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The Great Wake Up Program: The '30 Minutes More' Sleep Challenge

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When we reach the end of a long day, most of us collapse into bed utterly exhausted. It's not a new or surprising story -- a lot of us recognize that we're forcing ourselves to operate on inadequate hours of sleep. But what do we do about it? Instead of addressing the problem, we often turn to tactics to help us cope temporarily -- some of us down coffee, some plan afternoon power naps and others binge sleep on the weekends.

Sure, these tactics help us power through a few more hours. But wouldn't you rather break that unhealthy cycle? This time, let's dig our heels in and actually work towards getting better sleep every night.

We are currently in the fourth week of the Great Wake Up program, a collaboration between AOL Huffington Post Media Group and LARK to help employees better understand and improve their sleep. Over the past several weeks, the AOL Sleep Team has tracked their personal sleep habits, compared their sleep to their teammates' and reflected on the lifestyle changes they can make to improve their sleep. (They've also reported back happier bed partners who are no longer woken too early by the aggravating sounds of an alarm clock.)

We Are Not At Our Best And We Know It

We asked the AOL Sleep Team how many hours of sleep they typically get on the weekdays. It is not surprising that the majority of these working professionals reported that they sleep fewer than seven hours on weekdays. However, nearly everyone indicated that they need between seven and nine hours of sleep to function at their best.

Bottom line? We know we are operating at a sub-optimal level and we know we need more sleep to function better. But we still rarely prioritize sleep in our busy days.

And it quickly catches up to us. By the end of the week, most of us are paying for that accumulated sleep debt. Associate Editor of Healthy Living and AOL Sleep Team member Laura Schocker is all too familiar with this pattern.

"I found that if I sleep a lot over the weekends, then I can make it through the first few days of the week without much sleep and feel fine. But as the week wears on, I get really tired," she told us.

Challenge For Week Three: Prioritize 30 More Minutes Of Sleep

Last week, we challenged the AOL Sleep Team to stick to a consistent sleep schedule and allow 30 minutes before bed to wind down. Because the majority of the AOL Sleep Team are not getting the amount of sleep they know they need to function at their best, we challenged them to get 30 more minutes of sleep each day. So if a typical bedtime is 11:30 PM, then head to bed at 11:00 PM each day this week, we advised.

Last week, we saw that it was challenging for the team to stick to a consistent sleep schedule. We know that work, family and other obligations often keep us from heading to bed when we want, so we advised the group to be firm about getting a good night's rest and take note of how it impacts the following day.

We checked in with Kerstin Picht on the AOL Sleep Team to see how she has been doing tackling this new challenge. She shared that she has been heading to bed slightly earlier than normal and getting close to her ideal 8 hours of sleep. Feeling rested this morning, she woke up, hit the gym (which often doesn't happen before work when she's had little sleep) and started her day off on a good note. The difference was noticeable.

"I am definitely more aware of my sleep now. I didn't previously consider how sleep impacts my day so getting better sleep is something that I want to make a change for in my life," she reflected.

Challenge Yourself To 30 More Minutes of Sleep This Week

Join us and take our challenge to get 30 minutes more sleep every day this week and to take a step closer to the amount of sleep you want each day. We can all cut out 30 minutes of surfing online or watching TV before bed. Instead, bookmark those interesting links, set your DVR to record, tell your friend you'll chat later and hit the sack.

Making a lifestyle change is easier if you have someone to hold you accountable, so take the challenge with your spouse, roommate or family member this coming week. It may seem like a small step, but it is a big step in the right direction to getting the sleep we know we need.

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