For Challenge #4, the Lehmans andAvaglianos had to catch more Zzs every night. Studies have shown that sleep helps you lose weight, improves your energy and even decreases your risk of heart disease. Once again, the Lehmans emerged victorious. Read how they did it here and follow these tips to snooze more, yourself.
6 Sleep Habits Every Family Should Follow
1. Prep for bed. Nightly routines aren’t just for infants. They’re essential for all ages. “Start a ritual about 20 to 30 minutes before bedtime to prepare the body for sleep,” says Robert Oexman, D.C., director of the Sleep to Live Institute in Joplin, Missouri, who gave the families their goals for the challenge. It could include a hot bath (which decreases your core body temperature) or a cup of herbal tea.
2. Get your own top sheets and blankets. “Using separate ones can make up for different temperature needs you and your partner may have,” says Dr. Oexman. Added bonus: You won’t wake up when he steals the blanket.
3. Stay in the dark. If you wake up in the middle of the night, don’t check your email or text messages—no matter how tempting. When your kids must have a night-light, use a low blue one. “These eliminate the blue wavelength of light
that negatively impacts melatonin production,” says Dr. Oexman. Try the 120-volt Candelabra Screw Base Amber 6-LED Night Light Bulb (lowbluelights.com, $10).
4. Lower the thermostat. About 68 degrees is ideal for catching 40 winks because it causes a decrease in your core body temp. If you get cold, covering up is okay. “It’s exposing your head to cold air that naturally decreases your core
body temperature,” says Dr. Oexman.
5. Curb the caffeine. Whether it comes from tea, soda, coffee or hot chocolate, this stimulant can keep you up at night. This means you’re tired the next day, so you reach for caffeine to perk you up, and the cycle continues.
6. Don’t allow cell phones in the bedroom…even if your kids say they use their phones as alarm clocks. That’s because every time you get a text or email, you wake up. “It causes fragmented, lower quality sleep,” says Dr. Oexman.
Snore No More!
Eliminate the nighttime noise with Dr. Oexman’s tips.
Sideline yourself. Snoring can come to a halt if you sleep on your side as opposed to your back. Sew a tennis ball into the back of a T-shirt or search for “no snore shirts” online. “This way when you roll onto your back it’s uncomfortable and you automatically roll to your side,” explains Dr. Oexman. After two weeks, you probably won’t need the shirt.
Try nasal strips. “These work well if you have nasal congestion or a deviated septum,” says Dr. Oexman. Look for Breathe Right Nasal Strips (cvs.com, $6).
Consider a jaw supporter. They look like mouth guards but help position your jaw in a way that opens your airways. Check out Ripsnore (ripsnore.com, $67 for two).
How to Get Kids to Sleep in Their Own Beds
It’s not only toddlers sneaking into their parents’ room in the middle of the night—school-age kids are doing it too. But Dr. Oexman can get your children snoozing in their rooms just like he did for the Lehman family. “Your kids actually want to sleep on their own,” he explains. Follow his how-to’s and sleep solo again!
Skip the word “scared.” Instead explain to your child that it’s okay if he “gets nervous” or “has concerns at night.” And never say, “You’re too old to be sleeping with us.” It just makes him feel bad.
Start with 15 minutes. Tuck your child into bed in a dimly lit room and sit with her for 15 minutes, just like when she was little. “You can converse quietly as long as you don’t fall asleep,” says Dr. Oexman. Then say, “I need to step out for just a few minutes. I’ll be right back. If you have any concerns, yell for me.” Why it works: “There’s safety in knowing that if they have a problem they can just call out,” says Dr. Oexman. Then leave the room and return in exactly 5 minutes.
Follow up with 10 minutes. If your child is not asleep when you return, sit there for 10 minutes. If she is still awake, say, “I need to go do something for a couple of minutes. Yell if you need me.” Leave the room for 5 minutes.
Stay for 5 minutes. If she’s still awake when you return, sit in the room for 5 more minutes and excuse yourself again.
“Typically, at this point, the child will fall asleep,” says Dr. Oexman. If not, repeat this step.
Address the middle of the night. Tell your child, “If you wake up, it’s perfectly okay to come into our bedroom and tell us if you feel the need.” This makes him feel safe, according to Dr. Oexman.
Walk your childback to bed. If your kid wakes you in the middle of the night say, “Thank you for waking us up. Now let’s go to your room.” Take your child back and start the process over from the beginning.
