Want to stress less, weigh less and feel better this year? You don't have to be like Apple's CEO Tim Cook and wake up at 4:00 a.m. to hit the gym. (J.K. Rowling agrees.)
For starters, you can just try going to bed at the same time every single night. Science has repeatedly found that improving your sleep can help with weight loss, lower stress levels, and improved productivity.
Forget the sleep hacks, products, and apps.
The $28 billion sleep industry might have you believe that you need a high-tech app to track your sleep or a brand new mattress that arrives in refrigerator-sized box.
All that stuff won't hurt. But above all, you really just need to nail one thing: Setting a bedtime and sticking to it. That includes weekends.
It doesn't matter if you're a night owl or a morning lark. There's no magical time that works for everyone. Of course, it should leave you enough time to get a good solid night's sleep before you need to wake up.
Science backs it up.
Getting to bed at a consistent time isn't just the logical thing to do. This is what scientists and physicians recommend, too. Science journalist Henry Nicholls spent months researching sleep and interviewing sleep experts.
Nicholls wrote the book on sleep, quite literally. It's called Sleepyhead: Narcolepsy, Neuroscience and the Search for a Good Night. The key to a good night's sleep, he found, is to work on your "sleep stability."
Here's what he said in an interview with Vox:
Sleep stability means pinning your bedtime to the same time every night, even on weekends, and waking up at the same time every morning, even on weekends. The key is to settle into a groove or a cycle that your body understands and responds to. Once you do this, it's really quite amazing. You'll sleep better, feel better, have more energy, and worry less.
How to actually do it.
If only we didn't have stressful jobs, infinitely long to-do lists, or Netflix luring us into never-ending binges.
If only the social apps emitting blue light through our screens weren't rigged with dopamine boosts that kept us scrolling.
Then maybe, just maybe, we could get better sleep.
Take a page out of Arianna Huffington's book, who's essentially the queen of sleep. She doesn't use devices 30 minutes before bed. You could try setting an alarm when it's time to stop using your devices. The hard part is actually sticking to it. Start with 10 minutes. Work your way up.
Is it a quick fix? Nope. Nothing that has real results ever is.
Will it work overnight? Certainly not. It takes awhile for your body to get into a groove.
Over time, will consistency in your sleep stability breed better sleep? All signs point to yes.
So next time it's late at night and Netflix asks if you would like to continue watching mid-binge, you know what to do. No Netflix, I would not. It's time to go to sleep.