As we start to map out our goals for the new year, we’re focusing on what works — and that’s forming new habits starting with small, realistic Microsteps, that, over time, lead to lasting behavior change. To get started, we’re zeroing in on sleep. After all, there’s no shortage of research on the importance of sleep for our mental and physical health, creativity, stress levels, and even our mood. “There is no doubt that if everyone had good quality sleep, the world would be kinder and more compassionate,” says Thrive Global’s Sleep Editor-at-Large Shelly Ibach, the president and CEO of Sleep Number. The good news is, small behavior changes can lead to new habits and better sleep every night. 

We asked our Thrive community for the resolutions that have actually worked in improving their sleep habits, and we loved reading the nuggets of wisdom they shared. Which of these resolutions will you try in 2020?

Take a few deep breaths

“The most helpful habit that I have adopted this year to help me fall asleep is breathing exercises. When I’m lying in bed, I take two to four long deep breaths to calm my mind and feel more relaxed. It works like a charm, and I always fall asleep quickly afterwards. It’s a small habit that makes a big difference in my nighttime routine.”

—Stephanie Gonzalez, director of client experience, brand partnerships, New York, NY

Try a guided meditation app

“My resolution last year was to meditate once a day. I’d always thought it wasn’t for me, but I became determined to give it a shot. I’ve been using the free Insight Timer app every night, and their evening meditations are less than fifteen minutes. I find that I am falling asleep faster now, and am starting to be able to turn off my mind from the monkey brain that normally hits as soon as my head hits the pillow.”

—Eve Dawes, blogger and podcaster, Las Vegas, NV

Use the “3 E’s”

“I recently started using a three-step process that I call the ‘3 E’s.’ It stands for earplugs, exhales, and elephants. First, I pop in my earplugs, which put me in a cone of silence and quiet my mind. Next, I exhale deeply — releasing all my worries and tensions from the day. Finally, I concentrate on thinking sleepy thoughts. For some reason, thinking about elephants gracefully grazing seems to work!”

—Joe Kwon, privacy attorney, Oakland, NJ

Read a few chapters

“I always end the day by reading, whether it’s several chapters of a book, or a few pages of a magazine. It helps me relax and clear my mind before going to sleep. I put my phone on ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode, sit comfortably in bed, and delve into a nourishing read.”

—Isabelle Bart, marketing director, Irvine, CA

Clean up your bedroom

“Making my bedroom a calmer environment has been hugely useful in helping me sleep. This mostly means clearing the floor around the bed while I’m going through my bedtime routine. If the last thing I see before bed is clutter, then I know the next day is going to start with clutter and frustration. It took more than half an hour the first time I decided to do it, but now it takes only a few minutes.”

—Tanya B., client services manager, Manchester, UK

Adopt a screen-free bedtime routine

“I used to have trouble staying asleep, and could lie there for hours with a racing mind. It wasn’t until I adopted a few healthy habits that I started sleeping better. Now, I set and commit to a regular bedtime, I wear blue-light blocking glasses when looking at my devices, and I make sure to do something completely screen-free before bed — it usually involves reviewing the day’s events with gratitude, and breathing deeply.”

—Jane Hogan, health coach, Steady Brook, CA

Keep a “worry notepad” next to your bed

“I’ve always struggled with waking up in the middle of the night with my mind racing, thinking of all the things I have to do in the upcoming week. Then, I started sleeping with a notepad next to my bed. I now write down all of the things I need to get done this week fifteen minutes before bed, and it’s actually quieted my mind and helped me sleep better. Once those to-do’s were out of my subconscious mind, I wasn’t spinning with worry anymore. And if a worry does come to me during the night, I jot it down, and go back to sleep.”

—Jackie Ghedine, life and business coach, Bellmore, NY

Play an audio book

“Nothing is worse than waking up in the middle of the night, tossing and turning until you’re completely frustrated. I’ve found that when this happens to me, I play an audio book quietly on a 15-minute timer. I almost always fall back asleep in those 15 minutes. It’s incredibly rare that I hear it turn off! The key is finding a book that’s not too exciting, not too boring, and with the right narrator. It’s like a grown up version of having a bedtime story.”

Jon Baker, business coach, Dorset, UK

Escort your phone out of the room

“Unplugging all electronics at least two hours before my head hits the pillow has made such a significant difference in the quality of my sleep. Instead of scrolling with my head on the pillow, I make sure to unplug and charge my phone in another room so I don’t have the temptation before bed. The habit has helped me drift off into a glorious night of sleep.”

