Now that we’re nearing the end of an extraordinarily tough year (bye bye, 2020!), maybe you’ve noticed that lately, you’ve been making poorer food choices, skipping workouts and struggling to remain focused on tasks. January 1st is as good a time as any to start turning those things around, so you can feel better, look better, and do your best work. Where to start? How about with a New Year’s resolution to improve your sleeping habits? Here are five ways better sleep will pay off in 2021.
- Better sleep might help you lose weight. Too little sleep is a major risk factor for obesity,1 because it can increase appetite, can decrease resting metabolism and can cause cells to become insulin-resistant, among other problems. If “losing weight” is one of your resolutions, consider making that goal a little more specific and action-oriented. For example, you could resolve, instead, to go to bed an hour earlier and take a walk in the afternoon.
- More sleep might help you perform better at work. Lack of sleep impairs executive function, slows reaction time, reduces creativity, and hinders focus2—and, if you’ve been overtired for a while, you might not even realize it’s happening. Research shows that people who slept the least were also the least productive at work—one study pegged the productivity cost of a worker with insomnia at $3,156.3 If you’ve noticed your focus slipping or your creative projects suffering, a resolution to clean up your sleep hygiene might be an effective way of getting back on track.
- Deeper sleep might help reduce your stress. You probably know firsthand that stress can affect your sleep—but sleep can also affect your stress. In fact, a single sleepless night can raise emotional stress levels by 30 percent.4 Besides feeling awful, chronic stress can suppress your immune system, elevate your blood pressure, and disrupt your digestion.5 To avoid the death spiral of stress leading to sleeplessness, hence leading to more stress, make a real effort to wind down before going to bed each night. For example, your New Year’s resolution could be to ensure that all screens are turned off at least an hour before bedtime.
- Sleep might improve your workouts—and your motivation. Good rest is essential to all your fitness goals, including muscle-building and improved endurance.6 If you have a fitness-related ambition for 2021, sleep should be an essential component of it. In fact, without good rest, you might struggle to find the will to work out at all—which is your body’s way of telling you that, as important as exercise is, sleep is even more vital.
- Sufficient sleep is an essential ingredient to your relationships. If you’ve ever witnessed a two-year-old melting down after a missed nap, you understand how important sleep is to our emotional stability. Without good sleep, we become impatient and irritated, and we tend to overreact to everything,7 making even small problems feel like the end of the world. If relationship issues have been on your mind during the pandemic—either because of too much togetherness with loved ones or too little— part of the issue may be a need to pay more attention to your sleep habits and environment.
It’s so easy to overlook the importance of sleep, but it’s one of those foundational health issues that touches every aspect of our lives. Once you start seeing the benefits—better health, better focus, better mood, better workouts, better relationships—this will be one resolution you will have no trouble sticking with!
For many more sleep tips and expert insights, continue reading the Sleep Talk blog.
- “7 Ways Sleep Can Help You Lose Weight,” by Caroline Pullen, Healthline, June 2017. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/sleep-and-weight-loss#TOC_TITLE_HDR_8
- “How Lack of Sleep Impacts Cognitive Performance and Focus,” National Sleep Foundation, accessed November 2020. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-lack-sleep-impacts-cognitive-performance-and-focus
- “Sleep Deprivation’s True Workplace Costs,” by Patrick J. Skerrett, Harvard Business Review, January 2011. https://hbr.org/2011/01/sleep-deprivations-true-workpl.html
- “Stressed to the max? Deep sleep can rewire the anxious brain,” ScienceDaily, November 2019. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/11/191104124140.htm
- “Stress effects on the body,” American Psychological Association, November 2018. https://www.apa.org/topics/stress-body
- “The Intimate Relationship Between Fitness and Sleep,” by Ashley Mateo, Everyday Health, May 2018. https://www.everydayhealth.com/fitness/intimate-relationship-between-fitness-sleep/
- “How Sleep Affects Your Relationships, According to Science,” by Cassie Shortsleeve, Time, August 2018. https://time.com/5348694/how-sleep-affects-relationships/