Wellness Challenge Week 1: Sleep

by | Oct 23, 2020 | 2020 Wellness Challenge, Primary Care, Uncategorized

This week, we launched our first 4-Week Wellness Challenge. Whether you have directly experienced COVID-19 or not, this year has had an impact on your health. It has disrupted daily routines and created stress that has greatly affected our sleep patterns, exercise routines, and eating habits. The 4-Week Challenge is designed to address these disruptions with tips from our providers on how to combat them and return to a more desirable and healthy routine. 

The Challenge started with a focus on improving sleep and productivity. See below for the sleep tips from our provider, Lara Trevino, AGNP-C, MSN, as well as the details of the challenge for the week, and a number of sleep questions we received from members of our community throughout the week.


Week 1 Goal:
Prioritize sleep and identify your ideal sleep routine


Tips on Improving Sleep:

A good night’s sleep starts with understanding your chronotype – are you a lion, bear, wolf, or dolphin?

Your chronotype aka your underlying circadian rhythm that determines your ideal sleep times. Everyone has a genetically determined chronotype that is hard wired into the genes. You can push and pull 30-45 minutes, but if you try to change it, you’ll likely feel jet lagged.

Neuroscientists have different descriptions of chronotype, but neuroscientist Dr. Michael Breus often explains four chronotypes with animals: 

  1. Lion (also referred to as an early bird or lark)
    • 15% of the population 
    • Wakes up at 5 am, goes to sleep at 9 or 10 pm
    • Productive time is in the morning
    • Consistently gets up early and feels exhausted when it’s time to go to sleep
  2. Bear
    • 40% of the population
    • wakes up and goes to bed with the sun
    • Productive time 11 am – 6 pm
  3. Wolf (night owl)
    • 30% of the population
    • Goes to sleep around midnight or one and wakes up at nine am
    • Most productive at night
  4. Dolphin
    • 15% of the population
    • Light sleepers often diagnosed with insomnia
    • Exercise in the morning to calm anxiety


Culturally, we follow the time schedule of a bear which is especially tough on night owls. Many people feel they have insomnia but oftentimes they are not (or cannot) follow their natural chronotype.

Does this sound familiar to you?

For more sleep tips, see our other posts: 5 Ways to Improve Your Sleep and Sleep Q&A: Why You Should Sleep On It + More.


This Week’s Challenge:
Identify your ideal bedtime and wake up time and maintain it for the week.

  • Once you identify your sleep chronotype 
      • Try to follow that rhythm for the week and see if you feel anymore rested or productive. You can also try adjusting this pattern by 30-45 minutes to see if you still get the desired results.
  • Pay close attention to your sleep and energy levels  
      • Sleep hygiene requires a heavy dose of self-reflection and experimentation to identify what works. Think about the last time you had great sleep. What did your day look like? What did your wind down routine look like?
      • If you have an Apple Watch, Whoop, Fitbit or other device that can track your sleep, start to wear your device to sleep and sync it with your phone. You can set up goals and create a great visual to reference at the end of the week
  • Test some different sleep routines
    • Try to put your phone on airplane mode or DND or in a different room an hour before bed. 
    • Find an interesting audiobook or physical book to replace late night screen time. 
    • Set a phone timer on social media applications 
    • Avoid caffeine after 12 pm and avoid alcohol within two hours of bedtime. 
    • Try blackout shades
    • Get rid of any small lights that bother you like a charger or light from a tv 
    • Try yoga for insomnia before bed to relax you
    • Take a shower before bed and sleep in a cold room 
    • Evaluate your sleep environment: would a noise machine help? Are your sheets comfortable? Is the room cold enough?



Sleep Q&A from instagram:


Why do I feel even more tired after naps?
In your brain, a sleepiness chemical called adenosine has been building up all day, in preparation for sleep as soon as your head hits the pillow. When you take a nap, you are releasing adenosine like a pressure valve. If your nap is too long, it reduces your nightly rest which can result in feeling more tired. Consider your sleep quality without the nap. 

So I sleep a good amount, around 8-9 hours a night, but am still tired the next day. How do I improve the quality of my sleep?
I’m curious if you feel more rested with seven hours of sleep as eight or nine may be too much for you? Also, are you sleeping enough hours within your chronotype? Reflect when you last slept well and woke up refreshed. If you are waking up during the night, consider what (thoughts? discomfort with your environment?) and adjust accordingly. 

How many hours of sleep should I be getting in a night?
Generally 7 to 9 hours. The exact number depends on the person. Ask yourself if you feel most rested after 7, 8 or 9 hours of sleep at night. Make sure the number of hours are in your chronotype. 

Is it more important to have a good weekly average of sleep or just a good daily number?
You need adequate sleep every night so your brain can do its chores: discard brain waste, modulate immune responses, commit new information to long-term memory, regulate emotions and more

Is it really that bad to watch TV/look at your phone before sleep?
Blue light from your TV or phone makes your brain think you’re in a different time zone so it’s not time to go to bed yet. Avoiding blue light helps your brain know it’s time to wind down. 

Does eating before you sleep affect your rest?
When you eat, your digestive system is put to work to digest food instead of nightly housekeeping sweeping away bacteria. When you lie down, your stomach acid is hammering away on food without the assistance of gravity. Alcohol is particularly problematic because it relaxes the door of your stomach to your esophagus so you are more likely to get gastric reflux causing unpleasant awakenings.

How do I wean myself off melatonin?
Melatonin is like the start gun for recruiting sleep chemicals to go to sleep but is not involved with sleep itself. It is not habit forming. For young, healthy patients, studies show that melatonin does not reliably work. The placebo effect is one of the most common effects in pharmacology.

Foods or supplements (besides melatonin) that are helpful for good quality sleep?
A relaxing routine like a warm bath, a cup of camomile tea, or inhalation of lavender essential oil can help you fall asleep. Focus on clean sleep hygiene for good quality sleep.   

Is it normal for sleep patterns to change with seasons? I’m more tired & sleep later in winter.
Your suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN)  is the pacemaker of your circadian rhythms in your brain. The SCN is sensitive to light. When there’s more light, your SCN thinks it’s daytime and that you should be awake. When there’s less light, your body is cued for more sleep. That is why if you’re having difficulty with insomnia – you should get more light exposure at the beginning of the day and less at night. 

How do I get a full night of sound sleep? I wake up several times in the middle of the night.
The best recipe for sound sleep is identifying how many hours of sleep you need, ensuring that the number of hours is in the correct time of the evening (see chronotype), avoiding too much caffeine, avoiding alcohol at least two hours before bed, adequate exercise daily and stress management. 


Need More Guidance?

If you are struggling to get to sleep, stay asleep, or are always feeling tired despite getting a full night of sleep, we encourage you to schedule a visit with one of our providers to discuss your needs more in depth. Members can contact our Personal Health Navigators by chat through the member portal or by calling 646.819.5100 to schedule. 

Additionally, if you like to engage with apps on your phone, The Health Center team pulled together the top apps they find helpful for sleep and meditation. 

Calm (offers a free 7-day trial)
Headspace (offers free trial options)

This Week’s Prize are sponsored by: Hyperice Hypersphere Mini, Rhone, Lululemon, and Bluestone Lane. If participating in the Challenge, see your email for how to enter this week’s drawing as well as exclusive discounts available to Challenge participants.

From your care partners at The Health Center at Hudson Yards

Get up-to-date information and health tips in your social feeds

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