Let’s Talk About Sleep!

Nutrition and wellness educators talk a lot about eating right and staying active, but we can’t forget about the importance of sleep. Inadequate sleep is linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, elevated blood sugar, high blood pressure, heart disease, mental distress, and even early death.

Here are some ways to incorporate some sleep education into your work:

  1. Raise awareness about the importance of sleep by creating a bulletin board display that centers around our Sleep Right poster.
    • In addition to listing the benefits of sleep, this poster explains how nutrition and exercise can impact sleep, and gives hours of sleep recommendations by age group.
  2. Assign your students or clients (or yourself!) some homework:
    • Read the popular book, Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, PhD.
    • Watch Matthew Walker’s TED Talk – Sleep is Your Superpower.
  3. Invite a sleep expert to talk to your weight management group or other audiences. An expert can provide valuable information about sleep disorders such as sleep apnea.
    • Obesity can cause sleep apnea and a healthy lifestyle can help prevent it.

Remember to get those important ZZZs yourself!

Hollis Bass, MEd, RD, LD

Sleep Right for Health

Healthy eating and exercise go hand in hand. It’s hard to discuss one without touching on the other. The topics are interwoven.

Sleep is another thread to weave into your education sessions. In fact, sleep, nutrition, and exercise are often called the pillars of health.

Start spreading the news about sleep with our Sleep Right poster! This poster will catch people’s attention. It will get them to think more about their sleep habits and realize that sleep is just as important as healthy eating and exercise.

How can you incorporate the topic of sleep into your counseling sessions or classes?

1. Get information about sleep from a reliable source, like the National Institutes of Health (NIH) website. Check out the section on sleep deprivation and deficiency.

2. Find out if your clients are getting enough sleep. According to the NIH, you probably aren’t getting enough sleep if you often feel like you could doze off while …

  • Sitting and reading or watching TV.
  • Sitting still in a public place, such as a movie theater, meeting, or classroom.
  • Riding in a car for an hour without stopping.
  • Sitting and talking to someone.
  • Sitting quietly after lunch.
  • Sitting in traffic for a few minutes.

3. For people who are really motivated to change their sleep habits, suggest that they start by keeping a sleep diary (here’s one from NIH).

4. Offer a class on nutrition and sleep geared toward occupations where people often struggle with sleep issues, such as:

  • Shift workers
  • Truck drivers
  • Pilots
  • Factory workers
  • First responders
  • Health care workers

5. Provide diet and sleep education for these audiences:

  • Parents
  • Teachers & coaches
  • Teens
  • College students

Sleep fits right in when you’re talking about weight management, heart disease, diabetes, food and mood, healthy aging, mental performance, sports nutrition, and healthy eating in general. So start spreading the word about the importance of sleep!