We’re already into the second month of the New Year and our Positive Resolutions for 2021 project. The goal is to achieve one new thing each month – a positive goal -- and then add on to that each month. At the end of the year you’ll have twelve new habits and a healthier lifestyle.
Last month, we talked about Fostering Happiness. This month’s topic is finding a path to better sleep.
Making sure that you are getting enough sleep is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. It is recommended that adults get at least 7 hours of sleep a night and children should have 9-12 hours of sleep per night. One-third of adults in the United States report that they don’t get this recommended amount. Not only does lack of sleep make people less productive, grumpy, moody, and more prone to accidents, those getting less than recommended amounts of sleep may be at risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, elevated blood sugars, high blood pressure, heart disease, mental distress, and even early death.
There are many factors that can be the cause of lack of sleep, waking in the middle of the night, and/or just poor sleep quality. Common suggestions for improving the amount and quality of sleep include: establishing regular sleep times, reducing screen time, and avoiding alcohol, large meals, and caffeine before bedtime.
Take some time this month to learn about the importance of sleep to health. Then evaluate your own sleep habits. Would you like to make some changes to your current habits? Think about what you can do this month to help you find a path to better sleep. Here are some ideas...
- Keep a journal of your sleep patterns for a couple of weeks. You may be doing better (or worse) than you think. There are some phone apps, sleep trackers and fitness apps and devices that can help you with this, or just use old-fashioned paper and pencil.
- Correlate other habits with your sleep journal. For example, do you sleep less after drinking alcohol or exercising in the evening or watching a late movie?
- Do you sleep better after eating certain foods? Foods that promote better sleep include tart cherries, walnuts, protein foods, food with tryptophan and whole grains.
- Try spending quiet time and relaxing before going to bed. This may include a hot shower or bath or meditation or reading. Some fitness apps also offer guided meditation.
- Skipping breakfast and other meals is associated with poor sleep quality. Planning a healthy breakfast ahead, such as overnight oatmeal or muesli or a slow cooker breakfast may help you eat better and sleep better.
- Preparing for the next day by laying out your clothes, finding your shoes and car keys or by making a list of tasks may help you sleep better -- this can reduce worries and brain activity.
- Evaluate your sleeping environment. Would blackout curtains help? What are your thoughts on weighted blankets? How about new sheets? Whether you get new sheets or not, try washing your sheets more often -- the smell and feel of clean sheets can be relaxing.
- Regular aerobic exercise can help you sleep better -- just don’t do it within a few hours of bedtime. If you’re not already exercising regularly, even just 10 minutes of activity a day can help.
- Talk with your doctor if you think you may have a medical reason for your lack of sleep. These may include snoring, sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, and insomnia.
Remember, take small steps, but be consistent.
When you get enough sleep you’ll feel happier –- this relates back to January’s goals of Fostering Happiness. If you’re working with clients on better sleep habits, our Diet for Better Sleep handout can help.
By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
- Sleep and Sleep Disorders, Are You Getting Enough Sleep, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/features/getting-enough-sleep.html
- Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency, National Heart, Lund and Blood Institute https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/sleep-deprivation-and-deficiency
- American Academy of Sleep Medicine http://sleepeducation.org/essentials-in-sleep/healthy-sleep-habits
Stephanie Ronco has been editing in a professional capacity for the past 10 years. In addition to her work as an editor, Ronco has also served as a ghostwriter and writing tutor. A voracious reader, Ronco loves watching language evolve and change. When she’s not delving into her latest project, Ronco can be found teaching acting classes, performing in community theater, or sailing with her husband.