The 3 pillars of health

Most of us are aware of the 2 pillars of good health – diet and exercise.

If only 2 pillars were holding up the roof of a house, what sort of support would they provide?

Add a 3rd pillar, now the roof is better supported and the roof less likely to cave-in.

Think of your health as the roof and the cave-in as ill-health.

Photo by Josiah Lewis on

The 3rd pillar is sleep.

Most of us focus on diet and exercise, yet neglect to factor in sleep quality into our overall health plan.

Here in Australia, the health authorities were so concerned about the effects of poor sleep quality, they commissioned a government enquiry. The results of this enquiry have just been released.

The report findings confirmed poor sleep quality may be detrimental to our health. If you would like to see the report in its entirety please use the link attached at the bottom of this page.

Otherwise, here’s a brief snippet of the report findings. Inadequate/poor sleep can lead to:

  • A 20 to 40 per cent increase in the likelihood of developing chronic health issues, a higher risk of obesity, and a close link between sleep health and mental health;
  • hormonal disruptions – after 5 nights of bad sleep – one finding showed a young man had a temporary reduction in testosterone, “as though he has aged a decade”;
  • Poor sleep in 5 out of 7 nights can lead to other hormonal changes -> pre-diabetic state.
  • Shift workers were a group that were affected by poor sleep quality which over time lead to chronic fatigue.
  • The use of electronic devices before bed can stimulate the brain and impact upon being able to fall asleep.

So how much sleep do we need?

For adults its 7-9 hours of sleep per night, adolescents 8-10 hours and children 9-11 hours.

One of my sons was a very poor sleeper as a baby and this continued into his adulthood. As a teenager, like so many others, he was on his computer until late at night and found it hard to switch his brain off. I’m sure he is not alone.

Some tips to improve sleep quality?

  • Firstly, if you are worried out your sleep quality, I strongly recommend a chat with your local doctor. Have him/her check for sleep apnea or other health conditions that may be affecting your sleep;
  • cut down on the caffeine – try decaffeinated coffee and tea for a while. No caffeine coffee after lunch;
  • try a herbal tea like lemon grass and ginger before bed;
  • watch your alcohol intake – a glass of wine or two may help you sleep at first but you may wake up during the night and not be able to get back to sleep;
  • a warm bath before bed;
  • turn off the TV and electronic devices an hour or two before bedtime and read instead;
  • go to bed at around the same time every night;
  • go for a walk in the afternoon or evening;
  • don’t eat large meals for evening dinner, have a larger meal at lunch and smaller for dinner;
  • keep the bedroom cool, we seem to sleep better in winter. Use lightweight bedlinen in summer;
  • include lots of magnesium containing foods in your diet – leafy greens are great. Magnesium helps to improve sleep, it helps to relax our muscles and reduce blood pressure;
  • include foods with natural melatonin, the hormone our bodies produce to regulate our sleep patterns. Sour cherry has the highest source and leafy greens as well.

Links and references

The report in full;fileType=application%2Fpdf

Story in today’s press about the report –

2 thoughts on “The 3 pillars of health

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