Are you one of the millions of Americans who resolved to make changes in the new year? Maybe it’s to eat better, workout more or to get more sleep. In fact, according to the research group Statistic Brain Research Institute, 41 percent of Americans made resolutions in 2016 but only 9 percent felt they were successful in achieving their resolutions by the end of the year.
One key to keeping one’s resolutions is to avoid making radical changes and instead moderate one’s behavior, says Dr. Michael Steinberg, an associate professor at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, to USA Today.
For those hoping for a little more sleep in 2018, we’ve put together some key but and realistic tips that will get people a step closer to nailing that resolution (and more shuteye).
Exercise a few hours before going to bed.
There are plenty of reasons why exercising is good for our overall health, includuing our sleep health. In addition to helping people lose weight, experts say physical activity is key to getting good quality sleep. Choosing to hit the gym a few hours before falling asleep may also positively impact one’s sleep health.
“The reason we want to [work out] three to four hours prior to going to sleep is because when we exercise we have an increase in our core body temperature. And about three to four hours that increase in our core body temperature starts to drop.” Dr. Robert Oexman, Director of the Sleep to Live Institute in Joplin, Missouri, told Newsweek. “That’s one of our natural cues to fall asleep—a decrease in our core body temperature.”
Meditation is a well-known type of mindfulness practice that is known to help people fall asleep – and it has the research to back it up.
In one 2015 study from the Netherlands, participants were introduced to four different mindfulness practices: a three-minute “mindful breathing” exercise, a “loving kindness” meditation, a “body scan” exercise, and “mindfully focusing” on an everyday task. They were then instructed to meditate twice a day for two weeks. Afterwards, those who did meditate reported not only better sleep quality, but a longer duration of sleep.
Put down the smartphone… and the TV remote.
Turning off (or at least putting away the phone) and limiting TV screen time before bed can actually improve one’s sleep quality, research suggests. That’s because studies have linked the blue and white light emitted by many electronics to the brain’s inability to release melatonin, a hormone that tells the body when it’s time to sleep.
This exposure to light during nighttime hours messes with our internal circadian rhythms, which tells us when it’s daylight and we should be awake and when it’s night, and time to sleep.
“Careful studies have shown that even our small electronic devices emit sufficient light to miscue the brain and promote wakefulness,” says the National Sleep Foundation. “As adults, we are subject to these influences and our children are particularly susceptible.”
Make your bedroom sleep friendly.
There are lots of changes – both big and small- that people can do to their bedroom to help promote a good night’s sleep. Here are a few examples:
- Set the room at the ideal temperature. The National Sleep Foundation recommends it stay somewhere between 60 and 67 degrees.
- Consider blackout curtains. As we mentioned earlier, light plays a big role in telling your body it’s time to be awake (when it’s really time to be asleep). If your bedroom window is near a streetlight or gets particularly bright at sunrise, it may be time to invest in blackout curtains to block the light and let you sleep a little longer.
- Use the bed for its intended use. Our beds are ideally meant for two things: sex and sleep. If people start answering work emails, they may begin to associate their bedroom (and rest) with stress, which is counterproductive to creating a peaceful sleep environment.
Try a white noise machine.
Did you know our brain’s still process sound on a basic level while we sleep? Jarring noises, like a door slamming or a dog barking, may disrupt our sleep. Ambient sound, like the kind found in a white noise machine, helps block out these “peak” sounds and gives us a better chance of sleeping through potential disturbances, says the National Sleep Foundation.
For those who are uninterested in purchasing a whole machine, don’t worry. There are apps for your smartphones available, like Simply Noise, are free to use. Some people find other bedroom objects, like a fan or the buzz of a humidifier to work well, too.
Skip the booze.
Alcohol is a depressant and it can help people fall asleep faster, which you may have already discovered if you’ve ever overdone it with the wine or cocktails. It is not, however, helping your actual sleep quality – in fact, it could be harming it, says experts.
Drinking too much is associated with disturbances in your circadian rhythm, which means you could wake up in the middle of the night. It’s also a diuretic, leaving your running for the bathroom overnight. And it can interfere with REM sleep, an important phase of sleep associated with learning and memory consolidation.
Featured image: Yuganov Konstantin/Shutterstock
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