Fitness Challenge Blog

How to Design a Sleep-Based Wellness Challenge

Creating and managing a wellness challenge using essential sleep requirements

March 8, 2019 by Joseph

So how, and why, do you run a sleep-based wellness challenge? When I was first asked about creating a challenge focused on sleeping, I was a bit skeptical. Generally, a wellness challenge centers around activities where the admin tries to discourage negative behaviors and promote positive ones. As I saw it, the problem with a sleep challenge is identifying the positive and negative aspects as they apply to the overall population.

According to the last Gallop Poll in 2013, Americans average just 6.8 hours of sleep per night and 40% get less then 6 hours per night. Worldwide, average sleep varies somewhat: from 5 hours and 59 minutes in Japan to 7 hours, 30 minutes in New Zealand. However, even the high-end of this is far less than the 9 average hours of sleep attained just one hundred years ago. Of course, the world has changed a lot in the last hundred years with much more to keep us up late at night, but our sleep requirements have not.

The Center for Disease Control contends that we need at least 7 hours of sleep in a 24-hour cycle to perform at our best. In fact, when we receive less than 7 hours, we are at higher risk of:

  • Heart Attack
  • Heart Disease
  • Stroke
  • Asthma
  • COPD
  • Cancer
  • Arthritis
  • Depression
  • Kidney Disease
  • Diabetes

Notice the wording used by the CDC: “in a 24-hour period”. Instead of “at night” implying that naps taken during the day count toward necessary sleep requirements. Therefore, the low average nightly sleep achieved in Japan mentioned above is a bit misleading due to the cultural acceptance of naps in the workplace by Japanese employers. While the health aspects of sleep depravation are the most troubling, the economic impact is severe as well. A study from RAND Europe puts the price tag of insufficient sleep at $411 billion per year in the United States alone.

For the purposes of creating a wellness challenge, it seems clear that we can set the lower boundary at around 7 hours of sleep. But what, if any, is the upper bound?

In a recent article from Johns Hopkins titled: Oversleeping: Bad for Your Health?, researchers concluded that, as an adult, sleeping more 9 hours can be linked to many of the same conditions as sleeping too little. However, the article also pointed out that oversleeping may not be the cause of the problem and may just be an indicator that something is medically wrong with the individual and an examination is needed. That being said, an upper boundary of around 9 hours could be used for the purposes of a sleep challenge.

Since we now have upper and lower bounds, it is easy to see how sleeping can fall into a multiple-choice style challenge where the participant receives points when their sleeping falls between the lower and upper bounds. However, it is also clear that sleep requirements vary based on gender, age, activity level, and other factors. For that reason, a scaled challenge where the participants receive partial credit when they are close to the recommended range would be advisable. Therefore, I suggest a structure similar to the following when constructing a sleep challenge:

Sleep in HoursPoints ReceivedTracker Tier
Less than 600
6 to 716
7 to 927
9 to 1019
More than 10010

When using the ChallengeRunner platform, the setup is relatively simple:

  1. Click Create a New Challenge button and use the Next and Finish buttons to complete the challenge details.
  2. Click the Add Activity ( + ) button
  3. If using activity trackers, select Yes and then select Sleep Hours from the Data to Import drop down box and click Next
  4. Enter Sleep Hours in the Field Caption box if not already filled. Then select Multiple Choice from the Field Type options.
  5. Click the Add Choice button
  6. Enter Less than 6 in the Name textbox
  7. Enter 0 in the Value textbox
  8. If using trackers, enter 0 in the Tracker Tier textbox
  9. Click the Save button
  10. Repeat for each option in the table above
  11. Click Next to proceed though the additional Activity options
  12. Use the Add Participants ( + ) button to invite participants to your challenge

Obviously, this is just a suggestion and admins can adjust points and criteria to meet their needs. The important lesson for this challenge is to get participants to start thinking about sleep as a vital aspect of their overall wellness and not just a part of the day they can cut back on to finish tasks they consider more important.

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