The topic of sleep was originally planned to be completed in two parts but after some comments, a post script is being added.
Unfortunately, with sleep, before receiving its benefits, we need to first put in the work. We need to make it a priority, change our lifestyle, take action to make sleep happen, give the body time to adjust, and only then do we start to see the positive change. But it takes time and the lack of time is what causes us to reduce our sleep and become less smart, less creative, and less joyful.
There are only so many hours in a day. We cannot create more hours so we can sleep more hours. Or can we?
On one hand, many of us are sleep deprived because we get to bed too late because we have so much to do.
On the other hand, North Americans watch about 30 hours of TV/week and that number doesn’t include time in front of the computer.
Why do we spend so much time in front of screens? For one, anyone on the other side of the screen works hard to keep you there. TV, video games, social media have studied how to keep you engaged. Their livelihood depends on you spending time with them. They make it very, very, very difficult for you to leave.
Second, I would guess much screen time happens in the evening when our willpower, an exhaustible resource, is almost used up (late evening snack anyone?). Ironically, sleep is one of the factors in replenishing willpower.
This article will focus on reducing screen time to create more sleep time but the suggestions can apply to making any kind of change in your life.
Successful people are simply those with successful habits. ~Brian Tracy
The people you surround yourself with influence your behaviours, so choose friends who have healthy habits. ~Dan Buettner
10 Action Ideas for creating more time to sleep (the bonus point is the most important one)
1. Pick a goal (like getting more sleep) and think about it for a moment. If you don’t get excited by thinking about it or the results you would get if successful, pick another goal. The chance of success when the reason is weak is almost non-existent. Choose a goal that gets you excited. Remember, the goal doesn’t need to be huge. ‘Be in bed 20 minutes earlier’ is goal.
2. Recognize the fact that by the end of the day, you have less willpower and need to set up the environment to support change. If you are human, do not rely on willpower if you want to succeed.
3. Picture success and make a list of all the things that will prevent that success. Take action to remove the temptations. The more specific you are now, the less willpower is needed later.
4. Look at what you do on a regular basis that if you reduced or removed, would not have a drastic impact on the happiness of your life but it is a part of your life because it is convenient and addictive. That is TV for me. I am not a TV watcher and can go days without watching it, but once it is on, my butt stays put for hours. For me, choosing to phone a friend, read a book, go for a walk, do a hobby, plan a holiday, is better than turning on the TV.
5. Have there been times when you have been successful in creating the desired behaviour? Look at your life now. Are there easy-to-spot & change differences? Maybe during holidays, an evening walk instead of watching TV was routine. Could you go for a walk and delay putting on the TV? Perhaps pre-selecting the programs to watch so you don’t fall into my trap mentioned in #3 (pre-selecting doesn’t usually work for me. Once the TV is on, my willpower drops drastically). Delay often works for me because I get involved with something else and end up not putting the TV on.
6. Is there a ‘When . . .’ or an ‘If – Then’ series that can be created, such as, ‘When the kids are in bed, then I get to . . . (something other than TV time that is enjoyable and will create a positive feeling afterwards)’, or ‘If I watch TV, then I need to stretch/do laundry/sort papers while watching or during commercials’ (this does not work for me because I have no willpower to do the ‘then’).
7. Make it more difficult to initiate the behaviour, such as unplug the TV and toss the cord behind the TV. This might only be done once a week just to break the daily habit. Another option, promise something to someone else during a time when you would normally be watching a TV program that isn’t a favourite of yours.
8. Know and accept the fact that screw-ups will happen. Of course they will. If it was an easy change to make, it would’ve been figured out by now. After the mess-up, look at how the environment can be changed so it is less likely to happen again. Remember, we have little willpower at the end of the day.
9. After deciding on a change, reduce the expectation, then reduce the expectation again, and again until it seems like a ridiculously small change – not even worth the effort. That is the goal for the week. Come up with a payoff for a successful week. For example, if I reduce my TV watching to an hour an evening, on the weekend, I get to watch x hours of a series I love, guilt-free. That’s great. It is a controlled choice. Small successes build momentum.
10. If possible, find someone for accountability or to cheer you on and to celebrate every mini-goal. Too often we don’t celebrate our small successes even though by doing so, we are more likely to continue.
Bonus Action! Choose only ONE of the above to do this week. The path to long-term success is multiple small changes for a long period, and not demoralizing multiple unsuccessful attempts.
Remember, humans aren’t set up to change something that is comfortable. The smaller the change, the more comfortable and the more likely we will succeed.
Did any one of the 10 speak to you? Knowing I have no willpower in the evening helped me to reduce temptation. How about you?