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Prairie Fare: Snooze Your Way to a Slimmer Waistline

Julie Garden-Robinson Julie Garden-Robinson
Research has shown that getting enough sleep is one of the keys to managing appetite.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

“Where’s my cupcake?” my 9-year-old daughter asked.

I gulped, guiltily. I’m sure I still had the scent of butter cream icing on my breath.

“I thought you didn’t want it,” I noted a bit feebly.

“I was saving it for my bedtime snack, but you ate it!” she exclaimed, narrowing her eyes at me.

“Oh, that cupcake was kind of dry and not very good,” I noted, hoping to soften the situation.

“Mom, my cupcake was really good!” my 12-year-old son said enthusiastically.

“You’re not helping me,” I said to him.

Meanwhile, my daughter was glaring at me, arms folded across her chest.

I quickly found another treat for her, although not as enticing as a decorated cupcake. She forgave me after I made her favorite treat the next day.

My daughter has a rather unique ability around treats of all kinds. She waits until she’s hungry enough to enjoy them, then she savors them slowly.

Why had I eaten her cupcake, anyway? I usually don’t steal my kids’ treats. Actually, I thought it was my son’s cupcake.

Thinking back, yes, the frosting was enticing. More importantly, I was tired so I wanted to give myself an energy boost before I continued with my evening tasks. I would have been better off turning in for the night.

Recent research has shown that getting enough sleep is one of the keys to managing appetite in the short term and weight in the long term.

In a study of more than 9,000 people, researchers from Columbia University reported that people who slept fewer than seven hours nightly were more likely to be obese. In fact, people who snoozed six or fewer hours were 27 percent more likely to be obese.

In a study of 990 adults in a rural Iowa community, researchers reported similar results. Overall, the people who slept the least weighed the most.

Yes, eating while you’re asleep is pretty difficult.

The scientific reason for the link between sleep shortages and weight gain is linked chemically to levels of two natural hormones. The levels rise and fall based on the amount of sleep you get.

Researchers have linked the hormones leptin and gherlin with weight management. Leptin is produced by fat cells, while gherlin is produced in the stomach.

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

Keep your appetite-managing hormones at the proper level by getting the rest you need. Try these tips based on information from the National Institutes of Health.

  • Stay on a schedule with your sleep patterns. Go to bed the same time on weeknights and weekends.
  • Don’t nap after 3 p.m.
  • Unwind before bedtime. Listen to music or read. Take a warm bath.
  • 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.
  • Avoid large meals or large amounts of beverages before bed.
  • If you have persistent issues with sleeping, see a health-care professional.

Here’s a simple recipe that makes a tasty, but not overly filling, bedtime snack.

Fruit Kabobs with Yogurt Dip

1 c. watermelon chunks

1 c. pineapple chunks

1 c. seedless grapes, red or green

1 c. stemmed strawberries

2 kiwis, peeled and cut in quarters

8 bamboo skewers

1 c. nonfat yogurt, vanilla or strawberry

Clean and prepare fruit. Place the fruit chunks on bamboo skewers. Serve with yogurt.

Makes eight servings. Each serving has 60 calories, 0 grams (g) of fat, 14 g of carbohydrate, 1 g of fiber and 70 percent of the daily recommendation for vitamin C.

(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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