New Year resolutions can ruin your sleep even when well intended. I’ve always had mixed emotions about New Year’s resolutions: on one hand, the best can motivate you to make positive changes in your life, but so many of us end up with a list of failed resolutions instead.
For 2021, I’m going to share what I consider to be the top 3 mistakes when setting New Year’s resolutions, how they negatively impact your sleep and the best alternatives.
What are the Worst Ideas for New Year’s Resolutions?
Going on a Crash Diet
Losing weight is one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions, in and of itself, isn’t a bad one. According to the Centers for Disease Control, obesity rates among American adults rose from 30.5% to 42.4% from 2000 to 2018.
And we know that obesity puts individuals at an increased risk for chronic health conditions like heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.
The problem with choosing weight loss as a goal is that people often resort to crash diets to lose weight quickly.
If you’re crash dieting, the first major sleep risk is insomnia and waking up at night.
Researchers from Australia studied a group of 381 young adults and found a strong association between overly restrictive diets, low mood, and poor sleep quality.
It’s especially pronounced in people who are already thinner, but extreme dieting can impact your sleep quality no matter your weight. In addition, restrictive diets are associated with low blood sugar levels.
Better Resolution: Lose Weight Gradually
If you must set a weight goal, make sure it’s in a healthy BMI range and realistic for you. Aim to lose no more than 1 pound a week, and leave sensible wiggle room in your diet for treats and eating with others. Most health professionals recommend diets of no lower than 1,200 calories a day unless under medical supervision.
Trying to Reconnect….On Social Media With Some Caveats
Trying to reconnect and spend more time with friends and family is something that I highly encourage. But relying on social media to do that can be tricky.
In a year of social distancing, social media can be a powerful tool to keep up connected and improve relationships. But it can also be misused.
There are two sleep risks to overusing social media. The first is blue light. All of our electronics emit blue light, which disrupts sleep patterns by reducing the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. That’s a big problem at night.
The second risk is more psychological: too much time spent on social media can lead to negative comparisons, and exposure to often negative or inflammatory messages. Both depression and stress, in turn, can impact sleep.
Better Resolution: Schedule it In
Schedule time with your loved ones–especially if you’ll be connecting through social media. Not only will that make you more likely to stick to your resolution; you’ll also be less likely to browse mindlessly for hours on end.
And if you do plan on connecting with loved ones at night, just make sure to wear blue light blocking glasses to keep your sleep on track.
I try to fit in some movement every day, whether that means walking my dogs in the morning or going out for a run, to keep my heart healthy, boost my mood, and even keep my sleep on track.
But overtraining or jumping into an intense exercise plan may actually have the opposite effect.
I’ve written about how sleep and exercise are a necessary partnership: exercise can extend sleep duration and sleep quality, while sleep increases recovery time, endurance, and lowers your risk of injury.
But research suggests that too much exercise results in changed sleep patterns, less sleep efficiency, reduced sleep duration, and an overall decline in sleep quality. This was seen even among regular athletes, let alone someone just starting up a new routine.
Better Resolution: Focus on Movement
Just how much exercise is too much?
There is no one size fits all, but the American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, or about 30 minutes a day. You can do more than that– but if you have trouble sleeping, are irritable, always sore, and dreading it, chances are you need to back off.
Aim to increase your movement slowly. And if your performance is struggling because you’re up at night, consider tracking your sleep just as you would your steps with SleepTracker Sleep Score Max.
Remember: setting New Year’s resolutions can be a positive step forward in your life. Just make sure to attack them with moderation, and set reasonable expectations.