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  • Writer's picturecristina

Investing in Z's for the Health of It

Updated: Jun 12, 2020

Here's a run down for why it's important to invest time (a recommended 8 hours daily) towards getting quality sleep & how it ties into crafting better health and world for us all.

The basics: Sleep is a naturally recurring cycle for your body; By nature, it is crucial to supplement your health with quality sleep as it is with quality food and water. This means junk sleep is like junk food.

The quality of your sleep affects everything about you, not just your brain. You wouldn't expect yourself to feel, to perform, and to maintain a state of well-being holistically while in a continuous cycle of binge eating junk food; Similarly, a constant state of poor sleep will affect you negatively long-term, across all dimensions of well-being.

In my budding health coaching practice, we refer to wellness dimensions from Duke Integrative Medicine's Wheel of Health. Here's how sleep affects a few of these:

Exercise, Movement & Rest: Physically speaking, our bodies utilize sleep as a time to repair and heal damaged cells and muscles, including our heart, and a lack of it will hinder or slow down the recovery process. For performance in exercise and movement, sleep is a component for the production of glycogen and carbohydrates that are stored for energy use during physical activity (Kong, 2002). In athletes, poor sleep has been shown to reduce split-second decision making skills, whereas getting quality sleep counters that and shows increased focus during game time.

Mind-Body Connection: Sleep increases the production of killer t-cells, the super heroes of our immune systems, and flushes out toxins in the brain (Xie, 2013). Sleep also contributes to the regulation of hormones that impact our emotions and mood, such as serotonin (our "feel good" hormone) and leptin (appetite suppression hormone). Research has shown that sleep deprivation desensitizes your body's serotonin receptor, meaning that over time, this hormone (which contributes to positive emotions), has a harder time making the impact it once had when binding to your emotional centers. In a study with sleep-deprived mice, it took up to 7 days of unlimited "make-up sleep" to get back to typical functioning in these receptors (Roman, 2005).

Personal and Professional Dev: Poor sleep has been shown to impact brain function, including cognitive performance and focus, as negatively as alcohol intoxication (Williamson, 2000). The effects of sleep deprivation in performing cognitive tasks could quickly add up to sloppier work, missed deadlines, and a cascade of other preventable mishaps in both personal and professional development endeavors which could have much longer-standing effects than a 'work happy hour gone wild' might.

Relationships & Communication: Not only are our moods affected by sleep, but so is the ability to recognize social cues and pick up on others' emotions when we don't get enough of it. This may be troublesome for our relationships and communication with others, because having a lack of emotional empathy, as is seen with sleep-deprived participants (Guadagni, 2014), can lead to negative social interactions or anti-social behavior. In other words, poor sleep might turn you into more of a gremlin than you would want to otherwise be (I know that can be the case for me).

So if you don't want to do it all for yourself, consider bettering your sleep for those around you and the betterment of humanity: we all need & want you feeling your best. It might just start with a few extra Z's in the tank every day.

"Sleep, in a single behavior, is the greatest thing we do" - Russell Foster (TED Talk)


Guadagni V, Burles F, Ferrara M, Iaria G. The effects of sleep deprivation on emotional empathy.J Sleep Res.2014;23(6):657–663.

Kong, J., Shepel, P.N., Holden, C.P., Mackiewicz, M., Pack, A.I., and Geiger, J.D. (2002) Brain glycogen decreases with increasing periods of wakefulness: Implications for homeostatic drive to sleep.J. Neurosci. 22,5581–5587

Roman V., Walstra I., Luiten P. G., Meerlo P. (2005).Too little sleep gradually desensitizes the serotonin 1A receptor system.Sleep281505–1510.

Williamson AM, Feyer AM.Moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments in cognitive and motor performance equivalent to legally prescribed levels of alcohol intoxication.Occup Environ Med. 2000;57(10):649–55. 10.1136/oem.57.10.649

Xie et al “Sleep initiated fluid flux drives metabolite clearance from the adult brain.”Science, October 18, 2013. DOI: 10.1126/science.1241224 (Study findings summarized by the NIH)

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