Disclaimer: I am not a Trainer, an expert when it comes to sleep, nor a Nutritionist either. Rather, I am passionate about eating well, sleeping well, and exercising the body for optimal health. I watched my Mom pass away from Cancer, even though she had an extremely healthy diet, but slept no more than five hours a night. I think we need to discuss the difference between quantity versus quality when it comes to diet, sleep, and exercise.
The other day some of my colleagues and I were talking about getting enough sleep and exercising. One of my colleagues Monday night had a terrible time falling asleep and barely got an hour. A similar thing happened to me Sunday night where I tossed and turned for hours, finally falling asleep and getting maybe four hours of sleep total. Then the conversation turned to what helps you fall asleep. For me reading, for others just relaxing and watching TV, for one colleague it was exercise. I asked her how many times a week does she exercise and she said about five times a week for about five hours each time. I said ‘What!’ I couldn’t believe my ears. Five times a week for five hours each time, wow! She continued to say that she doesn’t need a lot of sleep and that on average she gets four hours. This is what got me thinking about quality versus quantity.
In the last couple of years there has been a lot of talk about the amount of sleep people, particularly women, ought to receive and how it affects our health. Getting six hours or less over a long period of time can slowly break down your body’s defense mechanisms and can cause you to get sick, or even worse! I feel I experienced this first hand watching my Mom over the years deal with my handicap sister, work, cook, clean, and the list goes on. Unfortunately, my Mom passed away from Cancer seven years ago today. I am not saying that the lack of sleep caused her to develop Cancer, but it certainly did not help.
I would have to say that both quantity and quality apply here. I don’t think I person needs to get nine hours of sleep, but getting five is not good either. If a person gets 7 hours, but wakes up several times a night, that person is not going to feel as well rested as someone that got a solid seven hours without interruptions. So I believe you need a balanced mix of both.
Where I think quality over quantity applies is with exercise. Doing five hours of exercise a day, five days a week seems a bit extreme, especially if you are not preparing for a marathon or you are not an Olympian. Possibly for my colleague, exercising is more of a hobby like doing a dance class or something similar. However, if it is for pure exercise only I think you might be stressing out the body rather than getting a good workout in.
I started working out at home, because one, I wanted to save money and two, I came across this website called Bodyrock.tv which has done wonders for me. At least three times a week I workout with Zuzana for about 20-30 minutes and I can’t get over how I sweat like crazy, get a great workout in, and all in the comforts of my home.
As for diet, I would have to say there is no question that quality is most important here. Unless you are a raw foodist, you may need quantity as well to get enough vitamins, minerals, calories, etc, but for everyone else I think a super healthy, well balanced diet is key. However, the question becomes ‘What do quality foods consist of?’ Now some may argue that quality is about eating raw, vegan, vegetarian, or purely organic, and I think we could have a very colorful conversation about this. I think most of us know what foods to avoid, such as fast, fried, and refined foods. I think one way to invite more quality foods into your life is to focus on shopping the perimeter of your local grocery store. You tend to find that it consists of bread, dairy products, fruit and vegetables, meat and fish and you avoid buying all the prepackaged, refined, sitting-on-a-shelf-for-months food that adds no benefit for our health.
I would like to hear your thoughts about quality versus quantity with regards to diet, exercise, and sleep. Do you think one is more important than the others and why? Do you feel you need a balance of all three to have optimal health? Leave your comments below.
*Photo c/o Healthylivingnows.com
*New York Times blog – Why Women Don’t Get Enough Sleep
*Guardian.co.uk – Sleeping for less than six hours may cause early death, study finds