The four week sleep challenge, is a personal challenge that I want to share. Personally, I have never been a great early riser and have always been a night owl. This was perfectly manageable in the past, although not entirely ideal for my health and wellbeing. However I made it work until I became a father, got older and realised that my poor sleep habits were negatively impacting my life.

In the past I would find myself too often disregarding sleep when I had to manage multiple projects and responsibilities at once. This, mixed with a healthy dose of social life and I would find myself struggling to stay awake at my desk. In order to meet the demands of my sleepless lifestyle, I would find myself drinking large amounts of caffeine to keep myself going. This would generally result in lower quality sleep and eventually I would feel drained and burnt out. In my mind, this was always an unavoidable choice given my workload. However this was just an excuse. In the short term my poor sleeping habits could be sustained. But in the long term, my productivity would slowly decline to the point that even writing a short email would become difficult.

A lack of sleep, or simply poor sleeping habits, makes you more: irritable, stressed and emotional; you are more likely to make mistakes, have accidents, and struggle solving problems; you are less productive and prone to bad eating habits, like consuming large amounts of sugar and; you’re more likely to get sick and have an increased risk of developing diseases. If these aren’t reasons enough to change your sleeping habits, than consider the benefits to your career of: arriving early; been more productive and; having a more positive attitude at work. Or more importantly consider your relationships with family and friends. I am sure, you want to have more energy to play with your kids.

With this in mind, whether you read the research or just the countless articles on successful people who wake up early. We are constantly reminded of the truth that getting better sleep and waking up early will improve our lives. Yet, rarely do any of us have the discipline and commitment to make this positive change. This is exactly what this challenge is about, changing your lifestyle for success and becoming the best version of you.

The four week sleep challenge begins here:

Week 1

This is the most important week and undoubtedly the hardest. You need to reset your circadian rhythm. You should simply accept that this week you’re going to be tired.

Challenge: Start going to bed two hours earlier and getting out of bed two hours earlier.

So if you normally go to bed at 12am, now you’re going to bed at 10pm. And if you generally wake up at 8am, you are now waking at 6am. This will be annoying to begin with and you will more than likely find yourself lying in bed awake for the entire two hours. It will probably remind you of when you were a child and your parents made you go to bed early. Despite, feeling like this is a pointless process, grit your teeth and continue. You’re training your brain to sleep.

Rules

  1. No looking at your phone or tablet once you’re in bed. If you use your phone as an alarm clock, set the alarm before you go to bed and place the phone as far away from your bed as possible (ideally outside your bedroom). Turn off your notifications, so you won’t be disturbed and DO NOT look at your phone.
  2. If you consume coffee or any other caffeinated beverage. Than your last drink is exactly ten hours before you go to bed. Caffeine will generally linger in the body for eight to ten hours. However, if you are caffeine sensitive, the effects can last up to fourteen hours or more.
  3. When your alarm clock wakes you in the morning, immediately get out of bed. It is important that you train both your brain and body that this is the time you wake and start your day. I recommend doing some exercise if you’re able to and if its light out, get the natural light into the bedroom. But if you are too tired, just focus on keeping yourself occupied and do not go back to bed.
  4. You must wake up and go to bed at the same time, every day (even on the weekends). No Sleeping in, under any circumstance. If you have a big night and go to bed late, you need to get up at the same time the next day, and go to bed either earlier or at your established bedtime.

Helpful hints:

  • When you wake up, immediately turn on the lights and/or open the blinds. This will help kick start your brain to change your natural sleep schedule.
  • The first few days will be the hardest, so starting on a weekend or a time when you’re not working might be your best chance at success.
  • The lack of sleep, will make you want caffeine more but resist the urge as this will only delay the time it takes to adjust your sleep schedule and make the process all the more difficult.
  • Remove all lights from the bedroom, and make the room as dark as possible. Consider buying block out curtains.
  • If you phone needs to be in your room, make sure your phone is faced away from you, preferably screen on the ground.
  • Remove all animals from your bedroom. If you have a child that is sleeping with you, than I recommend you consider training them out of the bed before undertaking this challenge.
  • Reconsider naps if you’re currently having them.
  • If you purchase a book on raising children, I am almost certain the majority of them will say the same thing. Children love and need routine, especially for bedtime. This also applies to adults, work on having the same routine each night, having dinner, cleaning teeth etc.
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