Sleep Experts Share Their Resolutions for 2020
January is the time we all make our New Year’s resolutions—and one goal that’s definitely worth committing to is getting more sleep. In a new survey, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that close to one-third of Americans get fewer than six hours of sleep every night—and not getting enough shut-eye puts you at higher risk for everything from heart disease to depression. Of course, getting more sleep is easier said than done, especially when you throw a high-stress job and/or kids into the mix.
Even sleep professionals—the people who help other people sleep for a living—acknowledge that they can do a better job of prioritizing sleep in their own lives. Here, some of the sleep experts we’ve consulted during the past year share their sleep resolutions for 2020. We wish you a happy, healthy, and well-rested new year.
Stick to a consistent sleep schedule
One New Year’s resolution that many sleep experts have for 2019: to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day—even on weekends. “This is important to me because it indicates that I’m getting an adequate amount of sleep on a nightly basis,” says Nate Watson, MD, co-director of the University of Washington Medicine Sleep Center.
Sleep experts know that getting into the habit of going to bed at the same time every night will help you perform better during the day. “I want to have a set bedtime each night—lights out by 10:30 p.m.—so I can get a full eight hours of sleep each night,” says Christine Brown, certified sleep consultant at Bella Luna Sleep Consulting, a child sleep coaching practice in New Hampshire. “My 4-year-old twins wake at 6:30 a.m., and I need my rest to keep up with them and to successfully run a business.”
Beyond going to bed at the same time every night, sleep pros also want to make the time for evening rituals that help them unwind. Tamsin Astor, PhD, who writes about sleep in her book Force of Habit: Unleash Your Power by Developing Great Habits, has three activities she wants to get into the routine of following every night: “massage my hands and feet, drink a cup of golden milk or herbal tea, and write down my daily gratitudes, so each preceding habit cues the next habit and I don’t have to think about it.”
Make use of popular sleep tech
Sleep supplements (like melatonin) come with many potential side effects and are often sold in too-high doses, which is why many sleep experts are interested in exploring other types of sleep aids. Fortunately, there are quite a few popular —and effective—alternatives to sleep meds.
Bill Fish, certified sleep coach and founder of tuck.com, says one of his New Year’s resolutions for 2019 is to start using a white noise machine to help him stay asleep. White noise creates a masking effect to block out potential sleep disturbances like a snoring partner or a car alarm outside your window.
Fish also plans to incorporate a weighted blanket into his nightly routine. “While I’ve tinkered with a weighted blanket, I’m going to try to sleep full time with one in hopes that the calming feeling will help me rest through the entire night and not spend time tossing and turning,” he says. The theory behind these blankets, which are weighted with some type of “fill” (usually plastic pellets), is that they make you feel secure, which helps calm you down and promotes sleep. In a study published in the Journal of Occupational Therapy in Mental Health, 63% of participants reported lower levels of anxiety after using a weighted blanket.
CBD—the non-psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plant—is another one of the buzziest sleep aids of the moment. It’s one that Michael Breus, PhD, clinical psychologist and sleep expert in Los Angeles, is going to take advantage of in 2019 to help reduce any inflammation that may be affecting his sleep. While CBD research is still in its early stages, studies show that it has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, making it a promising sleep solution for those with autoimmune diseases, chronic pain, and more.
Limit electronics in the bedroom
Even sleep experts are guilty of bringing phones and laptops into their bedrooms. (In fact, the National Sleep Foundation reports that 71% of people sleep with their phones in or near their beds.) So for 2019, many of the pros are making a commitment to cut back on their use of electronics in the bedroom.
“While I don’t bring my laptop to my bedroom often, I need to leave it downstairs entirely in the year to come,” says Ginger Houghton, licensed therapist specializing in insomnia, anxiety, and depression. “When we use our bed for activities that aren’t connected to sleep, we increase the chances of having a bad night’s sleep.” (Here are effective strategies for banning your devices from your bedroom.)
Sometimes you have to use your phone or laptop before bed—in which case protecting yourself from the blue light that screens emit is key. Blue light inhibits melatonin production, making it harder to fall asleep. That’s why another one of Breus’s New Year’s resolutions is to wear blue-light-blocking glasses at night to minimize the effects of blue light.
Say no to late-night snacks and drinks
Acid reflux is a serious sleep disruptor, and a bad case of heartburn can follow if you eat or drink too close to bedtime. Heartburn is typically worse at night because when you lie down stomach acid can easily come back up into your esophagus. One of Watson’s New Year’s resolutions is “to avoid eating or drinking within two hours of bedtime to avoid nighttime heartburn and reduce the need to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.” (Here are the 10 worst foods to eat before bed.)
Unlike certain foods, water is great for your sleep quality—but guzzling it too close to bedtime can lead to frequent bathroom trips during the night. So Ron Ehrlich, holistic health expert in Australia who focuses on stress management and wellness, will make it a point to drink enough H20 during the day. “Sometimes if I don’t hydrate during the day, I’ve found that I end up playing catch-up before bed,” he says. “To avoid this, I will make sure to hydrate throughout the day.”
Avoid working the night shift (if you can)
Getting a good night’s sleep is difficult enough when you work a traditional 9-to-5 gig—but it’s even harder when you work the night shift. According to the CDC, close to 15 million Americans have irregular work schedules, including overnight and rotating shifts.
Many doctors and nurses fall into this camp, which means that while they’re busy keeping the rest of us healthy, they’re sacrificing their own sleep and well-being. Kyle Varner, MD, internal medicine physician who focuses on preventive care and life extension, plans to quit taking on night shifts to prioritize his own health.
“As a doctor, I used to work night shifts very frequently, but now I have resolved not to accept any more night shift work, because multiple high-quality studies have shown that night shift workers die younger than their day shift counterparts,” he says. “Multiple studies on health outcomes and sleep have made it clear that good quality sleep on a regular basis improves health and leads to a longer life. The human body works in a day-night cycle, and it is vitally important to sleep at night and be awake during the day.”
To get his sleep schedule back on track, Varner has laid out a few steps to follow. “I’m going to work to minimize disruptions during the night by silencing my phone, keeping ambient light away from my bedroom, and making sure to do everything I can to minimize noise,” he says. “I’ll also work to minimize naps during the day so that I can sleep at night when it is the most physiologically beneficial to do so.” Varner also plans to get regular exercise and exposure to sunlight during the day to help reinforce a proper circadian rhythm. “By taking these steps, I’ll be laying the foundation for a longer, healthier and happier life,” he says. (Here’s why early morning workouts help you sleep better.)
Help children and teens get serious about sleep
Most teens don’t get anywhere near the amount of sleep they really need. (The National Sleep Foundation reports that more than half of teens in the United States are sleep deprived.) One of Watson’s goals is “to get my teenage children in bed in time for them to get the recommended eight to 10 hours of sleep per night to keep them safe and healthy.” (Learn about how the right pillow can help teens get more sleep.)
For more advice from sleep experts, see what surprising things they say can help you sleep.