The importance of sun and sleep
New Zealand’s favourite wellbeing expert, Dr Libby, answers readers’ questions about living a healthier life.
I’ve been told to take a vitamin D supplement. What does vitamin D do and why can’t I get it through my diet? Thanks, Justine
Hi Justine. Over the winter months it is particularly difficult to obtain adequate vitamin D as we often find ourselves wrapped up warm with little exposure to the sun. As the sun’s action on the cholesterol in our skin is our major source of vitamin D, it’s important to spend a little time each day exposed to the sun and to up our intake from food sources. Vitamin D is an important nutrient for bone health, immunity, cancer prevention and mood regulation. It supports the uptake of calcium and phosphate which are bone strengthening minerals, especially in growing children and the elderly.
Teens accrue about 50 per cent of their adult bone mass between the ages of 12 and 18, so adequate vitamin D is of particular importance during these years too.
While we normally synthesise the majority of our vitamin D from the sun through our skin, we can get some from oily fish, organic butter, and eggs. It is an important nutrient to have tested so you know when it is appropriate to take a supplement. I amgoing through a period where I’m not sleeping well and I know it’s influencing my health. What are your tips to help me get more rest? Thanks, Sharon.
Hi Sharon. There are a few things I link to amazing health. Optimal nutrition of course, fresh air, movement, love, and great sleep. In fact, improving the quality of your sleep will significantly improve all aspects of your health.
Sleep is often the only time our bodies are able to access a part of our nervous system responsible for rest and repair.
Sleep is critical for skin regeneration, immunity, hair growth, nail growth and all other non-vital processes the body will not prioritise during the day, particularly when under constant stress.
Often forgotten but crucial to deep sleep is the minimisation of caffeine. It can take the body up to eight hours to clear caffeine – so think about how many coffees, teas, colas and/or energy drinks you consume per day.
Breath is one of the most essential factors in regulating the Email your questions for Dr Libby to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note, only a selection of questions can be answered.
balance of your nervous system. Long, slow belly breathing expands the muscles in your diaphragm, stimulating the relaxation response. Try focusing on your breath anytime you feel overwhelmed. Or better still, create a regular diaphragmatic breathing ritual to help keep your responses calm.
When we feel overwhelmed, planning tends to go out the window, but organisation is precisely what you need. Relaxation needs to be scheduled just like any other appointment in your diary. Set up a sleep routine, such as turning the lights down low, avoiding any TV that upsets, and embracing a diaphragmatic breathing ritual, and notice the difference in how rested you feel.
Dr Libby is a nutritional biochemist, best-selling author and speaker. The advice contained in this column is not intended to be a substitute for direct, personalised advice from a health professional.
Getting plenty of sun year round is essential to our vitamin D intake. Sleeping is good, too.