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The Great Wake Up Program: What 5 Weeks Of Sleep Taught Me

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So it's been five weeks since the Great Wake Up Program began and I've accomplished a lot. I've reminisced about my former love of napping. I've become more aware of my electronic usage before bed -- and realized it's an evil that has been keeping me awake. I've cranked up the air conditioning, piled on pillows and made my bedroom as sleep-inducing as possible. And I've had some really weird dreams.

But most of all, I have truly started to pay attention to something I will spend about a third of my life doing -- sleeping. Over the past five weeks, I have done quite a lot of it -- 255 hours to be exact, averaging about 7.5 hours per night.

LARK records each night's sleep and gives you several pieces of information: a sleep quality number (a rating one through 10), an adjective (Fair, OK, Well, or Very Well), the length of time you were actually asleep, the number of minutes it took to fall asleep, how many times you woke up during the night and a graph of your sleep pattern. I took a good look at my sleep log and found some interesting trends. On weeknights (Monday night through Thursday night), I usually slept "OK" or "Well." It seemed like I was able to garner a "Very Well" on Friday and Saturday nights -- when I could sleep late -- and Sunday nights usually rendered a "Fair" in sleep quality. I'm still curious if there is an "Excellent" rating and what I need to do to get it.

During the week, I'm usually able to rack up between six and seven hours of sleep per night if I am lucky. On the weekends, I can sleep anywhere from eight to 11 hours. I, like many others, am guilty of sleep banking -- making up for lost sleep during the week by overcompensating on weekends.

It's not always as good as it sounds, though. Weekends are usually comprised of late nights, high levels of activity, and larger quantities of food and beverages. So, although I'm able to get more sleep, it doesn't necessarily mean it's quality sleep. I usually sleep best when I go to bed when I'm tired and wake up naturally, sans alarm clock.

We're encouraged to try and keep a regular sleep schedule on weekends as well as during the week. This was a personal goal during the five-week program. Unfortunately, I really struggled with this -- my body needs the extra sleep on weekends. Nothing feels better than waking up on my own accord and feeling refreshed and energized.

I've also noticed that despite what I may think, I am not a still sleeper. When first dozing off, I move around a lot; then I'm usually pretty motionless for a few hours. In the middle of the night, I move around a bit. I tend to toss and turn the most around 6 a.m. until the un-alarm goes off. This can probably be attributed to my roommates getting ready for work, neighbors moving furniture above me (I'm convinced that's what they're doing at 6 a.m. -- it's the only explanation) and the general New York City soundtrack. Though I am not actually awake, I am getting less restful sleep during this time.

When the un-alarm finally goes off at 7 a.m., I usually snooze once and then start making moves. This was another personal goal: to stop snoozing four times each morning. I am happy to report that I've been able to knock this number down to one snooze session -- if at all!

One great thing about the un-alarm clock: I never slept through the alarm. The vibrations were powerful enough to rouse me from deep slumber without scaring me. LARK's selling point is "wake your potential, not your partner." Since I get the bed to myself, I don't have to worry about waking a partner; I only have to worry about waking myself. That said, I definitely think the silent alarm function is the best thing about the LARK system. I am noticeably less grouchy when I wake up (I've said it before, I am not, nor will I ever be, a morning person) because I haven't been startled out of sleep by a blaring alarm in my ear.

Just because the Great Wake Up Program is coming to a close, doesn't mean I'll stop paying attention to my sleep habits. I've always known how important sleep is (and I have seen the effects it has on my body when I don't sleep well), but actually seeing this data has allowed me to alter my routines so I can get better, more restful sleep. With better sleep, I think I feel more alert, am more productive during the day and am generally happier. I can honestly say that it's pretty helpful to take a look at your sleep habits and make a few adjustments to improve your mood, health and life. And who doesn't love sleep?!

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