2020 is nearly over – finally! And while we’re all praying that 2021 regains a sense of normality, it’s important to consider the repercussions from what has no doubt been the strangest of years. Plenty has changed and is likely to change further. So, it’s important our sleep goals account for that. Take working culture, for example. It has been completely flipped on its head. Where we used to be up early and out for the commute, now many of us are lounging in bed until 5 minutes before we need to clock in. With such change, it’s crucial that our approach to sleep undergoes a revamp. So, join us as we explore the absolute must-have sleep goals for a post lockdown world.
Sleep Goals for 2021 and Beyond
From sleep-tracking to chronotype-planning, morning habits to bedtime routines, there are plenty of ways to improve your sleep. And it’s needed, with a worldwide trend for poor quality sleep, now might be the time to focus on improving yours. Here are our tip-top sleep goals for 2021 and beyond:
1. Start tracking your sleep
While the idea of data analysis may not sound like the kind of thing you want to take on in 2021, there’s plenty of reasons why you should. To really understand our sleep needs (and change our habits to suit) we need as much information as possible on the kind of sleep we get each night. The more we know, the more we can adapt and improve.
The good news is you don’t need any expensive technology to get started. This post from Purple.com identifies the top 5 sleep tracker apps which use no more technology than the phone you’re reading this post on! Search for the below on your phones apps store to get started.
1, Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock (Android, iOS
2. Fitbit (iOS, Android, Windows
3. Sleep Genius (Android, iOS
4. Pillow (iOS, Apple Watch)
5. Sleep as Android (Android, Android Wear OS)
Once downloaded, simply follow the instructions, place your phone near your bed and you’ll start collecting the data you need. If you have a smartwatch, you may be able to link up more accurate data too!
How does it work?
Most smartphones (and smartwatches) have an accelerometer as part of their design, generally to help with map, fitness and direction apps. But this technology can help track your sleep too. Your body moves differently within each stage of sleep and your phone or watch picks up on this. This gives you data on what levels of deep and light sleep you get each night. Based on that data, aggregated over a week or so, you can identify where you are lacking when it comes to sleep. This could lead you to look to foods that increase deep sleep or identifying what time to set your alarm to wake up in the light-sleep phase.
Related: How Will We Sleep in the Future?
2. Be strict with your schedule
Having a sleep schedule is one of the best ways to improve your sleep quality. Your routine should be one you can stick to. Otherwise, you’ll gradually push boundaries nightly. If you know you aren’t tired by 9 pm, there’s no point going to bed at that time. You may feel groggy with the initial bedtime changes, but soon you’ll notice the benefits of sleeping in a regular pattern.
Don’t think your schedule is limited to weekdays – your sleep cycle doesn’t understand weekends! Nobody is expecting you to be in bed by ten every weekend, but try to keep it up where possible. Sunday lie-ins might feel great on the day, but it’ll make getting up on Mondays even more painful.
3. Plan around your sleep chronotype
Sleep chronotypes are a person’s ‘circadian typology’. In non-scientific terms, this simply refers to how alert you are at different times of the day. Every person has a chronotype and understanding your own can help you structure your day. This can help maximize output and ensure you get to sleep with ease too.
- Bear – You most often wake up with the sun and get sleepy once it’s dark. This is the most common chronotype and is the one best suited to our modern way of life. Still, you’ll want to plan your sleep goals around your chronotype to ensure you get the best night’s rest.
- Wolf – You’re not very alert in the mornings with energy levels kicking in best at evening time. Often referred to as night-owls, you’ll need to plan your sleep goals around your preference for night-time productivity.
- Lion – You’re all about the early mornings. And by mornings, we mean dawn. But come lunchtime, you feel your energy levels deplete, and as the day drags on, your output drops.
- Dolphin – Struggle to find any sleeping pattern? You may have the dolphin chronotype. You’ll really need to work hard on your sleep goals to ensure you find consistency with your sleep.
In terms of sleep goals, understanding your chronotype can help you plan and find the best methods for a great night’s sleep. Try applying some of the rest of our tips throughout this article around your chronotype.
For example, if you struggle to get up in the morning, start sleep tracking and find out when you’re most likely to be in a light sleep phase. Set your alarm for then and you may just find the grouchy wolf inside is more friendly pooch than Fenrir Greyback.
