challenge yourself

Challenge Yourself: Get More Sleep

girl in bed

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 (, $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 (, $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 (, $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.

sleep infographic

What has helped your family get more sleep? Share in the comments below.

Challenge Yourself: What You Should (and Shouldn’t Do) to Get More Sleep

For the past two weeks, you’ve read about how Peggy and Tiffany are trying to get more sleep. If you’re also struggling to catch more zzzs, it’s important to know what’s beneficial–and what’s counterproductive–to achieving that.

For example, did you know that exercising after dinner won’t keep you up for hours? Or that you should never use your snooze button? Learn why, and read more ways to get better sleep here.

What’s the most interesting change you’ve made to achieve better sleep? Share in the comments below.

Challenge Yourself: Walk 10,000 Steps Every Day

The Lehman family are the winners of Challenge # 3.

The third challenge for our Healthy Challenge families—the Lehmans and Avaglianos—was to get active and add more steps to their daily lives. Walking 10,000 steps a day can help you lose weight, lower your risk of diabetes and even give you more energy. With this goal, the Lehmans walked their way to victory by increasing their fitness regimen and doing fun family outdoor activities. Follow the Lehmans lead and sneak in exercise time for you and your family. Here, our expert trainers’ offer 8 tips on how to get your family moving and exercising:

1. Get everyone on board. “While the kids may be a little unwilling to make a change to their lifestyle, the example set by Mom and Dad can go a long way toward adjusting their mind-set (and sometimes vice versa),” says the Avagliano kids’ coach, TJ Loos, a certified personal trainer at Tilton Fitness in Galloway, New Jersey, who specializes in youth and senior fitness as well as sport-specific training. “Any process is easier when you have a support system.”

2. Go back to basics. “Do simple, traditional moves that use your own body weight,” suggests Tiffany’s coach, Lass Lassiter, a certified fitness trainer and former staff sergeant in the U.S. Army who helps whip clients into shape at Gold’s Gym in West Des Moines, Iowa. “Try exercises like squats and push-ups at home and you’ll get an excellent sweat session.”

3. Make every errand count. “Park far from your destination so that you and the kids have to walk, and take the stairs instead of the elevator,” says Ann Erik, personal training director at Tilton Fitness in Galloway, New Jersey, who coached the Avagliano parents.

4. Do what you love. “Find activities that are fun for the whole family,” says Lassiter. “Maybe it’s dodgeball or kickball; maybe it’s hiking or bike rides. If everyone enjoys it, you’ll make time to add it to your schedule.”

5. Model behavior. “Kids look up to you,” explains Andy’s coach, Wesley Keith, a certified personal trainer at Gold’s Gym in West Des Moines, Iowa. “They’re going to see that Dad had a big objective, he set out to achieve it and he did it. This will teach and motivate them.”

6. Make a smart swap. “Skip dessert and instead go for an after-dinner family walk three to four times a week,” suggests Erik.

7. Set goals. “They help. Not only do they keep people and families focused on the mission, but they also provide a measuring stick for your progress,” says Loos.

8. Make the switch. “If you hit a plateau, think FITT and change one of these things: the frequency, intensity, type or time of your routine,” suggests Keith.


3 Items to Get You Moving

If you need more motivation, here are 3 things that helped our Healthy Challenge families sweat it out this month:

Fitbit Ultra Wireless Activity Tracker does more than count your steps, calories and distance. It also has a sleep tracker, stair counter and stopwatch, plus it wirelessly uploads your info to the Fitbit site, where you can compare your stepping with other users’. Seeing how the competition was doing on was great motivation for our families.

What gets you moving better than a brand new pair of kicks? The kids and adults in our families sent in their shoe sizes and got to lace up the most popular running styles of Asics sneakers, all of which offered gel cushioning, support and stability., a site where you can find and register for races such as 5K and 10K walks and runs, team sports and recreational activities, invited our families to participate in an event for free. The site also lets you connect with others who share your fitness interests and start an online training program to prep for an event.

How do you get your family to exercise? What activities work for your family? Share in the comments below!

Challenge Yourself: Exercise at Home

modified superman

Peggy and Tiffany have been sharing their progress as they work out at their new gyms. But even if you don’t belong to a health club or can’t afford a trainer, there’s no reason you can’t get fit on your own, in the comfort of your living room.

Check out our slideshow, “Get Fit on a Budget: Easy At-Home Exercises.” Developed by fitness expert Gregory Florez, the routine only requires three inexpensive pieces of equipment. And best of all, you’ll lose weight and gain strength in four to six weeks if you do the moves three days a week.

What are your favorite at-home exercises? Tell me in the comments below.

Challenge Yourself: Go for No-Guilt Desserts

Slices of mango in a clear jar

Yesterday Peggy shared her favorite treats that satisfy her sweet tooth without destroying her diet. For even more suggestions, check out our slideshow, “Low-Calorie Dessert Ideas”–and feel free to indulge!