Year of the Habit: Mix & match these habits for better sleep
To kick off our series on building new habits in the Year of the Rabbit, we’re starting with the most fundamental health-related need: SLEEP. According to Erica Jansen of the University of Michigan School of Public Health:
Sleep is essential to every process in the body, affecting our physical and mental functioning the next day, our ability to fight disease and develop immunity, and our metabolism and chronic disease risk. Considering how important a good night’s rest is to your health and happiness, why not make 2023 the year you really make an effort to improve it?
To help you with this challenge, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite habit ideas for improving sleep, organized by time of day. Before you make a move, though, do not make the rookie mistake of trying to implement all of these changes right away. James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, sticks to one change at a time, while Tiny Habits author Dr. BJ Fogg suggests that you can successfully make three small changes at once. To help you kickstart your journey to better sleep, we recommend choosing 2 or 3 habits from our list, and committing to them for the next 28 days.
Suggestions for sleep habits you can choose from:
On a daily basis
- Get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day (recommended by Johns Hopkins Medicine) — even a casual walk is better than nothing!
- Practice stress-reducing techniques such as mindfulness or deep breathing
- Eat meals at consistent times to manage energy levels throughout the day
In the evening
- Turn off all screens at least an hour before bed. Instead, use the last hour of the day reading a paperback, knitting, journaling, or some other relaxing activity
- Stop consuming liquids at least 3 hours before bedtime, especially alcohol and caffeine
- Write down your to-do list for the next day, and prepare everything you’ll need for your first activity of the following day, such as your clothes, shoes, and bag
- Put a bottle of water next to your bed so you can hydrate immediately upon waking
- Use guided progressive muscle relaxation or develop your own self-guided practice
- Take steps to make your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet (Tip: use earplugs or white noise if you live in a noisy environment)
In the morning
- Drink that bottle of water you prepared the night before
- View direct sunlight immediately after waking to reset the hormones that control your sleep-wake cycle
- Start the day with an activity you look forward to (may we recommend Book Morning! for some morning reading?)
Have you picked your two or three habits to implement? Great! Start by listing them out on a sheet of paper, noting down any tools you will need in order to be successful. For example, if you plan to maintain a cool, dark, and quiet bedroom from now on, you might need to gather a good sleep mask or earplugs first.
Once you know what’s needed, there’s one more thing you should do to ensure that your habit will be successful: Put it on your calendar or set a recurring digital reminder! It can be easy to scroll mindlessly on your device until late into the night, but putting your bedtime on your schedule and having your phone remind you to shut down for the night will help to disrupt that unhealthy habit.
Again, aim to stick to these new habits for the next 28 days, and keep track of your progress. If you miss a day, be patient with yourself, and re-spark your motivation by recalling why you wanted to optimize your sleep in the first place. After a month has passed, check in with yourself and see if you’re ready to add a new habit to the ones you’ve already implemented — be sure to bookmark this article as a handy reference!