Sleep Well

Sleep Well

person sleeping on desk at work

No sleep at night, tired at work.
Photo Source: E. Mudge

Experiencing sleeplessness?  You’re not alone. Keep reading for things you can do to help you sleep well.

On average, Americans get less than seven hours of sleep a night. The hormone melatonin regulates the rhythms of our daily biological “clock,” which includes an optimum 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Unfortunately, there are oh so many, many things that inhibit that melatonin from doing its job correctly.

And when this rhythm breaks down, our overall health is at risk. Lack of proper sleep has been shown to increase risk for illnesses like heart disease and diabetes, as well as learning disabilities and mental illnesses like dementia.

So, what is keeping us from sleeping well?

Who has time to sleep?

There is so much work and fun to be done in a 24-hour day, that we often shelve sleep to lowest priority. “If I can get another hour’s worth of work done, I’ll catch up on sleep later” seems to be the modern mantra.

All those lights are great, but…

The bluer the light, the more it messes with our bodies’ cues to sleep. A candle flame with no blue light – no problem. Tablets and smart phones and televisions with lots of blue light can disrupt our sleep by about 60-95 minutes.

To sleep well, try some or all of these tips:

  • Make sleep a priority. Schedule it as part of your regular routine. Try to go to sleep at the same time every night.
  • Sleep with a night light that has a red light bulb. (Don’t put a red scarf over your lamp shade. This is a fire hazard.)
  • No caffeine after noon (from coffee, tea, chocolate, etc.).
  • Take a warm, soothing bath or shower within an hour of going to bed.
  • Try Epsom salts in the bath and calming lavender, sandalwood, or juniper scents in the bedroom.
  • Drink a cup of warm tea with valerian extract (a common ingredient in “sleepy” teas).
  • Set your thermostat to a cool 62° to 69° during sleep time.
  • Sleep on freshly laundered sheets.
  • Turn off electronic devices at least one hour prior to bedtime.
  • Stop eating at least two hours before bedtime.

Though it may seem like we need to go full speed ahead 24-7, we just can’t. And we should stop trying. We need good rest and sleep to help our body recuperate from the day.

So, try some or all of the techniques above to sleep well.  Let me know how it goes.  Zzzzzz.

For more information on sleep and your health, see what the CDC has to share  Are You Getting Enough Sleep?

Meet Your FCS Agent – Angela Hinkle

Meet Your FCS Agent – Angela Hinkle

FCS Agent: Angela Hinkle Photo Source: UF/IFAS

Angela Hinkle is a Family and Consumer Sciences Agent in Escambia County, specializing in increasing the healthy food and nutrition behaviors of limited-resource families. She graduated from the University of Maryland in Broadcast Communications. After giving birth to a beautiful daughter, she worked for NC State on a grant helping moms breastfeed their new babies. She was offered additional duties from another grant – EFNEP (Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program). After the breastfeeding grant program ended, Angela re-located to Escambia County, Florida and was able to continue teaching efforts as a program assistant for the EFNEP program there.

As a single mom, Angela really appreciated the help of family, friends, and co-workers in advancing to the position of UF Extension Agent in 2008 and getting her master’s degree in Health Education (with a psycho-social emphasis) from the University of West Florida in 2010.

Along with her staff, Angela works with limited-resource youth and families, educating them in choosing, preparing, and eating healthy when budgets are severely restricted. She says it is definitely a challenge to help people make positive behavior changes and to assist communities in making the healthy choice the easy choice. But she says the successes that participants and community partners share about caring for their families in healthier ways always make it worth it.

Angela Hinkle Prepares Salsa Photo Source: William Reynolds

Other health and wellness Family and Consumer Sciences programming Angela has led includes: “Keeping the Pressure Down,” “Wellness Wednesdays,” “Let’s Walk Florida,” “Cook Smart Eat Smart,” “Feed Them Well,” “Smart Shopping for Families,” and the Growing Series including “Growing a Healthy Pizza,” “Growing Nachos,” “Growing an Ice Cream Sundae,” and “Growing Brunch.”

