THE 5 PILLARS OF HEALTH
When we think about health holistically, there are 5 factors, or pillars of health that are vital to support our body’s function. These pillars of health are
Environment (physical and social)
Sleep is the most load bearing pillar of health. Without meeting our sleep requirements and allowing proper rest and recovery, we can't sustainably support our bodies.
WHY DO WE SLEEP?
Although still largely not fully understood, sleep is our restoration and recovery. We need to consider the quantity, quality and regularity of sleep.
Quantity: How much sleep do we need? For adults it is recommended to aim for between 7-9 hours of sleep each night. For adults 65+ these recommendations modify slightly to 7-8 hours.
Quality: we need to consider the makeup of our sleep. Ideally we want to be reaching a deep sleep going through 3-5rem cycles per night.
Regularity: Do you go to sleep and wake at a similar time each day? If not you should consider making more regular sleep habits. Consistency within our sleeping schedule is vital for our circadian rhythm.
THE CIRCADIAN RHYTHM
Our circadian rhythm underpins our pillars of health. Our circadian rhythm is physical, mental and behavioural changes that follow a 24-hour cycle. This rhythm works as a signal for our hormones. The circadian rhythm regulates vital physiological mechanisms in our body, such as when our blood pressure should increase or when our temperature should rise. It is triggered by light, temperature and fuel (energy). This is why we need to consider these factors (light exposure, food intake, exercise) when discussing how we can improve our sleep.
HOW LACK OF SLEEP AFFECTS OUR BODIES
Unfortunately sleep deprivation has significant negative effects on our health, including increased risk of:
Poor sleep and metabolic stress are also suggested to influence:
SLEEP AND AGEING
Normal sleeping patterns vary throughout your life. As you age many studies have noted increased sleep disruptions and decreased sleep efficiency. Waking up frequently in the night is actually common as you age, and it is normal if you are able to return to sleep within a reasonable period of time and it does not interfere with your next day functioning. However, it is important to distinguish between treatable complaints (e.g. sleep-related disorders) and the normal age-associated changes in sleep patterns. If you are concerned your sleep quality may be affected by any underlying sleep-related disorders we encourage you to have a chat to your trusted GP!
HOW TO GET A BETTER NIGHTS SLEEP
These tips for helping with your sleeping patterns all tie in closely with our circadian rhythm and assisting with the regulation of our hormones.
1. Limit blue light exposure prior to sleep
Try to avoid/ limit exposure to phone screens, TVs and laptops within 30 minutes of bedtime. Light exposure suppresses melatonin, which inversely can cause an increase in cortisone at an unwanted time - making it hard to sleep.
2. Get natural light exposure during the day
Simply put, to the body; light = state of wakefulness.
If you can start off your day with 5min of natural sun, and try to spend some time outdoors during the day, it is shown to improve your hormone regulation and circadian rhythm.
3. Timing of energy intake
Avoid having large meals right before bed (not including small meals and suppers).
Try to avoid/ limit caffeine consumption after midday.
Caffeine has a half life of 5hours. That means it takes 5 hours for you body to clear half of the caffeine you've consumed.
5. Regularity of sleep
Your body and circadian rhythm love regularity. Try your best to go to sleep and wake up at a similar time each day.