Increasing the amount of shut-eye you get may be a secret weapon against failure at common resolutions, according to sleep physician Cathy Goldstein, an assistant professor of neurology in the Sleep Disorders Centers at the University of Michigan.
Even minor sleep deficits that may not be evident in your level of functioning and pervasive performance handicaps assumed as ‘normal’ after a time can undermine
goals, from eating healthier to landing a promotion at work.
To optimise resolutions, strive for seven to eight hours of nightly sleep every night. Try to go to bed at the same time each evening, even on weekends. Otherwise, “you’re basically putting your body through jet lag on Sunday night,” says Goldstein.
Keep your bedroom as dark as possible. Install blackout blinds or curtains to block any light pollution that can suppress the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps control your sleep and wake cycles.
Cover any direct glow from electronics or clocks. “You’re most sensitive to bright light in the middle of the night,” says Goldstein. “Even low levels can have a negative effect.”
And don’t use your smartphone or tablet while in bed. Set the phone to ‘do not disturb’ mode to avoid sleep interruptions from late-night calls or texts. Here are common goals that may be scuttled by poor sleep hygiene.
‘I want to eat healthier’: The pitfalls of eating junk food are twofold when sleep is in short supply. Night owls are more likely to snack in the evening (either by raiding the pantry or hitting a drive-thru) and those who eat during the nighttime tend to weigh more.
Even ‘evening people’ who aren’t getting enough sleep are apt to make poor meal choices during the day. Sleep restriction decreases one’s levels of leptin (the hormone that makes you feel full) and boosts ghrelin, which collectively increase appetite and alter food choices in a negative way. “It really changes the profile of what you eat to high carbohydrate, salty, sugary snacks,” says Goldstein.
‘I want to exercise more’: Who feels like hitting the gym when they’re exhausted? Beyond a lack of mental motivation, the physical payoffs of exercise are reduced when your sleep routine is out of whack.
Researchers have found that adequate sleep improves speed, strength and endurance in athletes. A 2013 Northwestern University study found that the connection benefits everyone: “The less sleep you get, the shorter your exercise duration the next day is going to be,” says Goldstein.
‘I want a promotion’: Good employees are alert, motivated and cheerful. Those qualities, says Goldstein, “all are impaired by sleep loss.” Sleep deprivation also spurs what she dubs “cyber loafing” – that is, mindlessly scrolling social media or entertainment sites while on the clock.
The risks aren’t relevant only to those seeking to climb the corporate ladder. A
well-rested boss is probably a better worker, too. Notes Goldstein: “There is some
research saying sleep-deprived people in managerial roles are less ethical and not
‘I want to improve my relationship’: Working through any interpersonal issues can be a challenge on its own, but fatigue hinders the healing process. “A person’s mood is going to be worse when they don’t sleep,” says Goldstein.
Those with obstructive sleep apnoea, a disorder in which breathing is interrupted during the night, often “have a really short fuse; they’re much quicker to anger,” says Goldstein. “But once we get their sleep quality improved, their social interactions are markedly improved.”
‘I want to quit smoking’: Sleep deprivation is tied to higher rates of nicotine dependence, says Goldstein. Researchers aren’t exactly sure why, but she suspects much of it relates to nicotine’s “activating” properties to help users relax or concentrate, among other things.
Low sleep reserves affect your ability to make good decisions. That includes whether to use harmful tobacco products, even if you’re aware of their detrimental effects.