Angela was born in Trinidad in the West Indies. Her family moved to a trailer on a dirt road in Pensacola, FL when she was about five years old. She then moved around to Maryland, Oklahoma, Indiana, and North Carolina before finally circling back to Pensacola. In each place she has lived, food has always been a big passion. She loves to read about food, talk about it, make it, share it, explore the culture and history behind it, and eat it in a variety of settings. This passion makes her a great fit for the EFNEP program.

Her soul animal is a turtle, (usually moving very slowly, enjoying time in her own shell, but moving surprisingly quickly when prompted). In addition to food, Angela likes being with her dog (who is getting on in years but likes to take her for a walk every morning), a nice warm cup of tea, going to the movies, reading for pleasure, traveling and sight-seeing, and getting to spend time with her adult daughter.

Dining In is In Again

Dining In is In Again

Dining out with family was the thing to do when we were so busy doing so much outside the home. Now that we’re spending more time at home together, dining in is in again. You can start or continue the “in” thing by taking the pledge to dine-in healthy with your family this December 3rd.  Why take this kind of pledge? Keep reading.

FCS Dine In Day circle logo

FCS Dine In Day

Making and keeping a promise has an upside

Keeping the commitment you made to eat healthy with your family means you get to reap the rewards of actually providing a healthy meal for your family. Additionally, keeping this promise can boost your self-confidence and self-esteem because you know you’re making strides to take care of yourself and your family.

Become popular

Since dining in is in again, eating healthy with your family December 3rd makes you the admired one to your family and friends. As you dine in together, share praises and compliments as well as healthy foods, and reinforce the feeling of belonging. After providing these trendy experiences often enough, you can begin to enjoy the adoration and respect of others around you. You can be popular.

It’s cherished time

Schedule it. Block off time for it. Show up for it. You and your family are worth it. Start with the pledge on December 3rd. For best success for a healthy lifestyle change, make it a S.M.A.R.T. goal. That’s one that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-framed. Here’s an example: Every Tuesday at 6pm, our family will eat a healthy meal together that includes at least two vegetables and a whole grain.

You can keep it safe
  • If ventilation indoors is a bit stifling, eat outdoors when you can. Backyards, patios, and porches are great venues for your dining experiences.
  • Clean your hands often as you prepare and eat your meal. If you can’t wash for 20 seconds with soap and running water, hand sanitizer is a good backup. Make sure your hands are completely dry after washing or sanitizing.
  • Cook foods to the proper temperature. See the Safe Internal Temperature Chart.
  • Put leftovers away as quickly as possible.
Tried and true or something new
  • Have fun. Try decorating to make your mealtime together special. Let all family members participate.
  • Make comfort food. But also try making something you’ve never had before, or try food prepared in a new way.
  • Look through the cabinets or in the garage for kitchen equipment you haven’t used in a long time or have forgotten you had. Then use it.

For better health and wellness, make the pledge to Dine In with your family this December 3rd.  Now is the time – especially since dining in is in again.

2020 Peanut Butter Challenge

2020 Peanut Butter Challenge

The year 2020 has certainly been one filled with challenges.  But unlike the challenges of sickness, social distancing, economic hardships, and hurricanes, the 2020 Peanut Butter Challenge offers helpful, feel-good relief.

Nutty for Peanut Butter
Photo Source: Angela Hinkle

Throughout Florida, the 2020 Peanut Butter Challenge assists families who could really use some help.


Peanut butter is one of the most requested foods for food pantries and food distribution sites.  It’s food-safe at room temperature.  You don’t need electricity to keep it hot or cold.  People like the taste (although creamy texture is usually preferred over crunchy).  Peanut butter can be eaten by itself or spread on crackers or bread or mixed into a smoothie or used to make a satay to go with noodles or chicken.  It’s a quick and easy protein source.  Peanut butter provides other nutrients our bodies need, like fiber and iron.  And, economically speaking, peanut butter easily fits into a modest grocery budget.


The 2020 Peanut Butter Challenge runs until the day before Thanksgiving – this year, November 25th.  You still have plenty of time, although why delay such a great opportunity?  Of course, peanut butter makes a great gift to food pantry and distribution sites all year long.


