Harness the Power of Habit
As Charles Duhigg said in The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, human beings constantly strive to be more efficient thinkers and to save mental effort. Habitual behaviours are a key aspect of this mental efficiency. We don’t have to consciously think about how to brush our teeth, make coffee in the morning, or start our cars.
We need habitual behaviours in order to avoid become overwhelmed by the hundreds and thousands of activities we engage in every day.
However, this automaticity can have a downside.
According to Duhigg, our brains stop fully participating in the decision making involved in habitual behaviours.
Consciously Pursue Healthy Behaviors
In the coming year, we can use our ability to form and change habits to our advantage to change our sleep for the better. Do you engage in any habitual behaviours before bed that might interfere with your sleep? Habits emerge in response to a cue in your environment. When presented with the cue, you automatically engage in the behaviour because on some level it’s rewarding.
For example, when you get into bed (the cue) do you check your smartphone (the behaviour) because it prevents you from feeling bored or helps you to relax (the reward)?
Over time, this behaviour can become automatic and, in fact, you may feel odd if you don’t look at the phone when you get into bed.
This is the perfect opportunity to use the power of habits for good!
Practice Makes Perfect
Replace the unwanted behaviour with a positive alternative. Reading your smartphone before bed can be physically stimulating because of the light it emits and mentally stimulating depending on the content. Both of these factors work in opposition to good sleep.
Instead, think of an alternative behaviour to do in response to the cue of getting into bed.
Try a relaxation exercise.
Make your bed earlier in the day and change your sheets regularly so you are greeted with fresh bedding.
Try a simple bedtime snack about an hour before bed.