What can a good night's sleep do for you? The list is longer than you might think.

Dr. Michael Howell, a sleep medicine doctor and associate neurology professor at the University of Minnesota, can tick off the health benefits: "Your mood is better. You're better able to deal with stress," he said.

"You make sharper, better decisions. You have improved reaction times and you're able to master motor skills better. Better ability to be more successful creatively. For everyone, and teenagers in particular, less impulsive, unhealthy behavior, better ability to retain academic content. Long term, you have improved cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure, decreased risk of heart attacks, strokes, congestive heart failure," Howell continued. "Lower risk of diabetes and obesity. Lower risk of cancer."

Sleep is something we all desperately need, but for too many of us, getting enough of it is difficult. I fight through groggy mornings. You might struggle with being able to drift off at night.

That's why the Star Tribune is hosting a 30-day Sleep Challenge.

The goal is to spend the next four weeks learning about the science of sleep, taking the steps to make sleep a priority and working with your natural sleep patterns so you can get a good night's rest.

30-day Sleep challenge

Over the course of four weeks, make sleep a high priority, discover your natural sleep cycles and try small adjustments that local experts say can make a big difference in how well rested we are. Each week we’ll introduce a specific challenge, set snooze goals and provide information about the science of sleep.

Join the challenge

Each week, online and in the Sunday print edition, we will have specific challenges and snooze goals, advice from local experts like Howell, and the chance to get answers to your most pressing sleep-related questions.

For adults, doctors recommend seven or more hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. But as anyone who has fitfully dozed through a red-eye flight or been awakened repeatedly by a restless toddler knows, sleep quality, not just quantity, is important. We will look at ways to boost both.

While some parts of the challenge will involve taking familiar but difficult-to-execute steps — like avoiding screens in the last few hours before bed, or nixing caffeine after 3 p.m. — others may seem surprising or counterintuitive.

Many people's sleep can benefit from changes to morning and daytime routines, for example. And while it seems like a virtuous choice, going to bed early, before you feel sleepy, is often a terrible idea, Howell and other experts say.

We'll try some of the healthy habits that sleep doctors recommend and find out why some experts suggest sleep hacks like power naps, light-therapy lamps and meditation apps.

Consider joining us. The first weekly challenge will begin Sunday.

For those who want group support, conversation and community around the challenge, we will be moderating a private Facebook group with daily check-ins, discussion and more. Here's the link to join: bitly.com/STsleepy.

Let the snoozefest begin!