Sleep being so essential to every aspect of our health and happiness (and daily functioning), why not include “a perfect night’s sleep” among your New Year’s Resolutions? Shoot for the best, and if you only get halfway there, you’ll still be at least 100 percent better off.
First, a word about New Year’s Resolutions in general: Don’t make too many of them. People generally are doing great if they can achieve two or three such year-beginning goals. Another important word: Take your resolutions one week at a time and break up your overall goal into achievable weekly targets.
With nearly half of all Americans reporting problems with insomnia, improving one’s sleep as a major goal for the year should be a no-brainer (depending of course of what other problems you’re facing in life).
Start with good sleep hygiene since it’s easy to break down the homilies of sleep hygiene into weekly targets.
One such sleep-hygiene dictum says to go to bed and arise at the same times each day of the week, including weekends. If you have to arise at 5 a.m. to make it to work on time, then go to sleep eight hours prior to that, at 9 p.m. Then keep that same routine on the weekends. If you’re up earlier than you’re used to on your days off, then use the time for other good sleep-hygiene techniques, such as taking a brisk walk or doing exercises — even if they’re just relaxation exercises.
Another weekly goal related to sleep hygiene could be to watch what and when you eat. Get in the habit of eating lighter meals several hours before bedtime and then snacking only lightly (if you have to) on small tryptophan-rich bites. Also, either ditch the alcohol or confine your consumption to one drink (if female) or two drinks (if male) several hours before retiring.
Another weekly goal could be to cut the cord to electronic devices at least two or three hours before bedtime, and these devices include TVs, cell phones, tablets, computers — even LED devices like clocks in the bedroom (turn them around and out of sight, but set the alarm for when you need to wake).
So, there you have three weeks of steps you can take toward better sleep, but remember: They’re cumulative. You don’t give up number one when you move on to number two, or number two when you’re tackling number three. Plus, there are many additional weekly goals you can set on the sleep hygiene bandwagon.
Finally, if you know your sleep problems are beyond mere sleep hygiene fixing, then use your New Year’s Resolution to make an appointment for professional evaluation, advice and treatment (if necessary).
Here’s to great sleep throughout 2015!