The “three pillars of health” is a phrase that gets thrown around somewhat frequently. But what exactly are those three pillars? Depends who you ask. According to the ancient practice of Ayurveda (Indian traditional medicine), the three essential elements of life are food, sleep, and the observance of brahmacharya, loosely translated as love. But ask the folks over at Harvard’s Healthy Sleep website or the National Sleep Foundation, and they’ll tell you it’s nutrition, exercise, and sleep.

Notice one that shows up in both places? Us too.

So if we’re all agreed that sleep is one of the three most important factors in a healthy life, why is it the one that people often ignore? Think about it: you see the others everywhere. From magazine covers to multi-billion dollar industries to startup empires to public health initiatives, food, fitness, and love are topics we talk about, think about, and spend money on improving all the time.

Yet sleep has remained relatively low on people’s priority lists when it comes to cultivating a fulfilling and healthy life. In fact, there’s even a mini-industry that’s sprung up around existing on as little sleep as possible.

But there’s a reason that sleep made the cut both times that the essentials of life were distilled down to three factors: when it comes to living your best life, sleep is utterly essential.

Whether it’s boosting your metabolism, enhancing your social skills, making you more articulate at work, improving your kids’ report cards, or making you happier, sleep, or lack thereof, has the ability to impact almost every area of your life.

Maybe sleep gets short shrift in the public eye because it’s not as sexy as romance or the hot new fitness or diet craze (though we’d tend to disagree…think about what else happens in bed!). People may also cast it aside because they don’t think it’s something they can really affect—while we can go on a juice cleanse, start attending Pilates classes every morning, or plan a romantic rendezvous with our partner, many of us believe there’s not much we can do about our sleep. After all, we’re not even conscious when it’s happening!

Except there’s a ton we can all do to make our sleep—and, in turn, our lives—much better. To name a few:

  • Avoiding electronics close to bedtime
  • Keeping the bedroom a place for sleep and sex only
  • Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule
  • Investing in a high-quality mattress
  • Limiting caffeine and alcohol
  • Exercising regularly

…and much, much more. 

No matter which three pillars you subscribe to, remember to devote your time, money, and energies toward all three.