Can't sleep? Take the 2 week Sleep Challenge!
March 15th is World Sleep Day - a day to focus on sleep health, and the critical role proper sleep plays in our overall health and quality of life.
We are constantly reminded of the importance of Diet and Exercise in a healthy life; however, when was the last time your doctor asked about your sleep? We believe Sleep, Diet, and Exercise are the three pillars of health. Sleep has the ability to rejuvenate and prevent health problems such as high blood pressure, cardiac events, depression, weight gain, motor vehicle collisions, and more. It’s time to take sleep seriously.
How much sleep do I need?
How much sleep you need differs slightly for all of us, but if you're over the age of 18, you should be aiming for at least 7-8 hours per night. If you're younger, your body needs more sleep. In 2015, the National Sleep Foundation convened a panel of experts to create a consensus recommendation on how much sleep we need at each age. Here were their recommendations:
- Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours/day
- Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours/day
- Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours/day
- Preschoolers (3-5 years): 10-13 hours/day
- School age children (6-13 years): 9-11 hours/day
- Teenagers (14-17 years): 8-10 hours/day
- Adults (18-64 years): 7-9 hours/day
- Older adults (65+ years): 7-8 hours/day
Finding out exactly how much sleep your body needs is a bit of an art, but knowing this can be very helpful. For example, for years my wife and I alternated who would get up early to walk our dog before breakfast and work. It wasn't until we discovered that her optimal sleep time was 8 hours vs. my 7.5 hours that we made lifestyle changes that made both of us far better off! I now take the morning shift, she the night shift, and we both get our optimal rest without oversleeping.
The two-week sleep training challenge
To find your optimal sleep time, commit to going to bed earlier than normal for 2 weeks. Think two weeks is too long? It's certainly not easy, but compare that to the quantity and quality of life years that proper sleep will add to your life, and, well, two weeks is really nothing. Work back 9 hours from the time you need to wake up, and go to bed at that time every night for 14 days. For example, if you need to be up at 7am, be in bed by 10pm. Set your alarm (as a safety net), but the goal is to wake up on your own without an alarm.
For the first few days, you'll likely have trouble falling asleep. That's normal! Don't worry about it. Half the battle is just being in your bed at the same time every night.
By day four or five, you'll start to notice it's becoming easier to fall asleep. Why? Your body's internal clock is being trained for bedtime. Rather than running around until you're so physically exhausted you HAVE to sleep and then forcing yourself awake with an alarm, you're instead going to sleep when you decide, and sleeping until your body is rejuvenated and ready to start the day. You're fitting your life into your sleep, instead of your sleep into your life.
By the second week, you'll be waking up before your alarm feeling fully refreshed and rejuvenated. This is when you'll start to understand your own personal sleep requirements. For example, you'll notice that you consistently go to bed at 10pm and wake up at 6am (you need 8 hours), or 5:30am (you need 7.5 hours). This is powerful knowledge to have!
Many people reading at this point are thinking, 8 hours?! Must be nice! I have a job and a life and kids and x-y-z. Yes, but the point is that sleeping well doesn't take hours OUT of your day, it ADDS to your day. If you sleep well you will be more efficient in your work, more present with your kids, and have more energy to spend on your relationships. Your physical and mental health will be better. I'd argue that Sleep is the closest thing to a "miracle drug" that we've ever seen, and it costs you nothing!
Resolve to take your sleep health seriously this spring by taking the two-week sleep challenge. Your body, mind, and relationships will thank you for it.