Are You Getting Twinkie Sleep?

Are You Getting ‘Twinkie’ Sleep?


Have you ever woken up after what you feel was an adequate number of hours of sleep, but didn’t feel rested?

My husband and I have had discussions about this over recent months, and it’s a question well worth diving into.

Sleep is so important – for energy, learning, focus, efficiency, growth, healing, efficient fat burning, muscle retention, cancer prevention, and so much more.  Shawn Stevenson, author of “Sleep Smarter”, in an interview as part of the Focus Productivity Summit, stated that he believes sleep is more important for your overall health than nutrition and exercise combined.  I believe it.  He stated three facts about sleep that are worth noting:

  1.  Our brains will lose information if we do not get enough sleep,.

  2. Lack of sleep makes it easier for us to lose focus.

  3. A good night of sleep will make us noticeably more efficient.

So many of us simply don’t get enough.  Or, we do get enough, but it’s, as Stevenson termed it, ‘twinkie’ sleep.  That term just stuck with me.  What does he mean by ‘twinkie?’.   When it comes to eating, we have learned over time that it’s not simply about the balance between the number of calories in and calories out.  We have to consider the quality of the calories or our health will suffer tremendously.  Same goes for sleep.  It is not simply about the number of hours of sleep we get each night.  It’s also importantly about the quality of the sleep we get.  8 hours of poor quality sleep is like eating a certain number of calories of a toxic twinkie – both have a negative impact on our health.

I’m realizing that, though I get enough sleep when I count up the hours, it is most definitely twinkie sleep, and here is a major reason why:

The big ‘no no’ that my husband told me I was guilty of is looking at a blue light screen before bed.  The artificial blue light emitted by screens actually tricks our bodies into thinking it’s daytime and not only does this trigger an increase in daytime hormones like cortisol but it suppresses melatonin.  Stevenson, in his book, “Sleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to a Better Body, Better Health and Bigger Success,” cites a study at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston that found that the use of light-emitting electronic devices in the hours before bedtime can adversely impact overall health, alertness and the circadian clock that synchronizes the daily rhythm of sleep.  In the study, iPad readers took longer to fall asleep, felt less sleepy at night, secreted less melatonin and had shorter REM sleep compared to test subjects who were assigned to read regular printed books.  AND, the iPad readers were more tired than book readers the following day, even if both got a full 8 hours of sleep.  No wonder I was feeling so tired some days after getting ‘enough’ sleep!

Obviously sleep is a huge topic and I’ve only addressed a small but relevant portion of it as it has impacted my life and my health.  I know I’m not alone in the ‘blue light’ struggle.  All I need to do is look around me to know that it is an issue in many homes.   In light of this information, what are some good next steps? Shawn Stevenson says that the best decision is to turn off all screens at least 90 minutes before bedtime in order to allow melatonin and cortisol levels to normalize.  I’m working on that, for both myself and my kids.  My next best step after I learned all of this was to adjust the settings on my iphone and my ipad so that the blue light is turned off at a designated time.  I was discouraged to find that my phone, an apple 5C, doesn’t have this capability.  So I made the decision to keep it away from my bedside at night.  Then it broke, and my new phone is set to turn the blue light off at 8 PM every night.  Love it! If you have a Mac, there is a free application called f.lux that automatically eliminates the problematic blue light from your computer screen at a certain time each day.  You can get similar things for your smartphone and other devices too.  I encourage you to think more about your sleep and your screen habits before bed.  And if you have kids, set the night shift on their devices immediately.  If you can’t figure it out, as your 5 year old and he/she will probably be able to show you 🙂 It will only take a minute and will reap huge health benefits immediately!!

If you are interested in learning more about sleep, here are some helpful links:

  1.  Sleep in the Bible by Dr. Page
  2. An article by Dr. Daniel Amen on the importance of getting good sleep.

And finally, here’s a great article written by Greg Laurie that I pray will minister to anyone whose worries keep them up at night.  It’s called, “God Works the Night Shift”.




Seeds of Change

I am writing in honor of my mother, who celebrates her birthday today.

I’ve been thinking a lot about her and the role she has played in my life.  She is a beautiful, generous, humble, quiet woman with great love for her family, a passion for wellness and more knowledge about nutrition than I will ever have. Over the years, all she has learned she has given away.  I have been the recipient of countless emails, magazine articles, web site links, cookbooks, books, words of wisdom, hand-written and hand-typed summaries of topics I have expressed interest in, and so much more.  I have always willingly received her health and nutrition wisdom, as long as it didn’t feel ‘alternative’ to my traditional medical training, but balked at her attempts to talk to me about supplementation.  It’s easy for me to understand why I balked.  Not only did I get very little focused training in nutrition during medical school, but I also believed that I, along with everyone else, could, and should, get the nutrients that we need from the foods we eat.

About a year ago I dove head first into wellness, learning all that I could about the faith and health connection, stress, nutrition, supplementation, and, most recently, brain health.  The other day I remarked to a friend that I feel as though, in the area of nutrition and wellness, my blinders have been ripped off and that now I see so much differently.  But the truth is, my blinders were never ripped off.  I can look back and clearly trace the pattern of the many seeds planted over time, mostly by my mother, that had been growing little by little and were finally starting to bear fruit.

Milkweed in the fall, by Wendy Pogonowski
Milkweed in the fall, by Wendy Pogonowski

My transformation has been more like the milkweed plant pictured here, which grows slowly over time and then bursts forth with hundreds of tiny seeds that are carried away with the wind.

So, mom, I want to thank you for speaking into my life.  So many of your seeds took root and now look what you’ve started!  I have used the information you have given to me as I have reached out to others, and those ‘others’ that have been impacted by it are passing it on in their own way and in their own time as they grow.  If any of my friends are reading this and have a copy of Dr. Ann’s Eat Well for Life or Eat Right for Life – The Family Plan, know that the recommendation for this transformational book  came first from my mother.

On a separate, and yet more important note, I am so thankful for the seeds of faith that you have planted in my heart over all of these years.  When it comes to harvesting, one never reaps in the same season that he or she plants.  The seeds of faith that you planted, and your prayers for the harvest in my life, did not begin to come to fruition until I became a mom myself.  This gives me great encouragement to keep on planting seeds in the lives of others and praying for the God of the harvest to grow them in His time, not mine.



Easy, Tasty, Healthy Lentil Stew

I’ve given this away many times and people say they like it a lot (and their kids!).  This is one of the healthiest meals you can make, and so easy!  Only labor intensive piece is the chopping but worth it!

1 T olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped carrot

1 tsp garlic

4 cups chicken broth  .  Many broths on the market, even organic ones, have MSG (monosodium glutamate) or hidden forms of it’s most active ingredient, free glutamate (autolyzed yeast extract, yeast extract, disodium inosinate, hydrolyzed proteins and autolyzed proteins to name a few) in them.   If you are trying to avoid MSG you may want to make your own broth.  There are many recipes out there.  Here’s a simple one.

1 cup water

1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes, undrained

1 cup dried lentils

3/4 cup instant brown rice

1/2 tsp crushed pepper (this gives it just the kick it needs but doesn’t make it too spicy)

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

Heat oil in large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add onion, celery, carrot and garlic to pan and saute for 8 minutes or until tender.  Add broth, water and tomatoes.  Bring to boil.  Stir in lentils, simmer 25 minutes.  Stir in rice, simmer 20 minutes.  Stir in red pepper, salt and black pepper.  To make it even easier just add the lentils and regular brown rice at the same time and simmer for 45 minutes or until rice is to your liking!