6 New Year's Resolutions That Are Easier to Keep When You Sleep Better

/ December 17, 2019

Welcome back to our regular series with certified sleep educator Terry Cralle, MS, RN. In this post, Cralle explains how getting a good night's sleep can help you achieve your New Year's resolutions. 

For many of us, January brings a litany of New Year's resolutions. Often they revolve around things we can do to improve our health, general well-being, and quality of life: lose weight, commit to exercising, get more organized, spend more time with family and friends. But despite our best intentions, we often don't follow through. Want to know the key to keeping your New Year's resolutions this year? Making sure you get enough sleep.

How sleep makes it easier to stick to New Year's resolutions

What does sleep have to do with the most common New Year's resolutions? You might be surprised.

Getting fit and healthy: There used to be a saying that sleep, diet, and exercise were the three pillars of health. But we now know that without the foundation of sleep, the other two pillars will quickly crumble. That's because sleep plays a crucial role in metabolism, appetite, food choices, and ultimately weight. Sleep also affects the ability to exercise. Without sufficient sleep we are too exhausted, not to mention unmotivated, to get up and get moving. Trying to manage weight and exercise without managing sleep is an uphill battle. Plus, a lack of sleep can lead to a heightened risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, some cancers, and stroke, to name a few.

Losing weight: Science has clearly demonstrated an association between sleep loss and obesity. When we don't get enough sleep, hormones, like ghrelin and leptin, are thrown out of whack, increasing appetite and causing us to crave high-sugar and high-fat foods. With proper sleep, better judgment and healthier food choices come much more easily. (Here's how sugar affects your sleep.)

Enjoying life: Sleep and happiness are intertwined. Without enough sleep, mood takes a major hit. Inadequate sleep can leave us irritable, pessimistic, unmotivated, and depressed. We are also less able to handle stress. We become less creative, less ethical, and more susceptible to substance abuse, relationship problems, and accidents when we don't get the sleep we need. In fact, some research has demonstrated that people who sleep well are more satisfied with life.

Becoming more organized: Sleep impacts our prefrontal cortex, where the executive functioning part of our brain resides. A lack of sleep can leave us unable to plan, make good decisions, or problem solve. Exhausted people are often procrastinators and sluggish, leaving them less productive than their well-rested counterparts. Note: Get the clutter out of your bedroom and make your bed every day while you're at it—doing so may help your sleep.

Cleaning up your spending habits: A healthy financial state is all about self-control, judgment, and the ability to think clearly—the very things that sufficient sleep provides. In fact, risk-taking increases with a lack of sleep, as do errors. Research on gambling and sleep deprivation point to a connection between sleep deprivation and poor decision making—a notoriously bad combination in a casino—as a sleep-deprived person will tend to “implicitly seek gains while discounting the impact of potential losses."

Spending more time with family and friends: With the cognitive advantages sleep provides, you can get more done in less time and do it better. Conversely, without ample sleep, you will struggle to focus, be forever trying to get caught up, take longer to do a task, and make more errors than you would if you were sufficiently rested. As a result, you may end up always working late or unable to meet deadlines—meaning less time to spend time with the ones you love. It's also worth noting that insufficient sleep may breed conflict, thereby putting relationships at risk, and can make it harder for couples to value each other. Sleep problems are also associated with family tension and inadequate emotional support.

The bottom line: Resolving to get the sleep your mind and body need will help you start the new year right! (Here's what science says is the amount of sleep you need.)

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