What has helped your family get more sleep? Share in the comments below.
In an attempt to do more laundry or squeeze in another episode of The Good Wife, almost all of us skimp on sleep. And
that includes the Lehmans and Avaglianos. So we used data from their Fitbit Ultra activity and sleep trackers as well
as their interviews with Robert Oexman, D.C., director of the Sleep to Live Institute in Joplin, Missouri, to create
personalized goals that would get them the rest they need. “Just like going to work and the gym, you have to make a
commitment to quality rest,” says Dr. Oexman. “Once you stop cheating the clock, you’ll look, feel and function
better.” Here’s how our families put zzz’s at the top of their list—and how you can snooze better too.
How the Lehmans Won
After a neighbor’s home was broken into almost a year ago, Anna started coming into her parents’ room in the middle of the night and sleeping on the floor. “She was scared that the same thing was going to happen to us and the
person would take not just our things but her too,” says Tiffany. “She would almost cry because she didn’t want to stay in her room.” And although Anna didn’t wake her parents, kids don’t rest well on the floor, says Dr. Oexman.
Tiffany also had an issue to tackle for this challenge: A self-described night owl, she didn’t turn in until 11 p.m. or later. As a result, she was not getting enough shut-eye and was skimping on time with Andy, who often hit the hay by 9:30 p.m.
“Sleep wasn’t something that I really invested much in before,” says Tiffany. “But I realize now that it’s a vital part of weight loss and overall health.” The result of their new and improved bedtime habits? Andy has more energy and is down 2 pounds. Tiffany dropped 2 pounds as well.
Their Top Tips
★ Go to bed together. Instead of spending mindless hours online or watching TV, Tiffany curbed her night owl tendencies and turned in when Andy did. “I really enjoyed that time we had together at the end of the day,” says Tiffany. “We talked, got to snuggle and had more intimacy.” All this made Tiffany realize that getting the right amount of sleep is “totally worth it!”
★ Keep the kids out. After just two nights of following Dr. Oexman’s method (see “Reclaiming Your Bed” on page 137), Anna was snoozing in her own room the entire night. One important thing: Dr. Oexman assured Anna that her fears were normal for a kid her age. “This way she didn’t feel odd about doing this on a nightly basis,” says Tiffany. “Now she’s sleeping great and wakes up in a much better mood!”
★ Unplug for 30 minutes. “Bright lights from devices like computers, TVs and cell phones decrease the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone responsible for making us feel tired and fall asleep,” says Dr. Oexman, who told both families to turn off all technology at least 30 minutes before bedtime. “This tip really helped because it forced me to unwind in other ways—like talking to Andy, reading and praying—and to not be overstimulated with images,” says Tiffany.
What They Won: The Lehmans racked up the most points this month for following good sleep habits. So Kingsdown decided to help them get an even better night’s rest by giving the entire family new mattresses. After answering questions about their sleep patterns, Kingsdown found the best bed for each of them. To locate a retailer where you can take the quiz, go to bedmatch.com.
How Did the Avaglianos Do?
Before the challenge, lights out at the Avagliano household was around 11 p.m. and alarm clocks went off at 5:30 a.m.
The teens weren’t getting the recommended 8.5 to 9.5 hours, and the parents were missing the 7- to 9-hour mark. Another issue: Peggy and Peter’s tendency to doze off on the couch while watching TV. Because they’ve already slept some, this makes it harder to drift off to dreamland later. Though many of us watch TV before hitting the sack, doing so is a no-no, as is anything technology related such as checking email or playing video games. Lastly, Peter’s snoring was a
potential problem because snoring can cause disrupted sleep. Peter benefitted the most from Dr. Oexman’s array of tips. “After about a week, I felt more rested and energetic, and it was easier to get out of bed in the morning,” he says.
Their Top Tips
★ Making an announcement. Dr. Oexman suggested that the Avaglianos hit the hay at 10–10:30 p.m. “We made a conscious effort to turn in earlier during the challenge, but between work, kids, the gym, cooking and living, sleep is not the highest priority,” says Peggy. Adds Peter: “Still, just being conscious of the hour and saying, ‘It’s time for bed,’ which I haven’t said to my kids in years, definitely helped.”
★ Starting a “no couch sleeping” policy. To stay alert, Dr. Oexman suggested the Avaglianos play a game or take a walk before hitting the sack. “And when you’re falling asleep on the couch, why not go to bed?” If one of them did nod off while sitting up, the Avaglianos took Dr. Oexman’s advice and woke the dozer. “We got an hour more sleep that way,” says Peter.
