Nine-Week Holiday Challenge Week Five: Improve Your Sleep Habits

Welcome to week five of the nine-week holiday challenge. Are you still with us? There is this thing that happens with challenges. Before the challenge begins you are excited, then during the first couple of weeks things are going pretty well, but then the reality of life sets in. The realization that healthy habit building isn’t always exciting combined with your busy life sometimes throws people off track. What seemed like a fun challenge five weeks ago, feels like a chore today. Can you relate?

It’s normal, and it happens to most of us. I want to reassure you if you are here, playing along week after week your hard work will pay off. When the habits we are building in this challenge become second nature, healthy living is effortless. Even though the challenges are designed to be easy, it is still hard work. It takes a mental commitment during a time a year already filled with obligations. Hang in there.

Continuing to work on the habits we already covered and layering on new ones each week will set you up to start the new year with a solid foundation of healthy living which upon you can build all your goals.

Healthy people are better able to achieve their professional and personal goals. Once you master these habits, then you can move them out of your brain to focus on bigger goals and dreams.

Let’s review what we’ve been over so far. Week one was all about awareness of added sugars in the foods we eat. Are you still tracking? You don’t need to track added sugars for the rest of your life, as long as you are aware of where they are hiding and are mindful of keeping them under control. Being aware is the first step to taking back control over excessive sugar.

Week two was about the importance of protein and how to make sure you are consuming enough protein for your health and fitness goals.

Week three was about adding movement into your day, whether that means short bouts of exercise or just being intentional about getting up and moving around more often.

Last week we covered the importance of drinking enough water and the strategies to meet your hydration goals. If you have been working on these habits each week, you likely are consuming less added sugars (or at least have a better awareness of where they are coming from), eating adequate protein for your goals, moving more than you were before we started, and drinking more water.

You see, each of these habits on their own seems small and inconsequential, but when layered on each other, can make a big difference in your health and wellness. When you do the work, it pays off; you don’t need restrictive diets and extreme exercise to get results.

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This week we are talking about the importance of sleep! Sometimes when I tell my clients they need to take more rest from exercise and get more sleep to see better results, they think it sounds counterintuitive, but when it comes to exercise, more is not always better.

If you feel like you are doing everything correctly, but not seeing the results you desire, lack of adequate sleep could be to blame. Most of our body’s recovery processes happen during sleep. If you exercise, then sleep is even more important to recover and adapt (so you get faster and stronger from the workout you did).

Sleep plays a role in the regulation of hormone production. If you are feeling foggy brained, if you lack concentration, feel unhappy, if you have low energy, get sick a lot, or are struggling to lose weight, poor sleep habits could be a factor. It may be beneficial to work towards getting more high-quality sleep to see if any of the symptoms are reduced or eliminated with proper rest. In other words, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” is a poor motto.

Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night (but there are outliers). You can set up your environment for sleep success by establishing and following a sleep ritual to make getting enough sleep another healthy habit.

I sleep like a log; I’m one of those weirdos who’s asleep before my head hits the pillow, to my husband’s dismay. He is a troubled sleeper, he wakes easily and tosses and turns all night. People who struggle to sleep will benefit the most by setting up their environment for success.

5 Ways to Improve Quality and Quantity of Sleep

1. Go to bed and wake up around the same time each day and night, even on the weekends. Set the alarm to remind you to go to bed and one to wake up about seven to eight hours later. You may find as your body gets into the rhythm of a consistent bed and wake times that you will no longer need an alarm to wake up.

2. Reduce or eliminate caffeine intake in the afternoons and limit alcohol consumption. Although alcohol can help some people fall asleep faster, it can interfere with deep sleep. Limit water intake towards bedtime to avoid the middle of the night bathroom breaks.

3. If your mind is racing at night, it can keep you awake. A good practice is to write down your thoughts, worries, and to-do lists at night to clear your head for a good night’s sleep. I love this journal! I picked one up at a store, but later realized they are less expensive on Amazon.

4. Put away your electronics at least one hour before bedtime. Read, journal or do some low-intensity activity to wind down for bed. This is great book to learn more about the importance of sleep.

5. Track your sleep on an app or write down the hours you are getting each night. Tracking can help raise awareness and keep sleep’s importance top of mind.

If you are falling short on sleep, try not to stress about your lack of sleep, that won’t help. Just work to do a little better each day. If you are getting considerably less than seven hours per night, then work at first on getting to bed thirty minutes earlier and work to build up over time. If you can’t improve the quantity of sleep, work on improving the quality first.

Your challenge this week is to set up a sleep ritual and follow it as closely as possible each night. I know some people work odd hours or have family or job responsibilities that make a consistent bed and wake time not feasible. It’s ok. We don’t live in a perfect world. The idea is to figure out to improve the quality and quantity of sleep that works within your life. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just improved over yesterday. What steps can you take to improve the quality and quantity of your sleep?

In the midst of the holiday craziness, if you can improve your sleep quality and or quantity, if nothing else, you feel more rested, less stressed and more prepared to take on what the day throws at you. That’s a healthy habit that pays off.

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