It’s that time of year when gyms fill up with new members sporting the latest headbands and fitness bands and spiffy new workout outfits, their eyes and hearts resolved to get into shape, lose weight, and stick to their New Year’s resolutions. Others are quitting smoking, working on paying more attention to their kids or spouses, pledging to pay down their debts or find themselves better jobs. Whatever the goal that tops your resolutions list this year, research has shown that the best way to give yourself a leg up on achieving your dream is to get more sleep each night. That’s right … cheat yourself of sleep and you’re far more likely to cheat yourself of sticking to your plan too.
According to Professor Richard Wiseman a psychology expert based at the University of Hertfordshire, the more tired we feel, the less self control we are likely to exert. And no matter what techniques we put into place in order to make ourselves stick to a self-improvement plan, if we get fewer than seven hours of sleep a night we’re probably going to find a way around it. Wiseman says that the best way to make yourself stick to a workout plan is to get to bed earlier. He also says that it is likely that you’ll be more successful with a fitness goal if you work out at night rather than in the morning. “The brain requires energy to do something we don’t really want to do or find difficult to do,” he says. “If you are sleep deprived, then you don’t have the mental energy needed. In fact, some of the things that people do for their resolutions, like getting up early to go to the gym, leave them more sleep deprived. This is why over time they find it harder and harder to keep going.”
This isn’t the first time that Professor Wiseman has looked into the science of New Year’s resolutions. One of his past studies found that four out of five people in Britain abandoned their resolutions by the end of January. In this most recent study, he recruited over 1,000 subjects to provide him with information through an online survey, ranking the quality and quantity of their sleep, as well as how successful they were with hitting their New Years goals. Of those who participated, over 60 percent of those who were getting at least eight hours of sleep claimed to have achieved their goals, while of the group that got less than 7 hours of sleep, only 44 percent had success. These results mirror similar studies that have shown that workers who are sleep deprived tend to waste time and set aside work assignments in favor of browsing the internet or chatting, and that those who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to choose foods that represent poor nutritional options, and are laden with fats and sugar.
Professor Wiseman advises those who are planning for the new year to get more sleep. He says, “At the moment people will be planning what they are going to try to achieve this year and how. What we have found suggests that they are actually putting in more effort than they need to. If they went to bed a bit earlier than it would make it easier to achieve their resolutions.”