You might think that the key to optimal health is eating well and getting plenty of exercise. While these play a very important part, if you don’t also prioritise your sleep and relaxation you could be putting your health at risk. Modern day life is hectic and often relaxation is seen as a luxury and sleep is cut to squeeze even more activities into our busy days. However long-term lack of sleep and relaxation can impact your health in many ways.
The benefit of plenty of sleep
Scientists are just beginning to recognise that getting a good night’s sleep is just as important as exercise and good nutrition for a long and healthy life.
Health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity occur over a long period of time and sleep is just as important as diet and exercise in helping to prevent these. Many studies have found that regularly sleeping less than 7-8 hours a night puts you at a higher risk of developing a number of medical problems. Three separate studies found that sleeping less than 5 hours a night increases your mortality rate by 15%.
While sleeping well is not in itself an indicator of good health – it does help by protecting so many body systems in your body. If you find yourself getting frequent infections then look at your sleep patterns.
A good night’s sleep can also help your weight. Studies have found that those who get less than 6 hours a night were more likely to weigh more than those who regularly get 8 hours sleep a night. Also studies found that babies who were poor or short sleepers were more likely to be obese later in life.
Lack of sleep impacts not just your weight and cardiovascular health but also your hormones. Lack of sleep causes an excess of adrenaline, cortisol and inflammation in the body. With all these reasons I believe that getting a good sleep regime is one of the most important things you can do for your health.
I often find myself in clinic addressing a client’s poor sleep to help with their health journey. I find that if sleep is addressed first, then a client is more likely to be able to stick to a good nutrition plan. If you are sleeping well and your energy is increased, you are more likely to eat better and have more energy to exercise.
Now on to relaxation
For many relaxation is something that just doesn’t happen and I often see people competing with others over who is the busiest.
However the health benefits of taking time for yourself is more important than you might think. Research has found that relaxation may help make you less susceptible to disease. It has been shown to help lower blood pressure, help with cardiovascular problems, increase your immunity, help with anxiety and depression and also to help with weight issues.
Meditation is on the increase with apps such as HeadSpace and I know some commuters, rather than taking what looks like a nap on the train, are actually taking time out and using these apps to meditate! However if meditation is not your thing – there are plenty of other ways to relax.
We are blessed with beautiful countryside in Sevenoaks and the surrounding areas so why not take time at the weekend to go for a long walk. Leave your mobile at home and look around you. Breathe deeply and leave that stress behind.
Katharine Bright is a Registered Nutritional Therapist with a clinic in Sevenoaks. To book an appointment call her on 07769 636352 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. She is co-founder of The Health Boost (www.thehealthboost.co.uk) – a website dedicated to providing a family friendly solution to healthy eating. For day-to-day healthy inspiration and new recipes follow them on Facebook and Instagram.