Eric Suni has over a decade of experience as a science writer and was previously an information specialist for the National Cancer Institute.
Every year, millions of people use the start of a new year as an opportunity for self-improvement, aspiring for personal change by setting New Year’s resolutions.
Health-related resolutions are some of the most common, with goals such as losing weight, exercising more often, and cessation of smoking leading the list of the most common resolutions.
Sleep is often overlooked in New Year’s resolutions, but it is one of the most fundamental steps to improving wellness. Sleeping better can not only enhance physical, mental, and emotional health but also generate the energy and self-control necessary to achieve other goals in the new year.
Properly planning a New Year’s sleep resolution can help you make a lasting change. Knowing how to craft and carry out your New Year’s sleep resolution can put you on the path to a healthier and more productive future.
A sleep resolution is a powerful tool for people looking to emphasize wellness and healthier living in the coming year. Sleep enables virtually all systems of the body to function effectively. It sharpens thinking and memory, strengthens physical health, and boosts mood and emotional regulation.
Sleep is also a lynchpin to achieving other goals. Getting enough sleep every night generates energy for exercise, helps with weight loss, enhances productivity at work, and fosters creative thinking.
Studies have found that getting quality sleep is associated with better self-control, which makes it easier to follow through on other resolutions. In addition, just developing consistent sleep habits may itself fuel self-control and the ability to continue striving toward goals even during times of difficulty.
While getting better sleep doesn’t have to be the only goal that you have for the new year, research demonstrates that it can have a positive impact on virtually all other New Year’s resolutions.
Just setting a New Year’s sleep resolution won’t do much good. What’s really important is creating a resolution that you can stick with, allowing you to benefit from better sleep.
There are many ways to successfully establish a new routine. However, experts suggest that one of the most effective ways to turn New Year’s resolutions into lasting habits is by using the SMART acronym:
For New Year’s sleep resolutions, another critical component is to zero in on things you can control, such as your sleep hygiene. By focusing on the process rather than outcomes, you can take advantage of the fact that humans are creatures of habit. Reinforcing healthy routines helps make behavior change feel automatic and, as a result, more sustainable.
If your resolution is based only on outcomes, such as sleeping better, you may be disappointed and give up if you don’t see quick results. Instead, a wiser approach emphasizes smaller steps that you can take to reshape sleep habits in a positive way. The following table gives examples of how to reframe your New Year’s sleep resolutions:
|Instead of||Try||Why It Works|
|I will sleep better.||I will stop drinking caffeine after lunchtime because it can interfere with my sleep.||The first goal is too broad and hard to measure. The second offers a concrete step that you can track every day.|
|I will sleep eight hours per night.||I will be in bed with the lights out and my cell phone put away by 10:30 p.m. each night.||Even though the first goal is measurable, it’s too focused on an outcome alone that may not be fully under your control. The second resolution works to create a consistent sleep schedule that promotes healthy circadian rhythm and helps ensure you actually have enough time dedicated to getting the sleep you need.|
|I will fall asleep faster.||I will develop a three-step bedtime routine that I follow every night to help me relax before bed.||Opting for a practical plan to make it easier to fall asleep works to strengthen your sleep routines in a way that best suits your needs.|
|I will stop waking up so much during the night.||I will use an eye mask and earplugs to help prevent noise and light from disturbing my sleep.||No one can guarantee that they won’t wake up in the night, so a wise resolution focuses on what you can control and how to minimize the impact of external nuisances, like sound and light, on your sleep.|
|I will wake up feeling refreshed.||I will buy a new mattress and pillow that support my body and physical recovery.||Precise actions are more likely to generate meaningful outcomes, so a detailed resolution is a better bet to pay off.|
|I will stop snoring.||I will make an appointment with my doctor to discuss my snoring.||Sometimes the best resolution is to decide to get help from a professional. Loud snoring, especially with choking or gasping sounds, can be a sign of sleep apnea, which is a serious condition that is best treated under the guidance of a doctor.|
The key to successful New Year’s sleep resolutions is turning your attention to tailored, concrete actions that represent daily changes to your habits and routines. By reinforcing healthy sleep hygiene, you can create lasting behavior change that promotes better sleep and all the wellness benefits that come with it.