7 Things I Learned From Taking a Sleep Challenge
The following post is sponsored by Eisai Inc. For our sponsored posting policy, click here.Loss of sleep. Sleeping troubles. Sleep deprivation. Insomnia.As a mom to one-year-old and five-year-old twins, I know what it's like to be tired. So, so tired.Add to that the stress of a pandemic and this state of all things in the […]

The following post is sponsored by Eisai Inc. For our sponsored posting policy, click here.

Loss of sleep. Sleeping troubles. Sleep deprivation. Insomnia.

As a mom to one-year-old and five-year-old twins, I know what it's like to be tired. So, so tired.

Add to that the stress of a pandemic and this state of all things in the world, and, hey, there are a lot of things that keep us awake at night.


So when DayAfter Insomnia wanted to know if I would be up for a sleep challenge - and a challenge that wasn't just about the amount and quality of sleep, but also how do you feel when you wake up - I was all in it. I mean, who doesn't want to wake up well?

For a week, I tracked both how I felt before I fell asleep and what I felt when I woke up. Just eight simple questions twice a day to help me understand why some days I slept better than others and how this influenced my energy levels and how efficiently I function the next day.

I know sleep is so important and I felt pretty knowledgeable about what to do (and what not to do) to sleep well, but I have to say I learned a lot by doing this sleep challenge.

And, while I can't control whether or not my three kids wake up in the middle of the night, I've found a number of ways to sleep better… and - most importantly - to wake up well. Read on for the biggest ah-has I had!

1. Workouts - and the type of workout - matter.

One of the things I followed in this sleep challenge was whether I exercised for 20 minutes or more every day. And, on top of that, I figured I'd also note what type of workout I did - was it HIIT, longer jog, easy walk, yoga, or something else? It turns out that on the days I exercised, I seemed to fall asleep faster and wake up more rested the next day, but the more intense the exercise, the more pronounced these effects seemed to be on my sleep¹. Outdoor training also seemed more beneficial to me than indoor training, which I found fascinating.

2. Eating too late or too early can disrupt sleep.

My questionnaire also made me note the last time I ate in the evening, and the results really surprised me. If I had an early dinner (easy to do with three kids at home asking for dinner at 4:30 p.m.) and didn't have a bedtime snack, I would fall asleep pretty quickly, but literally wake up hungry! On the other hand, if I ate a large meal too close to bedtime, I had a hard time falling asleep. It only took a few days for me to play around with my meals and snacks to make a great snack between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., then having dinner between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. a priority for my 10 p.m. bedtime.

3. It is essential to de-stress before going to bed.

Before taking on the sleep challenge, I would usually watch TV with my husband and then hit the hay once we could barely keep our eyes open. But it turns out it's not as relaxing as you might think - especially if you fall asleep on the couch in a weird position and then have to go upstairs to go to bed. We have both found that when we meditate or relax in our bed - even if it was only a few minutes after watching TV - we fall asleep faster and sleep better. Such an easy adjustment for better sleep.

4. Avoid the snooze button.

Oh, the snooze button. It's so tempting to hit when you're tired in the morning, but, for me, no matter how much extra sleep I got from hitting it, I always seemed to feel worse and less energetic. And, the more I hit him, the worse I seemed to feel. As soon as I made that connection it was so much easier not to make it.

5. I love my wine, but ...

It's no secret that I'm a wine lover, but taking on this sleep challenge has given me another reason why moderation is everything. I found that having a glass of wine before bed didn't change much, but more than one and I was more likely to wake up in the middle of the night and wake up feeling not so refreshed.

6. Productivity is a cycle.

The sleep challenge also allowed me to track how productive I felt each day, which I thought was an interesting question and not one I expected. What I learned was that productivity not only affects the quality of my sleep (that is, if I wasn't too productive, I probably didn't feel as drowsy at night), but also that sleep affected my productivity the next day. . If I was drowsy and not rested all day, I wasn't as productive… and then the cycle started again. Interesting, eh?

7. Focus on standby well changes all.

It was my biggest ah-ha of all. When I focused on how I woke up and paid attention to how I woke up - and then linked that to my behaviors and decisions - it was so easy to make small changes that paid off in energy. Focusing on “waking up well” motivated me to go to bed earlier, listen to my body, and take better care of myself.

I didn't have to make huge changes either - one less drink here, five minutes of meditation there, avoiding the snooze button as much as possible. All very simple things that profoundly changed how I felt every day.

And, again, with the three kids and things, I can use whatever energy I can get.

Do you wake up well on the reg? I encourage you to use the questions above and also take the Seven Day Sleep Challenge! Also visit DayAfterInsomnia.com for more information and resources on healthy sleep. After all, this is just my experience. Not to say what you can learn about yourself! –Jenn


1. John Hopkins Medicine. Exercise for better sleep. Accessed August 2020. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/exercising-for-better-sleep

Nutrition is a critical part of health and development. Better nutrition is related to improved infant, child and maternal health, stronger immune systems, safer pregnancy and childbirth, lower risk of non-communicable diseases ( such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease ), and longevity.

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Nutrition is a critical part of health and development. Better nutrition is related to improved infant, child and maternal health, stronger immune systems, safer pregnancy and childbirth, lower risk of non-communicable diseases ( such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease ), and longevity.

There are many high-quality, free guidelines available for saine eating plans that give more details on portion size, total calorie consumption, what to eat more of, and what to eat less of to get saine and stay that way.

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