When it comes to sleep, you need to get in the ‘goldilocks’ zone. Getting too little sleep can affect your health in the short term and cause problems with everything from remembering to driving. But getting too much sleep isn’t good for you either. Over time, sleeping too much increases the risk for obesity and heart disease. To get in the goldilocks zone, follow this plan for changing your sleeping habits a little at time to improve your sleep hygiene and get the perfect amount of sleep every night.
Week 1 – Figure Out Where You Stand
Your first goal is to determine how much sleep you are getting each night. During the first week, keep a sleep journal that records what time you lay down, when you think you fell asleep, if you woke up over the course of the night, how long you were awake if you did, and when you finally woke up in the morning. This will give you an idea of how much sleep you are getting.
Week 2 – Aim for Seven Straight
For years doctors have recommended that the optimal amount of sleep to get each night is eight hours. However, new research indicates that the actual amount of sleep you need is only seven hours a night. Now that you know how much sleep you are getting, you need to adjust your schedule so that you are able to get seven straight hours a night. Continue keeping track of things in your journal.
Week 3 – Assess Your Environment
Your sleep environment can have a big impact on how much sleep you get and the quality of that sleep. This week, assess that environment. Look for excessive light that may be keeping you from sleeping. Keep track of whether your room is cold or warm each night so you can see if you seem to sleep better when it is warmer or colder. Try sleeping in a silent room and in one with ambient noise and track whether you sleep better in silence or with sound.
Week 4 – Eliminate Electronics
This may be a hard thing to do but if you really want to safeguard your sleep, you need to remove all the electronics from your sleep environment. This includes laptops, cell phones, tablets, etc. This might seem to challenging but it is incredibly important. The blue light these devices emit can trick your brain into thinking it is morning.
Week 5 – Improve Your Habits
This week you need to focus on what you are doing during the day that might be affecting how you sleep at night. Write down what you are eating and drinking during the day. Drinking caffeine too late in the afternoon or eating too late at night can impact your sleep. Drinking alcohol too close to bedtime might make you fall asleep faster but it can cause you to wake up during the night. Exercise is also important to getting a good night sleep, but if you do it too late in the day it can actually keep you up.