Tired of breaking your New Year resolutions?
The end of the year is rapidly approaching and New Years’ will soon be upon us. While most of you will probably be out celebrating and seeing in the bells, some of you may already be planning your resolutions for 2019, whether it’s losing weight, getting fitter, going vegan or quitting cigarettes.
However, the sad thing is that for most of us, these resolutions can have a very short lifespan. In 2010, the University of Hertfordshire conducted a study that showed that a whopping 80% of people had let their resolutions slip by the end of January and that only 12% had achieved whatever goal they had set by the end of the year.
These results don’t exactly inspire a lot of hope going forwards but fortunately since then, another study by the same university has shown that there is an easy and effective way to maximise your chances of keeping your resolutions. The solution? A good night’s sleep!
How can a good night’s sleep help you to keep your resolutions?
When you think of what’s required to keep your New Years’ resolutions, you probably think of qualities such as persistence, determination and discipline. However, as Professor Richard Wiseman who led the study mentioned in his interview with the Daily Mail, ‘the brain requires the energy to do something we don’t really want to do or find difficult to do. If you are sleep deprived, then you don’t have the mental energy needed.1’
This latest study asked over 1000 people to rate their ability to stick to their new year resolutions and also to rate their sleep quality. Over 60% of those who got enough sleep were able to achieve their goals, suggesting that sleep is extremely important in helping people with self-control, willpower and maintaining focus – all things that have been backed up by other research.2
Professor Wiseman’s words make sense in this context. In my blog, ‘Is your lack of sleep making you overeat?’ I explored the relationship between sleep deprivation and cravings and in some of my other blogs I’ve looked at areas such as pain sensitivity, stress and concentration. If you’re not getting enough sleep it’s unlikely you’ll have the energy to motivate yourself to get to the gym and it’s unlikely you’ll have the fortitude to resist those sugar cravings.
How can you improve your sleep to make your resolutions stick?
So, before you embark on a new diet or get gym membership, the first crucial thing you should be sorting out next year is your sleep patterns. You can browse our site for more information on how to sleep well, but below I’ve included a few direct links that I feel are particularly relevant.
5 tips to help you get back to sleep
What is your circadian rhythm?
7 surprising habits that are ruining your sleep
1 – Is your resolution affecting your sleep patterns?
Firstly, it’s important to consider whether or not your resolution is going to impact your sleep patterns. If you’re new goal is to go out for a run before going to work, then the chances are you’ll be getting up slightly earlier each morning. This can be problematic – as Professor Wiseman points out, a common mistake when it comes to these types of resolutions is that often you won’t be going to bed any earlier to compensate for this lost hour of sleep.
As the month progresses, you’ll notice that you’re getting increasingly sleepier and fatigued during the day, which will almost certainly impact your motivation. It is important to be realistic about your body clock and schedule the things you want to achieve when you are at your best – if you are not an early bird by nature, make life easier for yourself and go for the run in the evening instead.
However, if you’re still set on running in the morning, then going to bed earlier is a better resolution than getting up earlier. Sleep before midnight is the most restorative to the body. After a while, you should naturally wake up earlier.
2 – Are you exposing yourself to stimulants?
If you’re aiming to spend more time at the gym then your body is going to be crying out for a fuel source. I mentioned earlier that sleep deprivation can stimulate cravings but the relationship works the other way too, with what you eat during the day often impacting your sleep at night.
If you’re spending more time at the gym, you’re probably going to be turning to sports drinks and coffee to sustain your energy levels during the day. Unfortunately, most sports drinks are chockfull of sugar and additives which can easily cause fluctuations with your blood sugar levels. These fluctuations can affect your sleep which will in turn increase your cravings, forming a vicious cycle. That’s why it might be worth considering more natural alternatives such as our Balance Mineral Drink.
When it comes to caffeine, the effects are more well-known. Most of you are probably aware that sipping on a cup of tea or coffee right before going to bed is unlikely to help you nod off. However, what most people aren’t aware of is how long caffeine can actually linger in your system for – it’s thought that it takes between 4-6 hours for just half of the caffeine you’ve consumed to leave your body, meaning that even having a cuppa in the afternoon could potentially be influencing your sleep.
The best thing you can do to prevent caffeine from having this effect would be to manage your intake sensibly and avoid having any caffeinated drinks after 2pm in the afternoon.
3 – Could you be at risk of becoming deficient in certain nutrients?
Veganuary has become a huge movement in recent years, with thousands of us swearing off meat and dairy during January. However, if you haven’t educated yourself properly beforehand, this abrupt jettison can have some less than ideal consequences for your health. Nutrients such as vitamin D, vitamin B12 and iron are often found in animal-derived products and, if you don’t know where else to find them, you can easily risk becoming deficient.
Nutritional deficiencies, as our Nutritionist Emma and I have discussed in a few of the blogs I’ve listed below, can increase your susceptibility to fatigue during the day and upset your sleep patterns at night. That’s why, if you are considering participating in Veganuary, I’d highly recommend reading Emma’s blog, ‘How should you approach going vegan this Veganuary?’
Feeling fatigued? You could be suffering from a deficiency!
Is magnesium a miracle mineral for sleep?
Does vitamin D help you to sleep?
4 – What is your sleep environment like?
If you’re looking to improve your sleep patterns, the best thing you can do is consider the environment that you’re sleeping in, for example, are you happy with the temperature of your bedroom? Is it too cold or too hot during the night? Is your mattress comfortable enough? Are you keeping devices such as laptops, tablets or smartphones near your bed? All of these factors can influence your quality of sleep for various reasons so, if you’re aiming to improve your sleep, you need to address them pretty early on. Again, I have written a couple of articles that tackle these issues so you could check them out below if you feel as though you need further guidance.
Are you digitally sleep deprived?
How to choose the right mattress
The colour of insomnia
How can winter affect your sleep?
5 – How can you improve your mood?
Your mood can have a tremendous impact on your sleep patterns, with low mood affecting how tired you are during the day and stress keeping you up at night. It doesn’t help that on top of this, the winter season could also be having an influence on how you’re feeling, with the winter blues (SAD), making you more prone to low moods and lethargy.
That’s why, if you’re trying to improve your sleep patterns, managing your mood can be a big help. If you are suffering from stress and are finding that it’s keeping you up at night, I do speak more extensively about this over at A.Vogel Talks Stress, where I offer more tips and advice about how to minimise its impact on your day to day life.
You could also experiment with more natural remedies such as the herbs Valerian and Hops, which can help to gently relax your nervous system, encouraging a good night’s sleep. You can find both of these herbs in our sleep remedy, Dormeasan, which is specially formulated for stress related sleep problems. Unlike traditional sleep medicines, it also has the added advantage of having no drowsy side effects!
(Originally published 7/1/15. Updated 19/10/18)