Choosi Age Series: How much should I be eating and sleeping?

Everyone loves to eat good food — it’s one of the most enjoyable parts of daily life for most of us. And while we might not place it in the same category as eating, there’s hardly a better feeling than getting a good night’s sleep! Because it makes you feel good at night.

The good news is that the science is with us on both counts — eating the right amount of food and getting enough hours of sleep for your age group are both essential to good health and wellbeing. Here’s why.

Changing your sleeping and eating habits over time

Overeating and a lack of exercise are contributing to a growing obesity problem in Australia for both children and adults. Likewise, a lack of sleep can lead to diabetes, cardiovascular issues like heart attacks, and some forms of cancer.

Here’s a handy breakdown of how much food you should be eating, the different types of food you should be putting into your body, and how much sleep you need to be in the best condition — all according to your life stage.

Eating and sleeping tips for children

Once a child is out of the baby stage and eating only solid foods, it’s important to give them a wide variety of foods. This not only helps with potential allergy issues but it also ensures good nutrition. Lots of veggies, fruits, nuts and proteins — all while monitoring normal weight gain. Avoid soft drinks and sweet foods, and give them fruit juices only on rare occasions to minimise their sugar intake. Sleep patterns may still be up and down at a young age, but consistency and patience are key.

In their teenage years, kids will require more calories for growing bodies. This extra energy should come from nutrient-dense food and not empty calories like junk food. Again, growing bodies need lots of sleep — but try telling that to a teenager!

Good foods to eat: A good mix of fruit and veggies, proteins, nuts (watch out for allergies) and plenty of water. For older children, a boost of calcium from milk, yoghurt and cheese is recommended.

How much sleep? Depending on their age range, young children should be getting anywhere between 9 and 14 hours of sleep each day. Teenagers should be getting between 8 and 10 hours.

How to get enough sleep and healthy food as a young adult

In your 20s and even your 30s, your life takes a dramatic turn from your younger years. You’re in control of everything, and sometimes that means poor eating habits and getting less sleep become the norm.

A good way to get enough rest is to exercise regularly. When your body is exhausted, it’s easier to fall asleep — and eating healthy food will also contribute to greater overall wellbeing.

Good foods to eat: Plenty of calcium-rich food like unpasteurised milk, broccoli and spinach; wholegrains like cereal and oats; and keep your salt intake low.

How much sleep? Around 7 to 9 hours per night, but no less than 6.

Enjoying middle age with the right amount of sleep and good food

You’re established in your career, the family is growing up (or has already flown the coop), you’re checking items off your bucket list — life is good! Keep it that way with a good diet and plenty of rest.

But as you age, your metabolism slows, which means it’s important to reduce your caloric intake. Focus on portion control and if you find you’re putting on a little weight, exercise more and reduce your food intake slightly.

Good foods to eat: Your diet shouldn’t change too much, but due to a slower metabolism it’s important to reduce your intake as needed. Eat antioxidant-rich foods like bright-coloured fruit and veggies, iron-rich lean meats and green leafy veggies, and foods with reduced saturated fat and salt.

How much sleep? Between 7 and 9 hours is best at this life stage, but that range can extend to between 6 and 10 hours, depending on your lifestyle and your energy needs.

Ageing gracefully with healthy food and plenty of sleep

In older age, it’s important to get plenty of vitamins from your food. You may also become more susceptible to digestion issues, so your fluid intake should increase to counteract them.

In terms of sleep, you may find you need fewer hours every night, but it’s still important to maintain a regular sleep schedule, even if it’s going to bed earlier and waking up earlier.

Good foods to eat: As opposed to the energy-dense food you needed in your youth, it’s better to eat nutrient-rich foods like eggs, lean meats, fish, dairy, plenty of fruit and veggies, as well as foods that encourage good bowel health (i.e. high in fibre!).

How much sleep? Around 7 to 8 hours is ideal, but you may need as little as 5 hours or as much as 9 hours nightly.

Just like starting a new exercise regimen or altering your eating habits, change will take some time. Always consult your doctor for dietary advice and before starting any exercise regimen. The most important thing is to keep at it and stay consistent. With a healthy diet and the right amount of sleep, your body will thank you for it!