One Resolution: Sleep Like An Athlete
Why Resolutions Fail
There’s a saying that “failure to plan is planning to fail.” While that seems to fly in the face of the many happy lives created by seemingly random synchronicity in lieu of–or in spite of!–a plan, I think there is some truth to it when it comes to New Year’s resolutions. Why? A couple of reasons.
Let’s side aside the unrealistic and unreasonable (“become an astronaut this year”), the vague (“be healthier”), and the other types of ill-considered or poorly-worded goals.
First, many people choose a goal–let’s use “lose 10 pounds” as an example–and then don’t have a plan on how to get there. Or worse, they have a bad plan (the cabbage soup diet plan, the 2 hours of cardio every day plan, anything with the word “detox” in it). Hey, cutting off your head is an instant 12 pound weight loss, but it’s not exactly the result you’re looking for.
Second, those who choose a goal and have a plan often lack the patience to see the plan through. Patience isn’t praised or cultivated in a culture where everything moves at the speed of email.
Third–and this is the category that kills me because I’ve been in it–there are plenty of people who have a goal, and a plan, and the patience, and they arrive at the goal and then….get lost. If the goal is to lose 10 pounds, people focus on the plan to lose the pounds and forget that after they lose those pounds they are going to need a plan to keep them off. (This is the biggest reason why “diets” don’t work: if you only change your habits temporarily, you only get results temporarily.)
Any goal worth working towards, any resolution with any ambition, requires a change in habits. We are creatures of habit, our habits both reflect who we are and make us who we are in a never-ending feedback loop, unless we make the conscious decision to change.
My One Resolution for 2017
Ready for it? In 2017, I resolve to sleep at least 7 hours every night. (Once I get to 7, I’ll work on 8.) There are so many reasons why everyone needs this resolution–even those of you who are absolutely certain you function just fine on your limited amounts of sleep–that Ariana Huffington wrote a book on them, The Sleep Revolution. (If you function “just fine” on the sleep you are getting now, what could you do if you fully recharged your body? How much more awesome could you exude?) It’s not just Huffington who has clued in to this, either.
I’ve probably seen several dozen magazine articles about sleep this year. A 2015 editorial published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that because sleep and body composition are correlated, sleep is as essential to health as good nutrition. Most recently, the December 2016 issue of Shape Magazine included a quick squib on a study from the University of Manchester that found spinal disks have their own “body clock” and messing with it may worsen or cause back pain. The note concluded, “The easiest way to stabilize your body clock and pain-proof your spine may be to stick to regular bedtimes and wake-up times.” While I find the conclusion a bit overdone–it’s not really “pain-proof” but more like “decreasing your risk for pain”–it shows the fixation we’ve got on sleep, and how sleep is related to everything health.
A quick romp through my inbox reveals 157 emails that refer to sleep. (That’s AFTER my inbox-zero experiment, which will certainly be the subject of another blog post.) A quick sampling of the more interesting references:
- Sleep Deprivation is Not a Badge of Honor
- Six Bad Sleep Habits to Break in the New Year
- Which Is More Important, Sleep or Exercise?
- 6 Benefits of Having a Bedtime Routine for Runners
- 5 Ways Not Getting Enough Sleep Hurts Your Health and Appearance
You get the idea. So I’ve resolved to get more sleep. C’mon, you know you want to! Even the cool kids are doing it. (See, for example, More Sleep, Less Beer: 9 Elite Runners Make New Year’s Resolutions.)
Here is a helpful graphic guide with tips from Casper:
It seems pretty easy, right? Just go to bed earlier, or get up later, or both, and poof! More sleep. I’m not a morning person, so getting up later would be great! Except that I’d probably lose my job, and the court isn’t going to take “oh, I had to get my seven hours” as my free pass to stroll in mid-proceedings. So I’ve got to learn to go to bed earlier. The problem is that I’m naturally a night-owl. After spending most of my day at the office and/or working, I come home, take an hour or two to decompress, and then start working on my personal projects.
Here are my action steps, consistent with good sleep hygiene:
- Watch less TV, generally.
- Turn off the devices no later than 10 p.m. (or one hour before bedtime, for nights where I need to get to sleep earlier in order to meet the 7 hour goal)
- Limit weeknight alcohol to 0-1 drinks; add a pre-bedtime decaff tea
- Drink more water during the day
- Stick to my bedtime routine
How is your sleep? Do you have a bedtime routine?
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