Peanut Butter Challenge Champion
Photo Source: Angela Hinkle

UF/IFAS Extension Offices throughout the Florida Panhandle are collection sites for unopened jars of peanut butter.  Bring as many jars as you would like.  An agent in your local Extension Office can also direct you to a variety of other peanut butter donation sites.  Next time you shop, look for a Buy-one Get-one offer.  Donate one and keep one for yourself.  Or just pick up a couple extra jars, knowing you may really be helping a family in need.

Who Benefits

Once all the jars of peanut butter are collected, they are then redistributed to local food pantry and distribution sites.  Families in need going to those sites benefit with an easy, tasty, quick, healthy way to provide for those in their care.  You feel satisfied knowing you found a great way to help a neighbor.

So this year, give the gift of a few jars of peanut butter and conquer the 2020 Peanut Butter Challenge.


Clean Before Disaster Strikes

Clean Before Disaster Strikes

Most of us know there is a great deal of cleanup after a disaster hits.  But how often do you think about what to clean before disaster strikes?

Here are some helpful cleaning measures you can do before a storm or other calamity so your burden is not so great after.



Mow the Lawn

If your lawn is mowed low and even now, you won’t have tall grass to trudge through later.  Refill any gas cans and/or re-charge any lawnmower batteries after mowing. It will be much easier to pick up and remove any debris that lands on the mown lawn. And you may need to use the gas in the filled can to operate other equipment for the after-cleanup.

Trim, Whack, and Blow

Trim the hedges, whack down those weeds, and blow those leaves now. Otherwise, you may later find yourself with a big mess on top of a big mess.

Bring It In

Bring in any garbage cans, lawn furniture, or other yard items that could make a mess if blown over, broken, or made into dangerous shrapnel.



lightning storm with palm trees

Lightning storm. Photo Source: UF/IFAS

Leave No Piles

Make sure there are no dirty dishes in the sink or the dishwasher. Make sure everything is cleaned, dried, and put away. Then, if you lose electricity after the storm or are not sure of the safety of your water, you don’t have to worry about clean plates to eat on, glasses to drink from, or utensils to eat with. And you don’t have a mess to look at or a stink from the sink to deal with.

Clean, dry, and put away all the dirty laundry now. If you lose that all-important electricity later, you won’t have to worry about stepping over piles of clothes or wonder how you’re going to deal with wearing the same dirty clothes over and over again. If you have a generator, you could use that to clean your clothes, but most of the time those generators are best used to keep food safe in the refrigerator or to operate emergency equipment.


If your bathroom tub is scrubbed clean now, you can fill it with water for flushing toilets, cleaning, or purifying and using as extra drinking water. You can also take a relaxing, cleansing bath from a hard, dirty day’s work after the storm.

And cleaning a dirty toilet now means you’ll have one less thing to have to deal with later – along with everything else on your to-do list.

Get Rid of It

Make sure the garbage can, recycle bin, and compost container are all emptied. The last thing anyone needs is old piles of trash with new piles of trash added on top.

Been meaning to give away those extra items (knick knacks, doodads, toys, etc.) you don’t use or like anymore? Doing that now makes for a cleaner house as opposed to having more “stuff” in the house, adding to the mess you may have to deal with later.

Clear the Clutter

Pick up papers, bills, tools, and any other important items that may be on various surfaces throughout the house (you may actually want to eat on that dining room table some day). Then organize them together in a safe place. This helps to keep them from getting water damaged or tossed around and you’ll be able to find them later.

Have your emergency kit filled and ready to go in a plastic tub or waterproof container. Make sure everyone in the house knows where it is. For other disaster preparation and recovery resources, go to and/or talk with your county UF/IFAS Extension Agent.


If your home or property are destroyed in a disaster, these measures probably won’t really help much. But if all is not lost and there is just some debris and damage cleanup to be done after a large weather event, the above measures taken before can alleviate a lot of extra stress after. And if there is no disaster, hey, your house is nice and clean. Relax and enjoy it!

Make sure you clean before disaster strikes.