Welcome to 2024! As we embark on this new year, many of us have set ambitious resolutions. Among them, improving sleep should be a top priority. Why? Because good sleep is the cornerstone of overall health and well-being. In this post, I challenge you to set sleep goals for the year. Whilst I’ve outlined 3 potential goals, you may come up with some of your own.

1. Keeping a regular arising time:

The first and perhaps most crucial goal is establishing and maintaining a regular arising time. Our bodies thrive on consistency thanks to our internal biological clock, the circadian rhythm. By waking up at the same time every day, we reinforce our natural sleep-wake cycle, improving sleep quality.

How to achieve this? Start by setting a fixed wake-up time, even on weekends. It may be challenging initially, especially after a late night, but consistency is key. The reward is a more robust circadian rhythm, which can lead to easier mornings and better sleep at night.

Note, your arising time can change across the year as seasons change and sunrise is earlier or later. Consistency is important day-to-day, but also needs to be flexible across the year as our needs and the seasons change.

2. Prioritising sleep:

Often, we sacrifice sleep to meet our busy schedules. However, in 2024, let’s shift our perspective and view sleep as an essential activity, not an optional luxury. Prioritising sleep means aiming to get at least 7 hours sleep each night. While our sleep needs vary across life and with other health conditions, for adults of working age, a goal of 7 hours per night is a good aim. There is more information on sleep needs across life here.

To prioritise sleep, start by creating a bedtime routine that signals to your body it’s time to wind down. This might include reading, gentle stretching, or a warm bath. Equally important is creating a sleep-conducive environment – think comfortable mattress and pillows, appropriate room temperature, and minimal light and noise.

3. Addressing other factors impacting sleep:

Many factors can affect sleep quality, including stress, diet, and physical activity. Let’s break these down:

  • Stress Management: Chronic stress is a common sleep disruptor. Incorporating relaxation techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, or deep breathing exercises into your daily routine can significantly improve sleep quality.
  • Diet: What we eat impacts our sleep. Avoid heavy meals, caffeine, and alcohol close to bedtime. Instead, opt for light, snacks like a banana or a small bowl of whole-grain cereal if you’re hungry before bed.
  • Exercise: Regular physical activity can enhance sleep quality. However, timing is key. Engaging in vigorous exercise close to bedtime can be stimulating. Aim to complete intense workouts earlier in the day and consider gentle activities like yoga or walking in the evening. For people who are busy and have trouble managing stress, exercise can also be a great stress management strategy. Think of it as an active form of meditation.
  • Other medical conditions: If our overall health is not good, predictably, sleep will also be disrupted. So, if you’re not sleeping well, and your physical or mental health needs attention, work on that and you’ll most likely seen an improvement in sleep.

Remember to make your sleep goals ‘SMART’ goals:

goal settingSet sleep goals that are SMART. That is, Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound. Use this form and the notes on making sure your goals are SMART below to outline your first goal. You can set more than one goal at a time, but avoid setting too many goals at once or it can be overwhelming. Whilst I’ve challenged you to set some sleep goals, don’t go overboard. Aim to start with at least one, but don’t set more than four.

Implementing your sleep goals

Now that we’ve established our sleep goals, how do we implement them? Start by making small changes. For instance, adjust your wake-up time gradually, give priority to your bedtime routine, and introduce stress-reducing activities into your daily schedule. Remember, consistency is crucial.

Tracking your progress can also be beneficial. Consider maintaining a sleep diary to note down your sleep times, quality, and any factors that might have affected your sleep. Alternatively use a sleep tracker such as a smart watch or wearable. Don’t focus on the minor details but use them as a tool to ensure you are getting enough sleep as well as helping you identify patterns and make adjustments to what you are doing.

Conclusion

Improving sleep quality is a journey, not a destination. As you work towards your sleep goals, be patient with yourself. Small, consistent changes can lead to significant improvements in your sleep quality and, by extension, your overall health and well-being. Here’s to a year of restful nights and energised days!

If you are still having trouble despite implementing your sleep goals, don’t be afraid to seek help. Your general practitioner (GP) is a great resource and will be able to look at your overall health and lifestyle factors to see if there is anything you may have missed, as well as evaluate you for a possible sleep disorder which may involve referring you on to see a sleep physician.

Resources / Links:

Need more information on how you can sleep better?

At SleepHub we understand the struggle people endure with sleeping problems which is why we have created a comprehensive FAQs page with information for those seeking information about sleep disorders and potential solutions. You can also check out our extensive resources and subscribe to our podcast.

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