If getting a good night’s sleep is not on your list of New Year’s resolutions, you might be setting yourself up for failure with the other goals on your list, including health-related ones, according to a sleep specialist from Ryerson University.
“If you’re having poor quality sleep it can actually interfere with some of your weight loss and weight maintenance goals,” said Colleen Carney, director of the Sleep and Depression Laboratory at Ryerson University. “It actually affects your metabolism, your ability to process insulin, and makes you hungrier and makes you feel less full when you’re eating so you’re prone to overeating.”
Not only does poor sleep affect a person’s physical health, it’s connected with mental health problems as well, said Carney, speaking on CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning.
“Unfortunately, people suffering from insomnia are susceptible to developing depression, so it’s really important for us to understand those links,” Carney said.
Create a routine for winding down
To get 2018 off on the right foot, Carney recommends implementing a routine for winding down that begins one hour before bed.
“You want to make sure that the phone is put away because that’s the device that keeps you plugged in to problem-solving, sometimes bad news or exciting news,” Carney said. “And you want to really cease any goal-directed problem-solving that we regularly do during the day.”
Suitable replacements for looking at one’s smartphone could be any relaxing, enjoyable activity, such as taking a bath, meditating, yoga or hobbies, Carney said. If you use your phone as a wake-up alarm, turn off the notifications so you’re not tempted to pick it up.
Sleeping well makes it easier to achieve other goals such as those for
Find your perfect sleep cycle
People vary in terms of the times when they typically get sleepy or wake naturally, Carney said. This often changes over one’s lifetime, for example, teenagers generally prefer to go to sleep later than adults, but adults can figure out their natural cycle and plan to sleep accordingly.
“If you typically get sleepy around 11 and your body would actually wake you up around six or seven, then you know that’s pretty much the sweet spot for you and this is largely genetically determined,” Carney said.
As far as how much sleep you really need, Colleen recommends looking at how much you sleep on average over a two-week period. Sleeping nine hours on a single weekend night may not mean you need nine hours of sleep every night.
“Some people are longer sleepers, but you shouldn’t be sort of picking what your longest sleep is and say ‘that’s what I’m going to go for’ because that will create insomnia over time.”
Adults can take a cue from children
While adults push their children to go to bed early and give them routines for winding down before bed, many don’t apply the same rules to themselves, Carney said.
“We know it’s good for how alert they’re going to feel during the day, their emotion regulation and how well they sleep,” Carney said. “But when we become adults we think we outgrow that and we throw all that out the window, and when we feel crappy and have trouble sleeping, we can’t understand why.
“We have to get back to basics.”