★ Eliminating snoring. “Loud snoring can stir the person doing it and his or her partner even if they don’t remember in the morning,” explains Dr. Oexman. He suggested Breathe Right nasal strips, which Peter tried. “I noticed that I didn’t toss or turn as much,” he says.
What has helped your family get more sleep? Share your top tips in the comments below.
It’s been four weeks and this self-proclaimed night owl has turned her habits around. Part of this month’s challenge was to go to bed every day at the same time and wake up at the same time. At first I thought that was a joke because I work 7:30 to 4 so I’m up early, which means I’m in bed early. Well I wasn’t too happy about it but we managed. We didn’t always get to bed at the same time on the weekends and we slept in on occasion, but all in all we did a great job. Getting at least 7 hours of sleep at night was kind of tough at the beginning but once my body got used to it, I had to have it.
And all the sleep behaviors we changed had some very positive results. I have more energy to devote to Andy, the kids, work. My workouts are more intense because I have more of a drive to push through.
We still are implementing practices we developed in this challenge and will continue to do so. What I’ve learned in this sleep challenge is that sleep is essential not just to weight loss but also to a healthy life.
What would it take to get you to change your sleep habits? Post a comment and tell me!
If you’re having trouble getting to sleep or if you wake up a lot in the night, your diet could be to blame. What you eat or drink before bed, or even earlier in the day, can affect the amount and quality of your sleep. Here’s what to watch out for.
Fat and Protein
Meals high in fat and/or protein take time to digest and your stomach has to work hard to break those nutrients down. All that digestion activity can keep you from falling asleep. Fatty meals can also give you indigestion, which can bar you from dreamland.
Eating acidic juices, citrus fruit or even tomato-based sauces before bed gives some people heartburn. The sensation may start as soon as you lie down or it might wake you up an hour after you go to bed. If heartburn is a problem, avoid eating acidic foods within several hours of bedtime.
Caffeine and Alcohol
You know that caffeine keeps you awake but you may not realize that the coffee you drank as early as 2 or 3 pm is causing insomnia. People assume that caffeine only affects you if it’s consumed an hour or two before bedtime but caffeine can remain active in your body for up to 8 hours.
Even if have no problem falling asleep after drinking caffeinated drinks, the stimulant may be disrupting your sleep without you even knowing it. It can prevent you from getting the deep, restorative sleep your body needs. The same is true for alcohol. That glass of wine at dinner may leave you feeling relaxed and sleepy, but alcohol disrupts deep sleep, leaving you tired the next day.
If you’re not sure if your diet is keeping you up, keep a food and sleep diary for a few days or weeks. Note when and what you eat during the day, along with any sleep difficulties. This can help you pinpoint what’s keeping you up at night. Or you may find that it’s not diet-related, in which case you should see your doctor to rule out a sleep disorder or other sleep issues.
Through her Des Moines-based nutrition company, SK Health Communications, registered dietitian Stephanie Karpinske writes and develops recipes for magazines, books, supermarkets and food companies. She is the author of Read Before Dieting: Your 4-Step Plan for Diet Success and writes a blog about healthy eating, foodnuti.com. She’s coaching the Lehman family through the six-month Healthy Family Challenge.
Sometimes getting a good night’s sleep is more complicated than turning off the TV and giving up caffeine after 2 p.m. My problems with sleep go back many years. I had sleep apnea and had to use a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine. Basically, you put on a mask connected to the machine it increases the air pressure in your throat so the passageway doesn’t collapse when you’re asleep. Then, two years ago, I had my tonsils removed and I stopped using it. Felt better but never 100%.
Before this sleep challenge, I did a sleep study because I knew with weight loss, working out, eating the right foods, etc. I should feel less tired. I’m happy to report that my sleep apnea is GONE, that I hardly snore at all and I don’t have any episodes where I stop breathing.
I also found out that a medicine I’ve been taking in the morning really should be taken at night because it can cause drowsiness. Now with me taking my medicine at the right time of the day and getting at least 7 hours of sleep, I truly feel like a new person!
If you feel like your sleep issues are more complicated than quick fixes, definitely talk to your doctor. It can make a world of difference.
Have you ever seen an M.D. for sleep troubles? Post a comment and tell me!