It’s no secret that sleep, exercise, and proper nutrition are the necessary ingredients for a long life. But have you ever wondered why?
Sleep is a necessary bodily function and plays a crucial role in a number of ways. The 19th century was the first time scientists actually studied the link between sleep and your health.
Since then, researchers have continued to examine the role of sleep and have discovered its contributions to the following:
- Concentration and productivity
- Healthy weight
- Proper hunger cues
- Athletic performance
- Lowered risk of disease, especially heart disease
- Better mental health
- Decreased inflammation
Adequate sleep also helps your body build a robust immune system and defend against viruses and illnesses.
Sleep Quality vs. Quantity
The CDC is clear about the amount of sleep humans need every 24 hours based on their age. Babies between the ages of 4 and 12 months often require 12-16 hours of sleep per day. Toddlers ages 1 and 2 usually require around 11-14 hours of sleep.
Children ages 3-5 need 10-13 hours, while kids 6-12 need 9-12 hours.
Teenagers need 8-10 hours of sleep per day. Adults should aim to get 7 hours of sleep per day at the minimum.
The problem is, even if you try to sleep the recommended hours, your sleep might be of poor quality. “Bad” sleep results in symptoms of sleep deprivation, which include:
- Irritability and poor mental health
- Fatigue and low energy levels
- General mood changes
- Poor concentration and focus
- Low libido
Sleep deprivation also weakens your immune system, making you more prone to illnesses and disease. On the other hand, if you get enough quality sleep, you’re helping your body maintain blood pressure and sugar levels and keep your heart vessels healthy. So too little sleep or poor quality sleep can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Sleep is a major player in hormone production that controls your weight, fat storage, your body’s response to stress, and your fertility.
How to Make Sure You’re Getting Good Sleep
Some ways to improve the quality of your sleep include:
Train your body to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends.
Keep your bedroom comfortable. Ensure the temperature is appropriate, and try to limit your electronic usage (phones, TVs, etc.) before sleep.
Know the Don’ts
Try to avoid stimulants (caffeine, for example) or disruptors like large meals and alcohol. These substances prevent your body from achieving deep, restful sleep.
Raise Your Activity Levels
Get some exercise! You know when you really want to fall asleep, but instead, you lay awake, staring at the ceiling? Working out during the day can reduce sleep onset (how long it takes you to fall asleep) and, as a result, improve your sleep at night.
Speaking of Exercise
Exercise is another component of a long, healthy life. It contributes to a variety of functions in the body, including bone health, immune system, circulation, muscle tone, and cardiovascular and respiratory health.
Getting started with an exercise routine can be difficult, especially if you’ve never done it before. The good news is, it’s never too late to start.
Getting Started with Exercise
Start out by choosing something you enjoy doing (or at least don’t totally dread doing). You’re more likely to build up a consistent exercise routine if you do things you enjoy versus things you hate.
It could be as simple as walking on the treadmill while watching your favorite show. Start slow, and then gradually build yourself up either with a faster pace or a steeper incline. Pretty soon, you’ll start to notice an increase in endurance, and you could feel motivated to try something different, like weight lifting.
Structuring Your Exercise Routine for Health
For optimal health and wellness, your exercise routine should include the following three elements:
- Some form of cardiovascular exercise (cardio)
- Some form of resistance training (weights, yoga, pilates)
- Some form of mobility training (balance work like barre or tai chi)
Cardiovascular activity increases the health and endurance of your heart and lungs. Resistance training not only builds muscle tone. It also increases your bone density, which means that your bones are stronger and less likely to become brittle as you get older.
Mobility training like balance work is crucial to maintain as you age and keeps you up and moving. It also helps you prevent potential issues like falls and broken bones.
However, even the best of exercise routines is nothing without proper nutrition.
Proper nutrition is fundamental. In fact, if you’re trying to decide which of these three things you should work on first, start with nutrition.
Nutrition influences every aspect of your body, from your brain to your gut to the health of your skin.
Without key vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, you could increase your risk of:
- Weight gain
- Skin issues
- Dental disease
- Brain fog/poor mental health
- Low energy levels
- Low libido
Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in America, and often your nutrition determines the health of your heart.
Eating a Balanced Diet
Your diet will depend partly on your body and whether you have allergies or intolerances to any foods. But in general, your diet should follow a balanced amount of the following:
- Protein-dense foods like meat or plant-based substitutes
- Tons of fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens
- Fiber from foods like fruits, whole grains, and other plants
- Adequate daily water consumption (half your body weight in ounces per day, minimum)
Do your best to avoid highly processed foods since those foods are typically high in saturated fat and sodium, which can contribute to poor heart health.
How to Get Started with a Healthy Diet
Getting proper nutrition can feel overwhelming. There are so many nutrients to track, including things to avoid and ways to balance out portions.
Many people get stuck at this step because it’s too difficult of a lifestyle change.
To get nutrition therapy support and set yourself up for more success and healthier, longer life, contact health and wellness experts like the team at Agents of Healing. We specialize in nutrition therapy, and we’re ready to make your customized health plan for better nutrition.