September Fitness Challenge – Sleep!

Our Sleep History


Beck and I have been best friends for 25 years.  We spent most nights in our adolescence staying up all night either talking on the phone or spending the night with each other.  We lived on less than 16 hours of a sleep per week most weeks.

That was just how we were.  We both wish we knew then what we know now.

We can’t change what we did in the past.  But now we are both struggling to lose weight.  So we’re going to challenge each other this month to start regulating our sleeping habits.

We both need to create healthier sleep habits to promote better functioning for our bodies and lose the weight.


The Research

“Sleep is an important modulator of neuroendocrine function and glucose metabolism and sleep loss has been shown to result in metabolic and endocrine alterations, including decreased glucose tolerance, decreased insulin sensitivity, increased evening concentrations of cortisol, increased levels of ghrelin, decreased levels of leptin, and increased hunger and appetite. Recent epidemiological and laboratory evidence confirm previous findings of an association between sleep loss and increased risk of obesity,” according to a study done by the National Institute of Health.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, “A 1999 study by scientists at the University of Chicago found that building up a sleep debt over a matter of days can impair metabolism and disrupt hormone levels. After restricting 11 healthy young adults to four hours’ sleep for six nights, researchers found their ability to process glucose (sugar) in the blood had declined—in some cases to the level of diabetics.”

Healthy Lifestyle

A follow-up study was done which tested healthy men and women that had an average body mass index.  Half of those test subjects slept normally while the other half averaged six and a half hours of sleep or less.  Those that had shorter sleep patterns showed hormonal changes that could affect future body weight and negatively impact their long-term health according to glucose tolerance tests.

They needed to make 30% more insulin than normal sleepers in order to keep their blood sugar levels normal.  Based on these studies, Eve Van Cauter, PhD, who led the studies says that sleep deprivation is “the royal route to obesity”.  Dr. Van Cauter’s research proved that there are physiologic abnormalities that may increase appetite and calorie intake for people who don’t sleep adequately dut to the level of leptin levels which stimulate appetite hormones.


Beck’s Sleep

Could Beck’s inner Sloth be attributed to sleep deprivation?

I remember just a few weeks ago when she started using her Fitbit, she mentioned learning how poorly she actually sleeps.  Fitbit tells us how many hours we slept, how many times we woke up during the night, and how many times we moved during the night.  So it basically tells us if we were restless.

Sometimes Beck just isn’t sleepy around the time that she should be going to bed.  Other times, she gets hyper-focused on what she’s doing and she misses bedtime altogether.

Many times, she winds up taking a nap during the day because she’s sleepy.  The problem with this is that interrupted sleep has been found to be just as bad as not getting any sleep at all because it makes it difficult for your body to get through the different sleep stages and get enough REM sleep which mostly occurs before awakening.

Becks Sleep Schedule

Beck’s Fitbit reports that she averages 5 hours and 25 minutes of sleep per night.  However, it only counts the total amount of sleep in a 24 hour period, it doesn’t separate night sleep from naps.

So Beck typically gets between 2 and 5 hours of sleep at a time.  I would say these keeps her in a constant state of sleep deprivation…which would help explain why the Sloth is so stubborn.


Ki’s Sleep

My sleep habits are a little bit better than hers…but not by much.

I have adult ADHD which comes with the difficulty of turning my brain off at night.  I have trouble getting it to shut up enough for me to drift to sleep.

I keep myself busy from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to bed.  I can’t stand sitting around not doing anything.  I don’t know how to chillax.  It drives me nuts because there are so many things I want to do.

I absolutely hate the fact that our bodies need sleep to survive.  I hate sleep.  I feel like it wastes so much time on other things I should be doing.  Or could be doing.  As a result, I have some nights where insomnia kicks in if I’m not asleep within an hour or two of my bedtime and I wind up staying up the entire night.

I also have untreated sleep apnea…which may very well be a direct result of my weight.  My sleep study determined that I stopped breathing 27 times that night.  I often wake up choking and gasping for air.  I have to get this weight under control so that I can improve my breathing and my sleep.  It’s a must.

Kis Sleep Schedule

I typically average between 5 and a half and 6 and a half hours of sleep per night.  That is straight through sleep.

I do not take naps unless I’m sick or injured.  I find it almost impossible to take a nap during the day.

My biggest problem is going to bed at a decent hour.  I start work at 8am in the morning.  So I need to focus on going to bed early enough to get 7 hours of sleep during the night.


Sleep Challenge

Both of our Fitbits track our sleep.  Both have been set up for certain goals.  My goal is 7 hours of sleep per night.  Beck’s goal is 6 hours of sleep per night.  The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7 – 9 hours of sleep per night.

Both of our Fitbits are set to give us reminders shortly before bedtime based on our schedules.  In order to win this challenge, we must either go to bed at bedtime, or change or schedules to allow us to meet our sleep goals.  The challenge is to meet our sleep goal each and every night.

At the end of the month, the person that met their goal the most wins the challenge.  The person who does not win, the runner up, will have to redeem themselves by getting a picture of them taken laying on a bench at Lake Eola downtown with a sign that says, “I have poor sleep habits.”


Challenge Rules

  1. Ground RulesSleep tracked must occur during the night.
    Neither of us have night jobs.  We both have day schedules.  The sleep that counts for this challenge will occur between 9pm and 9am.
  2. No naps.
    If you feel you must take a nap, take a nap.  But it does not count toward the sleep goals for this challenge since the goal is to get your required hours of sleep during the night and set healthy sleep habits.
  3. No excuses.
    It is our own responsibility to ensure that our Fitbits are charged properly before we go to sleep so that it will track our sleep.  It is also our own responsibility to prioritize our goals according to our health.So if life keeps us up at night and we only got an hour of sleep, it still counts.  The only exception to this rule is a health related family emergency that we have to tend to such as taking a family member to the ER in the middle of the night.
  4. We post our weekly stats every Monday for Motivation. 
    If we forget to post our stats or life gets in the way and we don’t make the time, we will be docked 1 day from our goals met as a penalty.  Our stats should include any noted changes in our body as well as how we feel with the amount of sleep we got.
  5. Times awakened and times restless during the night do not count against our goal.
    We both have medical issues that cause this and cannot be helped at this time.  Only our total hours of sleep each night will count toward our goal as we are only trying to create healthy sleep habits.
  6. No oral sleep aids.
    As this challenge is aimed at creating healthy sleep habits, no oral sleep aids such as sleeping pills should be used to induce sleep.  The idea is to teach your body to natural sleep at healthy hours.

Monday, Labor Day, we will both our baselines.  This will show what our typical sleeping habits and will include the first few days of September.  From that point on, we will post our weekly stats every Motivational Monday.  On October 4th, the results will be tallied and a winner will be determined.

Do you think Team Sloth has this challenge in the bag too?

Stay tuned!


This article has 2 Comments

  1. OOH! I’m going to play along too!

    I have led both of your lives in sleep schedule land. I used to not be able to shut my brain off, now I listen to ASMR videos to get to sleep. I can get there pretty quickly now. The challenge is staying there for any length of time. My tracker tells me that I’m fully awake a LOT, with precious little deep sleep and a fair amount of light sleep. I don’t ever feel like I get that deep, restorative sleep- ever.

    If I could sleep 5 solid hours in a row, I’d be a much better badass. 🙂

    1. Oh YAY! We would love to have you play along, Jen! This is awesome. I agree, we would all be much badder badasses if we got enough sleep to maintain our badassery. It’s also important for our bodies to get enough sleep if we want to shed these extra pounds we’ve been carrying around. I’m ecstatic you’ll be joining us and wish you the best of luck in your quest for healthier sleep habits!


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