4. Practice relaxation
You may think these two words contradict each other. But by practicing certain exercises, you can actually ‘trick’ your body into being relaxed. Here are some great relaxation techniques to help induce sleep:
- Deep breathing
- Listening to calming sounds
- Progressive muscle relaxation
These are all brilliant techniques you can use to physically relax your body and clear your mind before bed. Include one or two of these into your bedtime routine and you’ll be achieving your sleep goals in no time at all.
These exercises work by relieving tension and focusing your attention on the present moment, so you aren’t worrying about things that happened in the day or what will happen tomorrow. By completing one of these sequences, you’ll give your body the chance to rest fully and drift off comfortably.
5. Stay away from screens
One you’ve no doubt heard before, and one you’ll no doubt still be struggling with. How many times have you said to yourself ‘I need to be asleep by 10 pm’ yet found yourself scrolling through social media an hour later? Light from devices, in addition to being woken up by texts or emails, can seriously reduce your sleep quality.
In a study by Deloitte, 58% of people admitted to checking their phones within the 30 minutes before they go to sleep. 50% of 18-24-year-olds said they check their phones in the middle of the night. Additionally, Sleep.org states around 72% of children aged 6-17 have at least one electronic device in their bedroom. That’s a recipe for disruption if ever we’ve heard one!
Blue light emitted by screens on mobile phones, tablets and TVs suppresses the body’s production of melatonin. This is the hormone that controls your sleep cycle and prepares you for bed. Using devices will also keep your mind active and could lead to sleep disruption if you go to bed anxious or angry. Sleep.org recommends at least 30 minutes without using any gadgets before bed. If possible, make the bedroom a gadget-free zone to eliminate any chance of disturbance.
Read more: Is Tech Ruining Your Sleep?
6. Clever napping
With a greater work-from-home culture, 2021 is primed to be the year of the nap. If you’re the type to close your eyes for 10 minutes and wake up 2 hours later with dribble running down your chin, you may need to level up your nap game.
If done properly, naps can improve your overall sleep and leave you more alert during the day. Those working from home may experience difficulty with their sleeping patterns, so naps can bridge the gaps where needed. It’s also important for new parents to catch up on the sleep they’ve missed while doing night feeds. What’s more, the NHS state a couple of naps a week can reduce the risk of heart problems in later life.
Read more: The Ultimate Guide To Daytime Napping
If you feel you need to nap or want to prepare for a long evening ahead, 10-20 minutes is best for short-term alertness. Here’s a quote from Healthline on why it’s best to keep your naps short:
“When you nap for 10 to 20 minutes, you enter into the first and sometimes second stages of sleep. That’s just enough to refresh you and get the benefits associated with napping. During true sleep your body has the opportunity to complete all five stages of the sleep cycle a few times, which for most healthy adults repeats every 90 to 110 minutes. When you go into deeper sleep, your brain becomes less responsive to external stimuli, making it harder to wake up and increasing the likelihood of grogginess and fatigue.”
8. Get comfy
No matter how relaxed you are, how good your sleep schedule is or what you’ve done before bed, you can’t expect to sleep well if your bed isn’t comfortable. Getting the right pillow and mattress for you is imperative for a good quality sleep.
If you aren’t sure which bed, mattress or pillows are right for you, visit our Bed & Mattress Guide. This will help you make the right purchase, so you can get the best sleep you’ve ever had this year!
9. Do more exercise
Sitting at a desk day after day doesn’t do you any favours when it comes to sleeping. In the same way that you take your child to the park to ‘wear them out’, you have energy that needs using. Michael J. Breus, PhD from The Sleep Doctor says:
“Physical activity increases time spent in deep sleep, the most physically restorative sleep phase. Deep sleep helps to boost immune function, support cardiac health, and control stress and anxiety.”
This doesn’t mean you have to visit the gym for 2 hours every day. Simply walking the kids to school instead of taking the car or going for a weekend bike ride will all contribute to better sleep. Be careful, though, as too much exercise can have the opposite effect.
Try this simple 10-step yoga routine as the perfect wind-down before bed.
What are your goals for sleep in 2021? Let us know in the comments!