Sleep: The Third Pillar of Health

Today, we typed 'be healthy' into google and after pressing the shiny search button, we were met with topics like, 'lifestyle, diet, getting fit, being active and healthy eating.' While these all play a pivotal role in improving your health, we couldn't help but notice the significant lack of sleep references among these health optimising words.

For many, when we discuss the notion of improving our health, we might first take a look at what we eat and how often we move, thinking that if we're eating and training correctly, we'll begin to look and feel better...BUT! What if we told you that this is only 2/3 of your critical health path and that achieving good quality sleep is just as important as proper nutrition and regular exercise? If you don't believe us, it might be time to put down that healthy salad for a second and read on!


The Price We Pay When We Neglect Sleep

According to leading health experts such as the WGBH Educational Foundation and The Harvard Medical School, sleep works as an equal player to ensuring we perform at our best at all times. Your third pillar of health, when we forget to prioritise our sleep in the same way that we do our diet and exercise, we run the risk of negating all the hard work we're putting into eating and moving correctly, here's how:


Sleep and Nutrient Absorption: A study by The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) found that adults experiencing fewer than 7 hours of sleep often presented deficiencies in magnesium, niacin, vitamin D, calcium, and dietary fibre. This suggests that disrupted or shortened sleep may impact our ability to absorb the nutrients we consume during the day, particularly, as we struggle to get to our vital Stage N3 of sleep where restoration and healing occurs. 

The other side of this is that a poor diet may impact our ability to naturally fall asleep. Health specialist, Robin Foroutan RDN explained that "nutrients are the building blocks of calming neurotransmitters that help our brains settle down, so not getting enough of those key nutrients can make it difficult to get solid sleep."


Sleep and Weight Management: If you're looking to tone or lose weight, your sleep routine is as significant as mastering your squats. This is because sleep helps us regulate critical hormones like ghrelin and leptin. Produced by the stomach, ghrelin helps increases your appetite and stimulate your growth hormones.

When we are overtired, our body produces more ghrelin to help find fuel and become re-energised. Leptin is a hormone released from our fat cells and after each meal signals to our brain that we're full. When we fail to sleep, leptin, like ghrelin tries to improve how we feel by seeking more energy (a bit like turning off the 'stop eating' voice in your head!). When we don’t sleep these hormones work together, triggering increased feelings of hunger, more food intake, and ultimately, a bigger risk of unnecessary weight gain.


The Benefits of Exploring Health As Three Pillars

The significance of this entry is far less about shifting the focus away from the other pillars of health, and more about encouraging you to consider health in a three-pillar 360-degree perspective. This is because each pillar works in unison to help us be our best at all times. Poor food choices can affect our sleep, poor sleep can affect our ability to move and poor movement can affect our entire wellbeing, (and so on). This brings us to sharing some of our favourite facts and pointers on each pillar!


Pillar One - Sleep

When we achieve the correct amount of sleep, everything from our mental state, gut function and physical strength improves. We recall more, think smarter and simply, get more out of each day. If you're struggling to get to sleep, we suggest setting a bedtime that is early enough for you to achieve at least 7-7.5 hours each night. Like any activity, you sleep better when you're in the zone. Keeping your bedroom cool, dark and free of any noise distractions will help you switch off and unwind. If your dark-room isn't quite enough, exploring natural sleeping aids like, drops, diffusers or our beginner-friendly, Deep Sleep Kit helps by offering everything you need to kickstart your sleep routine.

Did you know? Approximately 7.4 million Australian adults regularly fall short of achieving optimal levels of sleep. If this is you, why not take our sleep quiz and start exploring our range of effective sleep solutions today.


Pillar Two - Exercise 

Exercise is the backbone of a healthy body, it helps improve our bone density, flexibility and motion. Researchers recommend that adults aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise or 15 minutes of intense exercise each day. This can be as simple as walking the dog, or smashing out a HIIT session from youtube! 


Do you take pre-workout before the gym? 

Most pre-workouts contain around 200-400mg of caffeine per serving. Just like a cup of coffee, we suggest refraining from consuming pre-workout at least 4 hours before your usual bedtime. If you can't get into the training zone without your favourite caffeinated drink, try swapping your nighttime sweat sessions for the morning and exploring more restful activities like stretching or mindful meditation at night.


Pillar Three - Nutrition 

When it comes to exploring nutrition, it is important to note that body goals and dietary restrictions look different to everyone meaning individual advice will vary. As a general rule, it's important to consider your daily intake and consume of a variety of food groups (fruit, vegetables, dairy, protein, fats and oils) as they all contribute to providing particular and vital nutrients to the body.

Our snack hack: If you're a snacker, consider slow-burning treats like nuts which are also jam-packed with magnesium, vitamin E, and fibre! 


The Takeaway

It's clear that optimal health requires us to find a personal balance between all three of the vital pillars. If you're looking to improve your health and wellbeing, please be mindful that change does not happen overnight. We suggest starting small, first by reflecting on how you currently function under each pillar, then by making gradual changes that you can incorporate into your daily routine. By incorporating just a few simple changes, we’re certain you’ll be well on your way to both looking and feeling better!

Tags: Science