As the beginning of 2017 is upon us, many of us are committing to New Year’s resolutions to make the upcoming year even better than the last in a heartfelt effort to achieve our life goals and dreams. We begin the New Year intending to do more, be more, learn more, and reach our full potential.
Interestingly, many of us have resolutions in common, and they vary little from year to year. According to Neilson and various websites, the most common New Year’s resolutions typically include:
- staying fit and healthy
- losing weight
- enjoying life to the fullest
- spending more time with family and friends
- getting organized
- getting finances in order
- learning something new
What Is Standing in Our Way?
Unfortunately, too many of us erroneously trade away sleep hours in a quest for more waking hours, simply thinking the key to accomplishing our goals is having more hours in the day—that the increase in quantity of hours will enable us to have the time to do everything we need to do.
In theory, it sounds easy enough, but—it doesn’t hold up. When we relinquish the sufficient sleep our minds and bodies need, we only degrade the quality of our waking hours. So while there may be more hours in our day, the quality of those hours is severely diminished. We don’t function optimally nor efficiently: our performance is subpar (we often don’t even realize it), our mood and concentration suffer, our willpower is shot, our energy level goes down the tubes, our motivation is hampered, and our thought processes are impaired.
Why Your Resolutions Must Start with Sleep
Here are just a few of the research findings highlighting the impact of sleep on some common New Year’s resolutions;
Staying fit and healthy
- Poor sleep may contribute to Alzheimer’s disease.
- Sleep deprivation adversely impacts the immune system.
- Sleep deprivation has been linked to the development of cancer cells.
- Improvement in sleep may encourage exercise participation.
- Sleep loss is associated with an increased risk of obesity and diabetes.
- When individuals are sleep deprived, reduced leptin and increased ghrelin levels correlate with increases in subjective hunger.
- Adults with late bedtimes, who are chronically sleep-restricted, may be more susceptible to weight gain.
Enjoying life to the fullest
- Sleep deprivation affects mood more than either cognitive or motor performance.
- Symptoms of stress are reported more frequently in adults sleeping less than 8 hours per night.
- Workers with sleep problems had a 1.62 times higher risk of being injured than workers without sleep problems.
Spending more time with family and friends
- Insufficient sleep may breed conflict, thereby putting relationships at risk.
- Sleep deprivation can make it harder for couples to value each other.
- Sleep problems are strongly associated with “frequent family tension and inadequate emotional support.”
- A cluttered bedroom negatively impacts sleep.
- A lack of sleep can hurt your finances.
- Individuals suffering from sleep loss, sleep disorders, or both are less productive.
Learning something new
- Sleep strengthens memory and ability for a recently learned skill.
- Sleep after learning saves and “cements new information into the architecture of the brain.”
- Poor sleep can increase the odds of emotional and behavioral disturbance and negatively affect a student’s grades.
The bottom line
Sleep Resolutions to Get the Sleep You Need for Your Best Life
- Get it: According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, adults “should sleep 7 or more hours per night on a regular basis to promote optimal health.”
- Discuss it: It’s never too early to start discussing the benefits of sleep with young children.
- Manage it: When you schedule your day, look at it in 24-hour view, and schedule sufficient sleep time first—then (and only then) schedule everything else.
- Respect it: Don’t drive or make important decisions when sleepy.
- Enjoy it: A relaxing sleep routine, warm bath, crisp, clean sheets, a gratitude journal, the scent of lavender, and curling up with a good book can all make bedtime a time to look forward to.
- Optimize it: A comfortable mattress and pillows, sleep trackers, and sleep accessories are a worthwhile investment in quality sleep, which is a worthwhile investment in quality life.
- Work it: Sleep education should be a component of every employee wellness program as well as part of orientation and all ongoing employee well-being initiatives.
- Teach it: Our children should learn about sleep at an early age in order to reap the benefits of a healthy sleep lifestyle well into adulthood.
- Learn it: The American Sleep Association showcases ninety books on the topic of sleep on their website.
- Prioritize it: “Put sleep first” and ensure all family members get the sleep they need.
Resolve to Get Sleep for a Better Life
A major stumbling block to many of us for keeping our resolutions is a lack of commitment to getting the sleep our minds and bodies need to function optimally. Our ability to meet our resolutions and goals—not to mention the quality of our general well-being—is significantly compromised when we neglect sleep health and fail to prioritize sleep.
If you don’t have sleep on your list of New Year’s resolutions, you may want to add it to see for yourself how much adapting a healthy sleep lifestyle can positively affect every other part of your life.
Living your best life possible—isn’t that the point of resolutions? Resolve to make this a great—and well-rested—New Year.
Blogger: Terry Cralle @PowerOfSleep