Making resolutions for the new year is a 4,000-year old tradition, so if you’re hoping to make 2014 the year you get healthier, fitter, or happier, you have about four millennia worth of company. To help you on your way, we’ll be posting 10 science-backed action steps for a popular resolution every day through January 12. Be sure to check back for hints and tips to kick off your best year yet!


According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults should be getting between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. But between making time for work, family, friends, exercise, and everything else we’re trying to squeeze in, a full night’s rest is often the first thing to go. Follow a few simple tips and tricks to get more (and better!) sleep.

1. Learn all the facts.
Deepening your understanding of the importance of sleep might help strengthen your commitment to catch more Zzz’s. Start by learning how sleep is good for our health, what sleep disorders look like, and the relationship between food and sleep.

2. Make it routine.
Keeping a regular sleep schedule will train your body and mind to wind down at bedtime. Though it’s tempting to try to use weekends or less busy periods of time to bank sleep, research has shown that you can’t really make up for sleep lost over a period of days in just one or two good nights’ sleep, so remember to make your weekends as regular as weekdays.

3. Use the bed for bed stuff only.
Get your brain to start associating your bed with rest by not using that space for anything other than sleep or other relaxing nighttime activities.

4. Enjoy a spot of tea.
If a busy brain is keeping you up, sip chamomile tea, which has been shown to have anti-anxiety properties.

5. Skip the nightcap.
Boozing around bedtime can disrupt sleep. Increase your chances for restful sleep by imbibing earlier in the eveningAlcohol and sleep I: effects on normal sleep. Ebrahim IO, Shapiro CM, Williams AJ, et al. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. 2013 Apr;37(4):539-49..

6. Have sex or masturbate.
Hanky panky with someone you love (whether that means a partner or yourself) before bed can help you fall asleep. During and after sex, hormones like oxytocin that help you nod off are released.

7. Nap smart.
An afternoon nap is refreshing and rejuvenating — as long as you following napping best practices. Snoozing for 10 to 20 minutes at least three to four hours before bedtime generally won’t interfere with a good night’s sleepThe effects of napping on cognitive functioning. Lovato N, Lack L. Progress in Brain Research. 2010;185:155-66.Effects of sleep inertia after daytime naps vary with executive load and time of day. Groeger JA, Lo JC, Burns CG, et al. Behavioral Neuroscience. 2011 Apr;125(2):252-60.Self-reported napping and duration and quality of sleep in the lifestyle interventions and independence for elders pilot study. Picarsic JL, Glynn NW, Taylor CA, et al. Journal of the American Geriatric Society. 2008 Sep;56(9):1674-80.Subjective and objective napping and sleep in older adults: are evening naps “bad” for nighttime sleep? Dautovich ND, McCrae CS, Rowe M. Journal of the American Geriatric Society. 2008 Sep;56(9):1681-6..

8. Go for a (nature) walk.
Treat yourself to a stroll among greenery. Research has linked forest walks with better sleep.

9. Exercise regularly.
A study showed that people who exercised at moderate intensity experienced relief from insomnia. (For tips on incorporating regular exercise into your life, see our post on exercise-related resolutions!)

10. Kick clocks and snooze buttons to the curb.
Relying on alarm clocks and snooze buttons wreaks havoc on our body’s natural rhythmsWhat keeps us awake? The role of clocks and hourglasses, light, and melatonin. Cajochen C, Chellappa S, Schmidt C. International Review of Neurobiology. 2010;93:57-90.. To develop better sleep habits, get a handle on your circadian rhythms and determine when your body naturally wants to fall asleep, wake up, work, and exercise — and then craft a schedule around those rhythms.

Have any awesome tips of your own for getting more sleep? Let us know in the comments below or get in touch with us on Twitter.