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Prairie Fare: Adequate Sleep Is Important Part of Staying Healthy

Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist
Sometimes people don’t give adequate sleep its due attention.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

I heard a “woof” coming from our main floor at about 1 a.m. My family was snoozing soundly, so I went downstairs to investigate.

I startled our two dachshunds, who had settled back to sleep. The doors were locked and everything was fine.

However, I was wide awake.

I decided to turn on the TV and bore myself to sleep by watching infomercials. I learned about juicers, body shapers, mineral make-up and exercise devices as I clicked through the channels.

Then I touched the wrong button on the remote control. I turned on the light and tried every button on the remote control to undo what I had done, but to no avail. I was really wide awake now.

There I was, an insomniac, with nothing to watch but “snow” on the TV screen. I found a boring magazine to read and eventually fell asleep. Unfortunately, without enough sleep, I was not functioning at optimal capacity the next day.

Diet and exercise often are touted as ways to maintain or improve our health. Sometimes, however, people don’t give adequate sleep its due attention.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults need seven to nine hours of sleep per day. Adolescents need 8.5 to nine hours of sleep. Children ages 5 to 12 need nine to 11 hours of sleep. Toddlers and infants need more sleep.

Occasional sleepless nights affect most people. In a four-state phone survey conducted in 2006, CDC researchers reported that about 10 percent of the respondents experienced inadequate sleep every day for the preceding 30 days. About 29.6 percent of the respondents reported no days of inadequate sleep in the preceding 30 days. Everyone else was somewhere in between.

Long-term insufficient sleep can put us at risk of several diseases, including diabetes and heart disease, and can affect our mental health.

For example, researchers have shown that getting ample sleep can improve blood sugar control among those with Type 2 diabetes. High blood pressure, stroke and an irregular heartbeat are more common among people with inadequate sleep.

Inadequate sleep also is linked with depression. Sometimes achieving a more regular sleep pattern can help alleviate the symptoms.

Research has linked inadequate sleep with being overweight. Two appetite-managing hormones vary in their levels depending on how well-rested you are.

Leptin is a hormone that tells your brain that you’re full, but its level falls when you are overly tired. Gherlin is a hormone that tells your brain you’re hungry, but its level increases with fatigue.

Stay healthy and well-rested with these tips. To learn more about sleep, visit

  • Don’t nap after 3 p.m., even if you are really tired. Take a walk or divert yourself from snoozing on the couch.
  • Stay on a schedule with your sleep pattern. Go to bed and get up close to the same time on weeknights and weekends.
  • Be sure your bedroom is quiet, dark and relaxing. Be sure the temperature is right, not too warm or cold.
  • Limit caffeine intake from colas and coffee, especially late in the day.
  • Avoid nicotine as much as possible. Nicotine acts as a stimulant.
  • If you exercise in the evening, finish at least two hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid bright lights in the evening. Your brain may think that morning has arrived.
  • Avoid large meals or large amounts of beverages close to bedtime. If you’re hungry, have a light snack 30 minutes before bed. Have a balanced snack with carbohydrates and protein, such as low-fat yogurt and graham crackers. Tryptophan, an amino acid in protein-rich foods, such as milk products, is associated with making us feel sleepy.
  • If you can’t sleep after 20 minutes, get up and do some relaxing activity.
  • Avoid nightcaps (alcoholic drinks). Drinking alcohol may make you sleepy. However, you may wake up when the effects wear off.
  • If you have persistent issues with sleeping, see a health-care professional.

Here’s a dessert or bedtime snack to enjoy. For more information about diet and exercise, visit For regular updates, become a fan of the Facebook page.

Fruit Parfait

1/2 banana

1/2 c. grapes (or other fruit)

1/2 c. nonfat vanilla yogurt

1 Tbsp. crunchy cereal, such as granola

Wash and cut up fruit and place in a bowl or glass. Put yogurt on top and sprinkle with granola.

Makes one serving with 210 calories, 1 gram (g) of fat, 6 g of protein, 48 g of carbohydrate and 75 milligrams of sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187,
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,
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