Challenge to Change: Get some sleep!

By Bobby DeMuro

Published On: Jan 06 2012 12:34:12 PM EST   Updated On: Jan 27 2012 02:54:13 PM EST

Good sleep is a pillar to health. It's so important, in fact, that it's really an oversight on my part that after six months of A Challenge to Change, we haven't yet done a challenge on sleep! 

Well, that all changes this week, because for this first installment of a three-part series on sleep medicine, I'm challenging you to sleep at least seven hours each night in a peaceful, calm environment. 

Why seven hours? Well, to be honest, it's better to sleep eight or nine, but I can respect the fact that you're busy; so we can compromise at seven hours per night, which many Americans fall short in reaching. In fact, the National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults try for 7 or 8 hours of sleep every night for optimal health - lower blood pressure, increased calorie burning, less anxiety and stress, and improved focus and mental clarity. 

The key to this challenge is going to be not just how much you sleep, which is pretty simple in and of itself, but how easily it is for you to get to sleep and make it a consistent part of your routine going forward. 

Maybe the most important think you can do is to create a regular bedtime routine to prepare for sleep. Whatever it is that you do - brushing teeth, setting the alarm, laying out your clothes for the next day - do your best to abide by it pretty strictly, and set and keep a regular bedtime and wake-up time to get your body acclimated to sleep time as a consistent activity. 

A second critical part of improving your sleep time and quality is to make a point to reserve the bedroom for bed activities - and not technology, pets, working, or talking on the phone. We've all got laptops, cell phones, tablet computers, and other mobile technological devices, and while they are great tools in everyday life, too much screen time (especially right before and/or in bed) can make it difficult to fall asleep consistently each night. 

Make the bedroom your technology-free zone! Need an activity to help you sleep? Read a book - an old fashioned, hardcover or paper back one - instead of using the phone or laptop in bed. 

Going along with the tech-free zone in your bedroom, keep your bedroom relatively dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature. The NSF recommends a cool (but not cold) temperature to help sleep, and though there are people who sleep better in warmer rooms, they have found that most maintain optimal sleep in a slightly cooler bedroom. 

Now it's important to remember that health doesn't exist in a vacuum. Take stock of your eating habits, as well as your exercise schedule. We'll talk more about these two things over the next two weeks in the challenge, but really simply - the best you eat, and more consistently you get outside and exercise, the better off you'll be when it's time to go to sleep at night. 

Sweet dreams - for now - and we'll cover more sleep medicine and information next week! 

About the author:Bobby DeMuro is the Founder of No Fizz America, a non-profit dedicated to health and fitness. He is also the founder FusionSouth, a sports conditioning firm. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook .

You can listen to Bobby on his weekly radio show on Radio Exiles.