According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, a staggering 50 to 70 million Americans struggle with sleep disorders like insomnia, sleep apnea and narcolepsy.Not getting adequate sleep can severely impact your physical and mental health in the long term— decreasing brain function, weakening the immune system and increasing the risk of various diseases including diabetes, hypertension, coronary heart disease and depression. Additionally, sleep deprivation can also negatively affect your mood and short-term memory.To help you catch more zzz’s in the coming year, here are eight expert-backed tips to try right away:
- Take your sleep seriously. “Sleep is one of the most important things in life. It’s necessary for healthy brain function and resiliency. It can even help you lose weight and live longer. So if you’re not getting enough sleep, it’s likely because you don’t prioritize it as much as other aspects of your life,” says Martin Seeley, sleep expert and CEO at MattressNextDay. “Taking care of yourself and making time for rest will pay off in spades over time—so try to make sleep a priority every single night,” he adds.
- Turn your electronic devices off at least an hour before your bedtime. The blue light emitted by the screens of your digital devices like smartphones, tablets and laptops can mess with your sleep cycle by disrupting your circadian rhythm and melatonin production. Therefore, it’s best to stop using any electronics at least one hour before bedtime, says Seeley. “If you have trouble falling asleep without checking your phone every few minutes or watching TV before bed, try downloading an app like Twilight or Light Timer (for iOS) to limit screen time during the evening,” he suggests.
- Get up at the same time every day —even on weekends. One of the easiest ways to ensure that you’re getting enough sleep at night is to set an alarm every morning and stick with it. If you find yourself waking up early one day but sleeping in late another day, it can be hard to get back into a rhythm with your sleep schedule. “By setting an alarm every single day and going to bed at the same time every night (which will help you wake up at the same time), you’ll be able to maintain a healthy pattern of restorative sleep without having to worry about missing out on important hours during the week or staying up too late during weekends,” Seeley explains.
- Avoid pressing ‘snooze’ on a morning alarm as it’s counter-productive. Research suggests that hitting the snooze button can have more of a negative effect on your day than a positive one. This is because a five-to-ten-minute snooze time only gives you enough time to go into ‘light sleep’ as it waits to enter the deep sleep state, otherwise known as REM. When the alarm goes off again your sleep cycle gets disrupted, making you feel tired and groggy despite it being the start of your day.
- Drink at least four glasses of water throughout the day to keep your energy levels up. Even mild dehydration can leave you feeling sleepy, tired and irritable. Staying hydrated is not only proven to be energy-boosting but it can improve your cognitive performance, too. Seeley recommends drinking a glass of water as soon as you wake up.
- Exercise for 30 mins to stimulate all of your brain’s good chemicals. Exercising stimulate brain chemicals like endorphins and serotonin that promote relaxation and help you fall asleep faster. “Try taking a walk outside for 30 minutes after dinner or doing yoga in the morning before work—both options will help reduce stress and increase energy levels throughout the day, so you can stay alert without feeling exhausted by midday,” adds Seeley.
- Better yet, exercise outside. While this may not always be possible in winter, just 10 minutes spent in the sun can help boost your serotonin levels and stop you from feeling sleepy. Plus, “moving more is proven to help you sleep better, so you should try to move as much as you can throughout the week. It will help you feel tired at night and you’ll sleep better,” notes Seeley.
- Try this meditative technique if you struggle to stay asleep. Resist the urge to check your phone when you wake up in the middle of the night as bright lights can interfere with your body’s production of melatonin and can stimulate wakefulness, which is not what you want. Moreover, checking the time on your phone will lead you to subconsciously calculate the hours left until you need to be awake—which will consequently make you more anxious and keep you up for longer, says Seeley. If you’re struggling to sleep, try this meditative technique known as a full-body scan. Simply close your eyes and breathe slowly. Next, focus on your face and think about relaxing each of the muscles in your face. After thirty seconds to a minute, move onto your neck and do the same thing for thirty seconds. Then your shoulders and then your arms. “Essentially, you want to relax every muscle until you make your way down to your feet,” Seeley explains.