Nourish Your Body With Sleep

(FN1854, Reviewed June 2023)

This provides information about sleep needs, foods that may affect sleep and ways to promote sleep.

Lead Author
Lead Author:
Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., Food and Nutrition Specialist
Other Authors

Tracey Dillon, NDSU Extension Service Dietetic Intern (former)

Web only
Publication Sections

Sleep Cycles

We all need sleep, but our needs vary depending on our age. Sleep and wake cycles are balanced and driven by our body’s biological clock, which is a natural body pattern. Rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM are sleep levels, or cycles, during sleep. REM sleep is a lighter slep and non-REM is a deep sleep.

Aim for your age group’s recommended range of sleep.

Test Your Knowledge

True or False

T/F: Decreased sleep is associated with increased body weight.

T/F: Sleep affects hormones that can lead to an abnormal appetite.

T/F: Leptin is a hormone that helps you know when you are full. It also is reduced with insufficient sleep.

Answers: True, True, True

Sleep Hygiene: Dos and Don’ts

Sleep hygiene refers to practices that help ensure a good night’s sleep. Consider whether the practices below are a do or don’t for good sleep hygiene. Answer “yes” if it is a good sleep hygiene practice or “no” if it is not.

1. ____ Warm temperature in the bedroom.

2. ____ Bed sheets washed weekly.

3. ____ Quiet and dark room.

4. ____ Use a computer tablet in bed.

5. ____ Consume alcohol, caffeine or nicotine before bed.

6. ____ Keep your phone next to your bed.

7. ____ Combine a lavender scent in the bedroom with good sleep hygiene practices.

8. ____ Exercise as part of your lifestyle not only for good health but for better sleep, too.

Answers: No, Yes, Yes, No, No, No, Yes, Yes


Extracted oils from the lavender plant can be used in aromatherapy, in which the scent is inhaled. When combined with sleep hygiene practices, it has shown promising results for promoting sleep. However, be aware that some people are allergic to lavender.


Try to fit exercise into your schedule to help you see better sleep results. Consistent exercisers experience the best quality and quantity of sleep. Start with moving around more throughout the day, such as going for a walk on your lunch break. Incorporating more structured exercise into your lifestyle can benefit sleep and overall health.

Exercise helps you manage stress. Stress from work, travel or a busy family schedule can lead to sleep disturbances.

Can certain foods promote better sleep?

Research is going strong on the topic of sleep and mixed results have been reported. Therefore, think of these as suggestions:

  • Tryptophan, a protein building block found in many foods (for example, turkey and milk), helps your body produce a hormone, melatonin, which aids in falling asleep.
  • Lacking in B vitamins can make producing melatonin naturally difficult for your body. Foods rich in B vitamins include fortified grain foods and milk. How about a bowl of fortified cereal and milk as a bedtime snack?
  • Eating two kiwi fruits about an hour before bed may be beneficial to falling and staying asleep.
  • “Sleep tea” has become popular, yet research has yet to completely back up its impact on sleep quality.
  • Consuming a dinner or evening meal containing higher fiber and protein with less saturated fat can improve sleep results.


Tip 1: Keep your phone out of the bedroom at night. Leave it in the kitchen or living area to avoid unnecessary interruptions such as notifications, calendar reminders and phone calls that could wait until morning.

Tip 2: Too much sleep and not enough sleep can be hard on your body. Aim for your age recommendation range.

Tip 3: Practice a routine of going to bed about the same time every night and waking up about the same time every morning. Challenge: Do this even on the weekends!

Tip 4: Caffeine can be hidden in foods you might never suspect to have caffeine. It is in chocolate, tea leaves, kola nuts and sodas. Try limiting your caffeine a few milligrams at a time to improved sleep

5 Things to Do

  • Practice sleep hygiene tips.
  • Consume a balanced, healthful diet.
  • Limit caffeine, alcohol, cigarette smoking and media/technology before bedtime.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Incorporate physical activity into your daily routine.

Test your knowledge

Circle the items that may benefit sleep:

Fiber-rich meal, Kiwi, Alcohol, Lavender, Exercise, Vitamin C, Television, Caffeine, Travel, Turkey, Healthy weight

Answers: Fiber-rich meal, Lavender, Exercise, Healthy weight, Kiwi, Turkey

National Sleep Foundation Recommendations

Age Group

Recommended Sleep

0 – 3 months

14 – 17 hours

4 – 11 months

12 – 15 hours

1 – 2 years old

11 – 14 hours

3 – 5 years old

10 – 13 hours

6 – 13 years old

9 – 11 hours

14 – 17 years old

8 – 10 hours

18 – 25 years old

7 – 9 hours

26 – 64 years old

7 – 9 hours

65+ years old

7 – 8 hours

More Information

*Sleep.org — www.sleep.org

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — www.CDC.gov

National Sleep Foundation — www.sleepfoundation.org

*most user-friendly site

NDSU Extension Logo

The NDSU Extension Service does not endorse commercial products or companies even though reference may be made to tradenames, trademarks or service names. NDSU encourages you to use and share this content, but please do so under the conditions of our Creative Commons license. You may copy, distribute, transmit and adapt this work as long as you give full attribution, don’t use the work for commercial purposes and share your resulting work similarly. For more information, visit www.ag.ndsu.edu/agcomm/creative-commons.

County commissions, North Dakota State University and U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. NDSU does not discriminate in its programs and activities on the basis of age, color, gender expression/identity, genetic information, marital status, national origin, participation in lawful off-campus activity, physical or mental disability, pregnancy, public assistance status, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, spousal relationship to current employee, or veteran status, as applicable. Direct inquiries to Vice Provost for Title IX/ADA Coordinator, Old Main 201, NDSU Main Campus, 701-231-7708,
ndsu.eoaa@ndsu.edu. This publication will be made available in alternative formats for people with disabilities upon request, 701-231-7881. web-5-22

This work is/was supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture