Let's face it, it's hard to get to bed when you want. You know the story -- you tell yourself you're going to bed in 10 minutes, but then wind up spending an extra hour responding to emails, watching Late Night with Jimmy Fallon or getting a jump start on the things you have to do the next day. Before you know it, it's way past the time you intended to go to sleep for the night. How did that happen?! We bet this sounds all too familiar. Unfortunately, you still had to wake up early and likely ended up tired, struggling through the next day on the measly few hours of sleep you got.
So to help our AOL Sleep Team, each week as part of the Great Wake Up program, participants are taking on a specific challenge -- one action for better sleep that they try to aim for every day of the week. The challenges may seem simple, but we're finding it's tougher than it sounds (stay tuned, we'll soon hear from the AOL Sleep Team on how they are faring with the challenge). The reality is this -- it is hard to change our habits and it's even harder to do it consistently each day.
Challenge for week two: Set a bedtime and stick with it.
This week, we challenged the AOL Sleep Team to head to bed at a consistent time and spend 30 minutes before bed winding down. Whether that is reading, journaling or just taking quiet time for yourself, prioritizing time to relax can do wonders for your sleep.
Why it is so hard to be consistent with our sleep schedules?
We've all heard that we should try to maintain a consistent sleep schedule for good sleep. But how many of us actually follow this advice? We know plenty of working professionals have erratic sleep schedules sleeping at 10 p.m. one day and then 2 a.m. the next day. Even if you are better about staying on a regular bedtime and wake time, factors such as stress, family, work and other unanticipated obligations can often keep you up later than you would like.
To see how our AOL Sleep Team is stacking up to the challenge, we checked in with Michael Grater and asked him about how difficult it is to keep a consistent sleep schedule.
"For the most part, I am getting to sleep at that time [11:00 to 11:15 PM], but there are also some nights where I've been stressed out so it has forced me to stay up later. One night I was up till 1 a.m. in the morning."
While a late night here or there happens to the best of us, these late nights are exactly why this seemingly easy task can actually be very difficult. For so many, just getting to bed at the same time is hard, not to mention allowing for 20-30 minutes to wind down before sleeping. However, if you make the time to relax before bed, it might just surprise you how much it helps you sleep.
"I notice that having a half hour to just wind down does get me prepped to want to fall asleep," Michael added.
The Difficult Reality: Balancing work, sleep and the rest of life.
We also touched base with Laura Schocker on the AOL Sleep Team, who shared how she struggles with the late evening hours (for Laura it was between 10 p.m.-2 a.m.). On one hand, those hours are her "most creative work time," but on the other hand, she knows heading to bed at an earlier time would help her get the sleep she knows she needs.
"I think I have some of my most productive hours at night so I don't want to lose that by going to bed earlier, but I know getting five hours of sleep each night is not healthy either."
It's tricky, we admit. We all wish we had four more hours in the day and we don't want to give up one activity for another. We value our careers, hobbies and time with friends and family. We often don't want to give up time for these activities in exchange for more sleep, even if it means we are tired, not as productive at work and must then rely on several cups of coffee to make it through the day.
Perhaps what we need is a change of perspective -- that to be productive in our jobs, to enjoy our hobbies and to feel refreshed and energized to spend time with our friends, we also need healthy and adequate sleep. To help you gauge day-to-day just how your sleep impacts your life, we previously suggested finding a personal metric.
Take Our Challenge
For the next week, join us in taking the challenge to stick to that regular bedtime and also enjoy 30 minutes before bed to relax. Say goodbye to sending that last email and jumping straight into bed. Instead, give yourself those 30 minutes -- even 15 minutes -- every day to wind down, and we know you'll be happy that you did.
If you want to join the Great Wake Up, we've teamed up with Urbandaddy to provide a free upgrade with 1 year of Personal Sleep Coaching when you get LARK. Wake your potential. http://perks.urbandaddy.com/national/lark.html