Experts have warned that the lack of sleep, poor nutrition, and overstimulation from technology is contributing to a poorer state of health and an increase in chronic diseases. This warning was given by panellists at the Momentum Multiply Roundtable, who agreed that sleep, nutrition, breathing, meditation, and exercise are the key factors in determining a person’s state of health.
Revered futurist John Sanei says the future of wellness starts with the way that we think. “Under brain scans, we are seeing more and more that meditation is a way to relax. Starting with neuroscience and the way we think – we are able to rewire our brains to make relaxation much easier.”
Sanei says although technology like smartwatches and smartphones that track steps and breaths can provide useful insight on the user’s state of health, it that can lead to a lack of proactivity. “We react with action based on this feedback and from the outside people look goal-orientated and energised but people are running away from anxiousness. Our approach to this technology is one of stress, anxiety and worry.”
He says this is why the way we think is key to good health. “When we change the way we think and the way we are programmed to see our health – good sleep becomes obvious, enjoying your meal and eating better becomes easier. But if we don’t worry about how we think, these things become difficult and enhance anxiety about them.”
Sleep medicine should be accessible and affordable
Sleep expert and founder of the Sleep Society Dr Alison Bentley noted a lack of sleep can affect every function of the body, leading to sleep disorders such as sleep apnea or leg movements. This increases the risk of cardiac disease, depression, diabetes, liver disease, and many other conditions. She emphasised that there is no system in the body that sleep apnoea will not affect. Sleep apnoea causes a person to stop breathing during sleep and has links to heart complications and severe fatigue.
“Sleep medicine is currently an elitist practice – it is not easily available and it is expensive to have sleep tests. Using public healthcare doesn’t have this option. We want more people to have access to these, we want to move sleep medicine into the public healthcare space, they should be cheaper.”
She adds there is little to no attention given to sleep medicine by medical universities. “There is also not a single sleep laboratory that students access in medical universities, so if there are no students being trained in sleep medicine and treatment then they won’t understand it as important when they graduate,”
Bentley says the Sleep Society has started to move sleep tests to home-based to alleviate the financial burden of these. Furthermore, although hypertension is generally associated with an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise, Bentley said that the number one cause of hypertension is actually sleep apnea. Snoring and not being able to breathe through the night are prevalent symptoms of high blood pressure. Therefore, understanding where one falls in the sleep realm is essential.
Culturally sensitive nutritional interventions for better health
Registered Dietician Mbali Mapholi emphasised that culturally sensitive nutritional interventions are the best step forward in ensuring that people don’t change who they are in pursuit of good health.
“Food that is part of your culture should fit in any meal plan that you are putting together. This helps people to naturally connect with the idea of eating healthy as a part of their everyday habits. It makes healthy eating accessible.”
Mapholi highlighted important things to remember when thinking about the way we consume food and our relationship with eating, such as including more plants, such as beans, spinach, and carrots in our diets, even if we still eat meat. “One can still be a meat eater but be on a plant-based diet..”
She also noted that trends are starting to see people eating food based on whether or not it is good or bad for the environment. Mapholi adds that mindful eating and being present with food is an essential part of improving one’s diet. Research shows that adults should be spending 20 minutes finishing their food, however, many adults finish their meals in five minutes.
“When looking at information and thinking about your nutrition, you need to apply it to your context. Look at the surroundings and take from that. Looking at what is accessible, affordable, and nourishing. There are options,” she says. – Health-e News