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Jaime-Lee Gardner
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Biohacking your Life begins with Better Sleep

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Biohacking your Life begins with Better Sleep

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4 min read

People are living longer than ever. In comparison to 20 years ago, there are now 711 million 65 years-old on the planet. In this modern age we’re seeing medical science advance in quantum leaps, which is helping humans to survive and thrive well beyond the traditional retirement age.

Learning from the Globe’s Longest-lived People

With unbridled access to a vast wealth of information, people are becoming increasing aware of how to live better and age well. As we learn how to ‘bio hack’ our way to living better, we are also becoming aware that the best solutions are often the simplest: a healthy diet, daily movement and good quality sleep. With that in mind, health science has also turned its gaze towards the world’s ‘longest-lived’ people, in the ‘Blue Zones’ of Greece, Japan and America – and how their lifestyles are giving them comparably more years of life than the rest of us. What is striking, is that the people in these Blue Zones live by a simple set of fluid yet foundational principles. In the Blue Zone of Ikaria in Greece, people eat a diet rich in vegetables, carbohydrates and Omega-rich ingredients with a smattering of fish and nap daily. Therein highlighting the importance of sleep to holistic health, something which is often overlooked.

Ways in which we can Sleep Better

Sleep is an innate and natural human process and therefore, we assume, easy to do well. But what if we treated our sleep like learning to ride a bike: once you know how to ride a bike you never really forget, but if you don’t practice riding it you may find it difficult to do well. Our sleep changes throughout our lifetime for a host of reasons ranging from environmental, to physical and physiological, so why don’t we try to ‘learn’ to sleep better? Good sleep is biohacking – that’s taking your body’s natural processes and learning how to optimise them for a better you. And while this is entirely possible, it’s something that takes discipline and dedication with supplementation from the right tools, starting with the right kind of bed. As earth’s oldest people are living longer each year, they are also having to make modifications to their lifestyles and homes to support them into the future. Either due by circumstance or driven by choice, a good number of retirees in South Africa are opting to ‘age in place’ -this means they are choosing to live their retirement years in their current place of residence, instead of moving to a retirement home. Ageing in place brings a need to modify and reshape living spaces, and while a full-scale remodelling of their residence isn’t always feasible, there are other modifications that can be made to this end, like a better bed for better sleep.

The debate rages on about quality versus quantity when it comes to sleep, and although a good sleep benchmark does exist (somewhere along the lines of an average of 7 hours a night), the rest of it is purely down to individual preference and need. Once upon a time humans would sleep in two blocks totalling 12 hours, broken up into a 3- or 4-hour slumber with 3 hours of wakefulness in between. While this practice bears testament to the quality over quantity sleep argument – it isn’t about how long they slept for but how well they slept. Just think about how terrible you can feel after 4 hours of poor sleep, yet an hour’s solid nap can make you feel renewed.

Hormonal Shifts are Sleep Disruptors

It’s evident that sleep does not belong in a category of its own – it sits very comfortably in the holistic health box. If Sleep quality is exceedingly crucial to our wellbeing, then why aren’t we making the most of it? Why are we not seeking out the best in sleep technology in a bid to biohack our way to our better selves? Well, sometimes it is not as simple as that – especially as we age, and this seems more acute in women than men. Women experience a shift in their hormonal profile throughout their lives from puberty to childbirth to menopause – each stage presents its’ own set of challenges. Now that people are living well beyond the traditional retirement age, more and more focus is being put on how women can overcome the negative effects of one of life’s biggest hormonal shifts -the menopause. Amongst the host of symptoms women experience during the change of life is a change to their sleep, including generally poor sleep, insomnia and sleeping for a few hours a night. And we all know that the effects of poor sleep can be torturous and make an already challenging time even more so. While we cannot wave a magic wand and make the Menopause disappear, we can choose to invest in things to support better sleep, like a good bed.

It’s Time to Sleep for the Individual

Sleep is restorative: it is a time which allows our bodies to work on healing and other important process including waste elimination, hormone production and digestion. The better we sleep, the better we feel, and the irony is that you don’t know you’re sleeping on a poor bed until you sleep on a good one. Sleeping well, or better than you currently do is invaluable, so it makes sense to invest in a top-quality bed. Many of the world’s leading mattress and bed companies are now funding their own research into what makes a good bed and why investing in a good quality bed is almost essential. Beds themselves seem like simple and rudimentary pieces of furniture made up of a foundation and mattress. But did you know that you can invest in a bed that is specifically designed to support the way you sleep? There are modifications that can be made to your bed to aid physical pain, reduce blood pressure, help acid reflux, and even reduce snoring. These modifications are as simple as tilting the bed one way or another, for example lifting the head of the bed will help a sleeper snore less while lifting the foot of the bed to elevate lower limbs can help reduce blood pressure. Beds with adjustable foundations may seem a hefty investment for some, but a quick sum of the initial investment quantum over the 20 years of longevity, comes out at approximately R500 a month. Not a lot to pay for better sleep. A trip to the GP to collect your sleeping pill prescription costs upwards of that nowadays.

Perhaps it’s not the elixir of youth we are after, but just to live as well as we can into our latter years? If that be the case, then we need to take more time to invest into what really matters: a healthy diet, daily movement, and good sleep. And good sleep begins with the right bed.

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