September Challenge: Improve Your Sleep Habits

What can you accomplish in a month? According to science, that’s all it takes to start forming a new habit, and good habits lead to good results. That’s the goal behind our Monthly Challenge, to help you form the right habits – physically and mentally – to make significant strides toward your best, healthiest self.

If you want to see what we, as a society, deem important, Google is a decent place to start. The more search results that pop up, the more interested we are in it.

Take cars, for example. There are more than 13 billion results that come up. Puppies? Roughly 781 million results. Healthy living? Nearly 3 billion results, which is refreshing.

So, what about sleep? Or lack thereof? Nearly 2.5 billion results, which is probably why “coffee” has nearly 4 billion results.

Then again, those facts probably made you yawn more than gasp. Reading that sleep is vitally important to your health or that one in three people don’t get enough of it is so commonplace that it’s lost all meaning.

And yet, coffee and energy drink sales continue to rise, and the “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” mantra persists. Which, in reality, is pretty ironic considering dead may come sooner than you’d like if you don’t find time to sleep now.

So, how do we actually make a difference? How do we get people to increase their value of sleep and decrease their value/need for coffee?

Baby steps.

The challenge: Aim for 1 extra hour of sleep each night (ideally to get you to 7-9 hours)

Ideally, adults are supposed to get 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Yet, that fact might make you scoff hard as you sip another cup of coffee after yet another night of five hours or less.

And honestly, we get it.

Life is busier than ever for most people, and even if you find the time to sleep, your head might be going so much with all the things you need to get done that falling asleep is a task in itself. This then becomes a vicious cycle because you know you should get sleep but can’t fall asleep, which then stresses you out more because you’re not sleeping but know you need to be sleeping in order to be ready for your presentation tomorrow, which you hope to get done with early so you can get to the grocery store to maybe buy some melatonin to help you sleep since you’re not sleeping now but know you need to be sleeping …

Unfortunately, we’ve all been there, and it sucks.

And in this cycle, the idea of getting a full night’s sleep probably seems impossible, like cutting 1,000 calories out of your diet. But one tiny extra hour? That’s more like 100 calories cut out. That’s far more manageable, and over time, that still adds up and hopefully makes it easier to add even more sleep eventually.

So, how do you get that extra hour to begin with?

Here are some tips:

  1. Set a schedule

Yes, it’s boring and may make you feel like you’re a child, but having a set bedtime every night is one of the biggest things toward better sleep. Doing so makes sleep a habit; if it’s a habit, you can prioritize it and allow your body and mind to prepare for it every day.

  1. Cool off

Ever tried to fall asleep in a sticky, hot room? Yeah, sleep probably didn’t happen. That’s because we tend to sleep best in a 65-degree environment. Thus, jacking up the A/C, opening a window, or sleeping with less clothes on can all help your body get ready to nod off. And if that all doesn’t help, take a hot shower. While the shower will warm your body, as soon as you get out, the significant temperature change can shock the body colder and prepare it for sleep.

  1. Meditate

Can’t turn your head off? A good reason might be the only time you slow down all day is when your head hits the pillow. Yet, by meditating even for 10 minutes during the day, you can still your mind when it comes time to rest.

  1. Turn off the lights (and screens)

Your body naturally produces melatonin (the hormone that helps you sleep) when it gets darker out. Thus, having lights on when trying to fall asleep makes it harder. And for those who say they need the TV on to fall asleep, that can make it even worse, as the TV emits light, and the strain of watching can add stress.