The im­por­tance of sun and sleep

New Zealand’s favourite well­be­ing ex­pert, Dr Libby, an­swers read­ers’ ques­tions about liv­ing a health­ier life.

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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 ask.dr­libby@fair­fax­me­ 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.

Photo: 123RF.COM

Get­ting plenty of sun year round is es­sen­tial to our vi­ta­min D in­take. Sleep­ing is good, too.

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