An Unambitious But Potentially Transformative New Year’s Resolution

They make it look so easy.

I’ve always been a New Year’s Resolution guy. And by that I mean I’ve always made them. Each year, I sit down with a notebook and sketch out the habits I’d like to break and to form, and all the goals I’d like to reach. I’ve consumed countless books, articles, and podcasts on the topic. I’ve divided resolutions up into categories (physical, mental, financial, emotional, spiritual, relationships). I’ve reduced them to quarterly and monthly goals. I’ve started and stopped gym memberships, adopted and abandoned diets, downloaded and deleted apps, and become a total bore to my friends and family in the process, regaling them with all my grandiose plans for improvement, only to fall apart by the third week in January.

For 2022, I’m keeping it much simpler. It doesn’t sound groundbreaking, or even very ambitious, but if I can do this, the benefits will be immeasurable:

Eight hours of sleep. Every night.

Consider the drawbacks of not getting a good night’s sleep: fatigue, irritability, weight gain, taking longer to make decisions, “cognitive rigidity,” mood swings, and other really bad stuff (anxiety, depression, and psychosis are not far behind).

Disclaimer: I’ve had my bouts with insomnia and they are awful. I don’t wish them on anyone, and I’m not suggesting there is anything easy about getting eight hours of sleep, even if you make time for it.

Still, it’s en vogue among my peers to brag about their lack of sleep (if you have a small child, you’re excused). This badge of honor comes just under how “busy” their life is. But if I must choose exhausted or busy, I’ll take busy.

Simply, eight hours of sleep every night will make me a better person. I will be more engaged in my job, more connected to my family, more likely to exercise and socialize, more likely to eat healthy, more likely to engage with my kids at 5:30 pm after a long day of work and a stressful commute.

And now we turn to our students, who are, along with American adults, in the midst of a sleep crisis. Many of my students go to bed around midnight (at the earliest) and wake up at 6, often with their phone on the bedside table (or worse, under their pillow) so they don’t miss a notification. Then they slog through the school day, sometimes catching a nap, rinsing and repeating for the next day, all the while irritated, distracted, foggy, and emotionally volatile. This pattern is at best unsustainable, at worst catastrophic.

As an educator, nothing would make me happier than interacting with well-rested students all day, given all of the aforementioned benefits.

So what can you do?

You could have your child write a book report on Matthew Walker’s 368-page book, Why We Sleep (fascinating read).

Or you could share these tips:

  • Limit screens in the bedroom
  • Exercise
  • Cut out the caffeine
  • Do not binge eat before bedtime
  • Have a good routine
  • Create a sleep-friendly bedroom
  • Talk through any problems before bed
  • Avoid sleeping in too much on the weekend

Full explanations here.

Happy sleeping!

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