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Why We All Need to Commit to Better Sleep Habits in 2020

Here we are, less than two months into 2020, and I can’t think of a better time to assess our goals and dreams for the next 11 months — and indeed the decade ahead. After all, by some accounts, roughly 80% of New Year’s resolutioners have given up on their intentions by the second week of February. 
 
Whether your goals are big or small, there is one intention I hope you make — or recommit to — because it underpins every aspect of your life: getting consistent, quality sleep. 
The extraordinary importance of sleep has been confirmed by ample research backing up the value of deep rest and its impact on our well-being. Science has shown that sleep is critical for good health and the prevention of disease. 
 
Sleep helps us focus, enhances our relationships, and boosts our mood. Given the proven benefits, it’s worth implementing simple routines and practices that will not only make you feel great, but will also propel you towards achieving your goals. 
 
Supporting me in my mission of improving lives through better quality sleep is Dr. Chris Winter, M.D., Director of the Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine Center and author of The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep Is Broken and How To Fix It. “Getting good sleep is a commitment to our physical and emotional health — it’s really everything. If you are sleep deprived, adding just 15 minutes a night is really meaningful over a year,” he says.
 
Before making changes to your sleep routine, take stock of various health and well-being factors that we know are impacted by sleep deprivation. For example, says Dr. Winter, “You can look at your weight, your blood pressure, how often you are getting sick and how many times you’ve skipped a workout either because you didn’t have the energy or were injured. This baseline is important to assess, because after just a few weeks, you should notice a difference. Ask yourself: Do I feel more productive? Has my mood improved? Am I getting injured less and feeling stronger in my exercise class?”
 
Here are four additional tried and tested practices that will set you up for good sleep tonight and every night — offering a great way to start your new routine for better sleep.
 
1. Be consistent about bedtime 
 
Science shows that going to bed (and waking up) at more or less the same time — including weekends — will lead to better, consistent shut-eye, because your brain will recognize when it’s time to sleep. You might want to try adding wind-down steps in advance of your bedtime. 
 
2. Seek out relaxing activities
 
In the hour before going to bed, it’s important to be diligent about the activities you choose. Putting away your devices is key so you aren’t tempted to check emails or send off another text. Additionally, light, especially the blue light emitted by our gadgets, suppresses and delays the release of melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone which starts to go up naturally in the evening. 
 
A few things to consider: taking a warm shower or reading an uplifting book (nothing stressful) — something you find relaxing. Try blue light blocking glasses when watching TV or  using your devices in the evening. There is also evidence that calming music (whatever you enjoy is fine) can help you fall asleep.
 
3. Choose the right bed
 
The most important element for a “sleep sanctuary” should be your bed. What you sleep on matters. We all need a comfortable, supportive bed, and too often that is the last thing people think about when they want to improve their sleep. Your bed needs to contribute to your quality sleep, giving you the right comfort and support for your body.  
 
4. Practice gratitude
 
Our time spent in bed is a great opportunity to look back on anything positive that happened during the day, whether that’s a lunch with a good friend or a win at work. Personally, before I go to sleep, I spend time appreciating the blessings in my life, like my health, family, friends, those who have passed and the serenity of nature. 
 
Studies show that practicing gratitude, particularly at bedtime, improves quality of sleep. It’s just one way to send a signal to your brain that you are safe and secure, that you have everything you need and can drift off peacefully. 

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