Does sleep evade you on some nights?

Julie Garden-Robinson NDSU Extension Service Food and Nutrition Specialist
Farm Forum

I opened the hotel room door and glanced around the room. I rolled my suitcase in and parked it by the window. Then I took some things out of the suitcase to bring to the bathroom.

On the way, I noticed an empty water bottle lying on the floor. Oh, the maid missed it, I thought. Then I noticed the bathroom sink was half full of soapy water and a used towel was on the counter. This was odd.

I walked out of the bathroom and noticed a key card on the dresser and the imprint of a person’s head on the pillow. My heart began beating quickly. Was someone hiding in my room? I opened the closet. Why on earth did I do that?

Fortunately, no one jumped out of the closet. Trust me, I didn’t check under the bed. I watched many scary movies in my youth, and I could almost hear the “Twilight Zone” theme song playing.

I repacked my suitcase very quickly, zipped out of the room and hopped on the elevator. When I told the woman at the desk I might have an unknown roommate, her eyes widened. A male guest had been upgraded to a suite and they hadn’t checked my room after transferring him.

My stoic, matter-of-fact “inner Norwegian” took over, and I found it a little amusing now that I was out of the room.

She apologized profusely and started handing me things: a gift card for the hotel gift shop, another bottle of water and a free dinner coupon. While I ate, the staff cleaned and re-keyed my room.

“Are you sure you changed the key, and no one else has the same key?” I asked. Needless to say, I slept even less well than I usually do in hotels.

When I am traveling, I usually am an insomniac the first night in a hotel, even in normal situations.

Sleep is a necessity. Sleep supports overall good health, brain function, everyday performance and physical health. A persistent lack of sleep can lead to a higher risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Experiencing poor or not enough sleep is fairly common. One out of three people experiences sleep issues at least on occasion.

Many things can cause troubled sleep. Side effects of medications, excessive travel and shifting to different time zones, and a busy, stressful or irregular work schedule are among the issues that can affect sleep.

You probably are aware that beverage and food choices can affect sleep, too. Food choices that are low in fiber, high in saturated fat and high in sugar are linked with interrupted sleep. On the other hand, high-fiber, high-protein food choices with less saturated fat are linked with better sleep.

If you can’t sleep, should you grab a turkey sandwich and glass of milk? Turkey and milk are sources of tryptophan, an amino acid, or protein building block, found in many foods. Our bodies use this amino acid to make melatonin, a hormone that aids people in falling asleep. You also can buy melatonin in pill form.

Melatonin may help people fall asleep, especially when suffering from jet lag or when they do shift work with variable scheduling, but the research results are mixed. Some studies show that melatonin may help you fall asleep faster. Be sure to visit with your health-care provider before trying supplements or other over-the-counter sleep aids.

Practice good “sleep hygiene.” This doesn’t mean taking a shower before bed. The term refers to practices that may help you get to sleep and stay asleep. Be sure your bedroom is dark and at a comfortable temperature, not too hot or too cold. Invest in a comfortable mattress. Follow the same bedtime routine, even on weekends.

Refrain from using computers, tablets and smartphones before bed because the light emitted may trick your brain into thinking that you should be awake. In fact, leave phones out of your room because incoming text messages can disturb your sleep.

Avoid alcohol, nicotine and caffeinated foods and beverages for several hours before bedtime. Have a light snack if needed, and remember, a glass of milk won’t hurt, either.

This recipe is a little heavy for a bedtime snack but fits the bill when looking for a recipe that is low in saturated fat, high in fiber and high in protein. Try it for an evening meal with fresh fruit and milk.

Lentil and Chickpea Burgers

1 c. lentils, dry (cooked according to package directions)

2 medium onions, sliced

2 tsp. curry powder

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

3 tsp. fresh ginger root, grated

1 egg

1/4 c. parsley, chopped

2 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped

2 1/4 c. Italian bread crumbs

Cook lentils. Drain well. Spray a pan with cooking spray or use a small amount of oil; add onions and cook until soft. Add curry powder; stir until fragrant. Cool mixture slightly. Place chickpeas, half the lentils, ginger, egg and onion mixture in food processor bowl. Process 20 seconds or until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, stir in remaining lentils, parsley, cilantro and bread crumbs; combine well. Divide mixture into 10 round patties. Note: If mixture is too soft, you can refrigerate for about 15 minutes or until you can handle the mixture. Place patties on hot, lightly greased grill. Cook three to four minutes on each side or until browned, turning once. Serve immediately or allow to cool, wrap with plastic, then foil, and freeze. To serve, remove packaging. Reheat in the oven, microwave or a pan on the stove until warm throughout. Serve with your favorite burger toppings.

Makes 10 servings. Each serving has 170 calories, 2.5 grams (g) fat, 8 g protein, 30 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber and 530 milligrams sodium.

This recipe is low in saturated fat, and high in fiber and protein, making it a good choice for an evening meal. NDSU photo