Extension and Ag Research News


Prairie Fare: Snooze your way to better health

For adults, seven or eight hours of sleep is considered an adequate amount of sleep.

I pushed “snooze” on my alarm clock.

Eight minutes later, I pushed “snooze” again.

On the first day after the spring time change, I was struggling to awaken. In my fogginess, I wondered how many times you can push “snooze” before your alarm clock stops working.

When the alarm went off for the third time, I figured I had better get moving.

Time changes get me every time. Traveling to other states in other time zones and then returning home for another round of time change is an ongoing adjustment for me.

According to the National Institutes of Health, about one out of three adults do not get the recommended amount of sleep they need.

Sleep is about as important as food in maintaining our physical health. During sleep, our bodies are restoring themselves. Getting adequate sleep helps our immune system function, so we can ward off illnesses. It helps our hormones stay balanced.

Getting too little sleep can increase our risk for high blood pressure and obesity.

Sleep also helps safeguard our mental health and certainly our safety.

We all know what it feels like when we do not get the sleep our bodies need. Your friends may steer clear of you if you are suffering the ill effects of too little sleep. If you are sleep-deprived, you might make more mistakes at home or work.

We might feel “foggy” or even fall asleep at unexpected times. Do you fall asleep while attending a meeting or sitting in your car while waiting for someone? Does turning on the TV result in an instant nap in your easy chair?

Falling asleep while driving can become a tragic situation. In fact, too little sleep is at least partly responsible for 100,000 vehicle accidents every year.

We all have sleep rhythms that vary with our age. Teens tend to prefer staying up later and sleeping longer in the morning compared with children and adults, and this is natural due to melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep.

For adults, seven or eight hours of sleep is considered an adequate amount of sleep. Children need more sleep.

Be cautious not to confuse being tired with being hungry. We have two hormones, ghrelin and leptin, that help us discern if we are hungry or full. If these hormones are not working as a team, we can experience changes in our appetite and satiety.

If you have an ongoing issue with sleep, see a health professional about testing for underlying issues.

Here are a few tips to help you “sleep like a baby”:

  • Avoid large meals, tobacco, alcohol, chocolate and caffeinated beverages before going to sleep.
  • Relax before bedtime by reading a book. Avoid using screens, such as your computer or cell phone. Even flickering lights from a TV may trick your brain into waking up.
  • Keep a cool, quiet, dark room for sleeping.
  • Be sure to go to sleep and get up at the same time, even on weekends. Adults need a bedtime as much as kids do.

We are launching the spring session of our free online nutrition program called "Nourish" in April, and registration is open now. Getting adequate sleep is one of the modules. Some North Dakota counties are offering the program face to face. I invite you to join dozens of people who have taken the challenge to improve their health.

We especially want to reach adults 50 and older, but adults of any age are welcome. Sign up at the same time as a friend or family member and nurture each other’s progress as you learn about nourishing your body. See www.ndsu.edu/agriculture/extension/programs/nourish to sign up.

Each class will focus on one topic, such as how to keep your eyes healthy. Besides sleep, other topics include how to keep your heart, brain, digestive system, skin, bones and joints healthy.

If you find yourself short on time in the morning, prepare this eat-on-the-go breakfast ahead of time. Try other combinations such as peanut butter, oats and milk, or flavored yogurt, oats, fruit and milk.

Overnight Pumpkin Oats

1/3 cup old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats
1/3 cup pumpkin puree (canned pure pumpkin)
1/3 cup nonfat milk
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons packed brown sugar
Chopped nuts (optional)

Measure all ingredients into a plastic or glass container with a tight lid. Stir until all of the ingredients are combined. Seal tightly with a lid. Store in the refrigerator overnight.

Makes one serving, with 190 calories, 2.5 grams (g) fat, 7 g protein, 39 g carbohydrate, 6 g fiber and 40 milligrams sodium.

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

NDSU Agriculture Communication – March 14, 2024

Source: Julie Garden-Robinson, 701-231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu

Editor: Elizabeth Cronin, 701-231-7006, elizabeth.cronin@ndsu.edu


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