How many times do you intend to do something good for your health, and then don’t seem to follow through? Why do we seem to sabotage our own best interest sometimes? Most people feel better with 7-8 hours of sleep every night. Here’s how you can get in that routine.
Research has been done to identify what motivates people to make sustainable health changes. The Stages of Change model developed as a result. It is most helpful when you go through each stage fully, and that is the purpose of this article—to help you effectively make a sustainable plan to get enough sleep on a regular basis. The stages of change are precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance.
The first stage is Precontemplation, which generally means it’s not a problem for you. Let’s move on. Since you’re reading this article, you’re already contemplating.
Stage 2: Contemplation. This is when you recognize you need more sleep. It’s very common for people to jump right into the action phase at this point, thinking “tonight’s the night—I’m going to be in bed by 10!” There’s a good chance you won’t be successful with that quick jump into the Action phase.
Next is stage 3: Preparation. This is when you are motivated to get a more consistent sleep schedule with an adequate number of hours of good quality sleep, and you’re ready to figure out how to do it.
This article is going to focus on these last two stages. They truly set the stage to make the action phase happen with more ease.
Research shows you need twice as many reasons to make a change as to not make a change. Get a piece of paper with two columns: REASONS TO MAKE A CHANGE and REASONS TO NOT MAKE A CHANGE. List all the reasons you can think of to keep doing what you’re doing, no matter how silly or seemingly inconsequential. People often list things like “quiet time,” “no demands on me,” “I can catch up with friends or family,” or “I need to study as much as possible.” It helps to see the things that may have been unconsciously motivating you to stay up too late.
Now, onto the reasons to make a change. You’ll need twice as many reasons to change in order to get over the resistance to making a change. Here’s some to add to your own personal list. If one of these is particularly compelling, add to it to personalize it even more:
- Improves your mood, decreases depressive symptoms
- Improves anxiety, decreases irritability
- More creativity
- Better focus
- Improves your memory
- Better academic performance (less than 5 hours of sleep for 2 nights can triple your inattention)
- Decreases food cravings, making it easier to maintain a healthy weight
- Improves immune response, including your response to a vaccination
- Improves physical agility (motor skill speed and accuracy increases 20-40% after one full night of sleep)
- Lowers your risk of stroke, heart attack, cancer, diabetes and dementia
Now comes preparation: Flip over that sheet of paper and write out a plan. Here are some ideas:
- Choose a start date–maybe a Sunday evening.
- Remind yourself how good you’ll feel once you get good sleep
- Switch to non-caffeinated beverages after 2 p.m.
- Eat lightly at night, especially 2-3 hours before going to sleep
- Put away blue light devices one hour before sleep
- Keep your sleep environment dark
- Aim for a regular bedtime. Set a reminder on your phone an hour before bedtime
- Do your regular bedtime routine, and add one more relaxing activity for progressive relaxation: Do some light stretches, take a shower, listen to a calming app and put lavender lotion on your neck or face
- If a lot of worries arise at bedtime, keep a little notepad nearby and jot down things you need to address. Whether they are large or small worries, jot them down and reassure yourself that you will address them later.
Good luck and good preparation–your brain and your whole self will appreciate the gift of good sleep.