Is getting more sleep on your list of New Year’s resolutions? If not, it should be!
According to a recent Gallup poll, 40 percent of people don’t get the recommended amount of sleep each night.
An estimated 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep disorders, according to the National Institutes of Health. What’s more, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, insufficient sleep is a “public health epidemic.”
Sleep More, Lose Weight
Do you want to lose weight next year? “When we sleep less, we lose self-control and often reach for junk food,” Dr. Anda Baharav, an Israeli researcher and sleep expert and founder of SleepRate, told Healthline. “We load up on high fat and sugary snacks. We also eat outside of our normal meal time window.”
If your goal is to become more detail-oriented in the coming year, sleep is key. Poor sleep quality and insufficient sleep have negative effects on how well and how long you can focus on tasks. Baharav explained that as your “sleep debt” increases, your cognitive performance decreases. You may also have problems with short-term memory.
If you’ve made a promise to be in a cheerier mood come 2015, remember that not getting enough sleep night after night may also increase your irritability.
Sleep Is a Stress Buster
Reducing stress is another goal that requires a good night’s sleep. “Sleep helps you recover from everything that drives stress during the day and builds reserves,” said Baharav.
Do you really want to make 2015 the year you kick butts? Or maybe it’s caffeine you want to give up for good? You will have a much harder time stopping both of these habits if you’re sleep-deprived. In fact, nicotine and caffeine are both stimulants. They are often the go-to quick fixes when you’re tired. It’s easier to resist the urge if you’re well rested. Then you won’t need to reach for artificial stimulants.
If getting more exercise is your goal, you guessed it: getting more sleep can help you stay motivated. Regular exercise can actually help induce better sleeping habits. Baharav recommends exercising at least three to four hours before bedtime to give your body time to cool down.
Baharav explained that the way we perceive sleep is very subjective. Many people don’t understand the importance of a good night’s rest or the damage that occurs without it. “Good sleep habits are mandatory for a good life,” she said.
While many of us try to make up for lost sleep by sleeping in on the weekend, Baharav explained that this may help a little with your “sleep debt,” but it can’t make up for night after night of poor or insufficient rest.
Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep
Baharav offered the following tips to improve the quality of your sleep:
- Go to bed earlier. Try winding down 15 minutes sooner than usual. Even a little extra sleep makes a difference.
- Go to bed at close to the same time every night.
- Turn off electronics at least an hour before bedtime.
- Do something relaxing to wind down about an hour before bed. You can meditate, read a book, or listen to music.
- Avoid alcohol at least a few hours before bedtime. Drinking alcohol can cause you to wake up in the middle of the night.
- Cut out caffeine after mid-day. Switch to decaf coffee, herbal tea, or water.
- Make sure the bedroom isn’t too hot or too cold.
- Keep the bedroom just for sleeping. Don’t watch TV or do work in bed.
- Dim the lights around your home about a half hour before bedtime. This cues your brain to start shifting into night mode.
- If problems persist, talk to your doctor to rule out any underlying health issues that could be affecting your sleep.