Sleep can be our best friend or our worst enemy. You would think it would be so simple: climb into bed, close your eyes, go to sleep – easy! Sadly, for many, a good night's sleep does not always come easily.
We asked Psychologist and author of The Elite Dr. Jo Lukins about how we can use goal setting techniques to get a better night's rest. With a PhD in Psychology, Jo spends her days inside the minds of individuals, teams and organisations, seeking to understand what makes them tick and assisting them to reach their potential. A psychological Indiana Jones, she describes it as a truly fascinating career that she is grateful for every day.
"When we look at achieving our goals in life, we rarely expect it to happen without any planning, Jo explains. "A good night's sleep can work the same way, a little bit of planning can go a long way to improving the quantity and quality of our sleep."
Here are Dr Jo Lukins' 5 handy tips to help you in setting your sleep goal plan:
1. Set a sleep goal
Ask yourself how you would like your sleep to be different.
Do you want to sleep longer?
Do you want to fall asleep faster?
Do you want to minimise night-time awakenings?
Do you want to fall back to sleep more easily if you wake?
The key here is to be clear as to what you want to achieve, ask yourself ‘What will success look like?’
2. Understand what needs to change
If you want things to be different it helps to understand what needs to change. Perhaps you need to:
Go to bed earlier
Spend less time on devices at night
Reconsider what you eat/drink at night
The key here is to understand what you can change that will help to improve your sleep.
3. Understand your motivation
When we have a clear reason as to why we want to achieve something, and the benefits that will come from it, it becomes much more motivating for us.
Write down a few points on:
Why you want better sleep?
What will happen if you don’t change and things continue as they are?
What will be the benefits for you in improving your sleep?
The key here is to remind yourself of why you are motivated for your behaviour to change and your sleep to improve. This will make it easier to do what needs to be done!
4. Choose your starting point
Change is most often achieved when we start with a small manageable goal. Telling yourself that you need to go to bed 2 hours earlier than usual is probably not easy to achieve on day one! Pick a goal that is out of reach, not out of sight.
Maybe a small, achievable change such as:
Go to bed 15 minutes earlier for the first 5 days
Turn off your mobile phone after dinner
Play some relaxing music as you are getting ready to go to bed
The key here is to start with something small and manageable so you experience some success from night one! Build new changes as your success grows.
5. Keep track of your progress
Achieving a goal is assisted by keeping track of your progress. Think of ways you can both monitor the changes you make, and measure the success you experience.
You might choose to keep track of your changes by:
A simple checklist to tick off changed behaviours
A diary where you record how you feel when you wake each morning
A smartwatch (or similar) that monitors your sleep
The key here is to measure and monitor your progress as this will help you understand your success and help with ongoing motivation.
Sleep can at times elude us as we don’t treat it as our other life goals. By understanding our motivation and developing a plan we can set ourselves on a path for better sleep.