—Carrie McEachran, executive director, Sarnia, ON

Use blackout shades

“After struggling with Insomnia for a couple of years, I’ve found that using blackout curtains, going to bed at the same time, and using apps like F.lux and Iris Tech to help me filter out blue light all help set my body’s circadian rhythm. Dark rooms allow your body to produce more melatonin, and the other details also help. I find that I have more energy, and a clearer mind.”

—Brittany DeJohnette, pharmacist, Houston, TX

Establish an hour of quiet time

“This year, I made the decision that my body needs an hour of quiet time before bed. My husband loves to watch TV in the bedroom, but quiet is imperative for me in order to get a good night of sleep. We had a healthy conversation about making a change that would help me sleep better, and I’m grateful that we did.”

Krista Resnick, life coach, WI

Set a ‘walk the dog’ reminder

“Before going to bed, I look at my calendar to see what I have scheduled the next day, put my phone away, and then I walk the dog. I have owned a dog for decades, and having a dog forces me to walk outside twice a day. If you don’t have a dog, you can set a reminder on your calendar called, ‘Walk the dog’ to remind you to step away and get some fresh air. 

Mary Stelletello, leadership coach, Oaxaca, Mexico

Eat a nutritious dinner

“I find that eating small portions of healthy and delicious foods for dinner helps improve my sleep. I savor my food slowly, and then stop eating just at the point of satisfaction not eating anything at all within three hours of the time I go to bed.”

Arlene B. Englander, L.C.S.W., M.B.A., psychotherapist and author, North Palm Beach, FL

Take a bath

“This past year, I’ve worked on creating a luxurious nighttime routine, where I draw a bath with lavender oil, Epsom salts, and crystals to add a touch of meditation to the ritual. After my bath, I’m in a completely zen state, and can fall asleep with peace and ease.”

—Heather Reinhardt, author, Los Angeles, CA

Think of three happy things

“Once in bed, I clear my mind by thinking of three things that made me happy that day.  Whether it was a set of butterflies frolicking in the air, a call from one of my adult children, closing a large business deal, or making all of the green lights on the way to a destination. It calms my mind and sets me into a relaxed state.”

Marja L. Norris, wealth manager and author, Birmingham, MI

Stretch it out

“One small habit that has radically improved my sleep is doing thirty minutes of yoga stretching every night before bed. I started in June, and not only has it made my sleep so much better, but I rise each morning free from muscle pain and joint tightness. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia a few years ago, and today, my phenomenal sleep is attributed to this evening stretch routine!”

—Tessa Koller, writer, Chicago, IL

Go on a walk

“To get better sleep, I make sure to get some exercise every day, even if it’s just a walk around the neighborhood.”

—Lisa Clark, copywriter, Sayreville, NJ  

Get your kids involved

“I’ve struggled with sleep every since becoming a mom, and my son only started sleeping full nights at the age of five. I implemented new habits that helped the both of us. I leave my phone in the living room, meditate before going to bed, think of three things that went well that day, tell my son there is no such thing as monsters, and send him back to sleep in his own bed. Both of us are so much more fulfilled in life because of our new healthy sleep routines!”

Nadja El Fertasi, CEO, Brussels, Belgium

Go to your happy place

“I’ve found that speaking back with self-compassion to any ‘pain-producing thoughts’ really helps me sleep. I think of a happy place as I lie in bed, and engage all five senses as I escape into the experience, going to whatever place or time in my life my fantasy sends me.”

Arlene B. Englander, L.C.S.W., M.B.A., psychotherapist and author, North Palm Beach, FL

Do you have a sleep resolution you’ll be working on in the new year? Tell us about it in the comments!

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  • Marina Khidekel

    Chief Content Officer at Thrive

    Marina leads strategy, ideation and execution of Thrive's content company-wide, including cross-platform brand partnership and content marketing campaigns, curricula, and the voice of the Thrive platform. She's the author of Thrive's first book, Your Time to Thrive. In her role, Marina brings Thrive's audience actionable, science-backed tips for reducing stress and improving their physical and mental well-being, and shares those insights on panels and in national outlets like NBC's TODAY. Previously, Marina held senior editorial roles at Women's Health, Cosmopolitan, and Glamour, where she edited award-winning health and mental health features and spearheaded the campaigns and partnerships around them.