It’s that time of year – the time to think about the improvements you want to make in your life and resolve that you’ll dedicate this new year to those improvements.
If getting better sleep isn’t one of your new year’s resolutions, it probably should be. It’s one of the 15 most popular new year’s resolutions, according to The Healthy, and for good reason. Getting quality sleep can be so impactful that reigning in those Zzz’s might even help you accomplish some of your other resolutions.
Keep reading to learn the massive influence sleep has on your body, how to tell if you need to make some changes, and how you can improve your sleep in 2021 beyond using Flents ear plugs and going to bed earlier.
WHY SLEEP MATTERS
How much and how good of sleep you get affects more than just how tired you feel. Sleep is foundational to your health and impacts many key systems.
Sleep allows your brain to “catch up” on the day, according to WebMD. While you’re asleep, your brain stores memories so you can recall them in the future. This means that proper sleep is necessary for learning and retaining new information (like a new skill or hobby, as many of us resolve to tackle in the new year).
Further, according to the American Sleep Association (AMA), proper sleep allows your brain to regenerate and improves concentration. Do any of your resolutions relate to doing your job better? Getting better sleep can help you there too, the AMA says.
Sleep is so important that people who regularly get less than six hours of subpar sleep per night are 48% more likely to develop or even die of heart disease. This is largely because when you sleep, your blood pressure decreases, giving your blood vessels and heart a break. Looking to focus on heart health in 2021? Consider adding some extra sleep to your new cardio regimen.
You’ve probably noticed you can feel a little crabby when you don’t get enough sleep. Sleep gives your mind time to process emotions so you’re better equipped to react appropriately to a given situation. At the more extreme end, the Mental Health Foundation found that people who didn’t get enough sleep were three times more likely to suffer from depression.
Who doesn’t have a resolution related to weight? If you’re trying to lose weight but aren’t getting enough sleep, you may be sabotaging yourself. In fact, inadequate sleep is one of the biggest risk factors for obesity.
Poor sleep can impact weight in a number of ways. You might feel less motivated to exercise if you’re tired. Or you might eat more to compensate for the energy your body requires but isn’t getting from sleep. Sleep deprivation can also wreak havoc on hormones that control your appetite. In short: If you’re trying to lose weight this year, don’t skip on sleep!
Staying healthy might not be a common new year’s resolution (though maybe it’s on your list this year), but it does tend to be a concern during the cold winter months and into the spring. What’s one of the most important components to a strong immune system? You guessed it. Sleep.
Your immune system functions by identifying and destroying harmful bacteria and viruses in your body. Skip too much sleep, however, and you might alter how well your immune cells work, says WebMD. When you’re sluggish, your immune system is too, and it might not fend off illness as quickly.
Ok, you might be thinking. Sleep is important. But I already go to bed as early as I can. What else is there? It turns out, just putting your head on the pillow by 10 p.m. isn’t enough. Grab your sleep kit, your favorite book, and your most mellow music playlist, and keep reading…
QUALITY, NOT JUST QUANTITY
There are standard recommendations for how much sleep you should get each night. (SleepFoundation.org has a helpful chart with recommendations per age group.) For most adults, the recommendation is 7-9 hours. But it’s important to consider how well you sleep too.
If you think you’re getting enough sleep each night but still feel tired, you might want to look for these signs that you’re not getting quality sleep:
- You struggle to sleep.
- It takes you more than 30 minutes to fall asleep after going to bed.
- You often wake up multiple times in a night.
- When you do wake up in the middle of the night, you lie awake for more than 20 minutes.
- Less than 85% of your time in bed is spent asleep.
- Lack of sleep impacts your day.
- You’re tired and struggle to concentrate.
- You feel more stressed, emotional, or angry than usual for no clear reason.
- You notice physical effects of lack of sleep.
- Your skin is breaking out.
- Your eyes are puffy, red, or dark, or you have the telltale “bags under your eyes.”
- You’re hungrier than usual and might be gaining weight.
HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR ZZZ’S
By now, you may have added “get better sleep” to your resolution list. And maybe you already feel skeptical. When you’re busy, overwhelmed, and overstimulated (whether by stress or physical stimulants, like electronics), it can feel impossible to get any more sleep than you already do – even if you’re tired. Hopefully, you consider the many health implications and decide it’s worth a try.
Here are some of the key steps to take to ensure better quality sleep:
- Establish a bedtime routine. Maintaining a consistent schedule can help keep your biological clock in check. Following a regular routine – like taking a warm shower, listening to calming music, and reading – can help signal to your brain that it’s time to wind down.
- Avoid electronics for 30 minutes before bedtime. Your body may perceive the blue light emitted by electronics as sunlight, which can trick it into delaying sleep. Give yourself enough time between bingeing your favorite shows and hitting the pillow to signal to your body that the day is over. And resist the urge to grab that phone!
- Mind your evening beverages. It can take six to eight hours for the effects of caffeine to wear off. So that afternoon latte meant to give you the energy to break through the 3 p.m. slump might just be setting you up for a restless night that could require more caffeine tomorrow. And alcohol, though technically a sedative, can negatively impact the quality of your sleep. Healthline recommends avoiding alcohol within three hours of bedtime.
- Create a sleep-friendly environment. Set the tone by ensuring your sleep environment is dark, quiet, and comfortable. Sleep ear plugs and a sleep mask are a great and inexpensive way to improve your chances of a quality night’s sleep no matter where you are. Disposable ear plugs are convenient and travel well. Flents offers a variety of options to fit your needs. The Super Sleep Kit can provide a fully restful experience by helping you block out both light and sound.
No matter what other resolutions made your list this year, committing to better sleep is sure to help you tackle anything 2021 throws at you. You got this.
- The Healthy: 15 Most Popular New Year’s Resolutions and How to Keep Them https://www.thehealthy.com/weight-loss/popular-new-years-resolutions/
- WedMD: Surprising Reasons to Get More Sleep https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/benefits-sleep-more
- American Sleep Association: How Important Is Sleep? https://www.sleepassociation.org/about-sleep/how-important-is-sleep/
- Science Daily: Sleep deprivation: Late nights can lead to higher risk of strokes and heart attacks, study finds https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110208091426.htm#:~:text=Professor%20Francesco%20Cappuccio%20from%20the,or%20dying%20of%20a%20stroke.
- Healthline: 10 Reasons Why Good Sleep Is Important https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-reasons-why-good-sleep-is-important#1.-Poor-sleep-is-linked-to-higher-body-weight
- Sleep Foundation: How Much Sleep is Recommended for Each Age Group? https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need
- Sleep Foundation: How to Determine Poor Sleep Quality https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-hygiene/how-to-determine-poor-quality-sleep
- Healthline: Tips To Sleep Better https://www.healthline.com/health/sleep-disorders-prevention