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Features / August 24, 2023

Sleep – lifestyle medicine

by Siobhan Kelleher

lifestyle medicine: sleep

Siobhan Kelleher delves into sleep and its impact on various aspects of human health.

Sleep is an essential aspect of human life, playing a crucial role in maintaining overall health and wellbeing. It is one of the pillars of lifestyle medicine, along with nutrition, physical activity, stress management, and social connections. 

Adequate sleep is vital for optimal cognitive function, emotional wellbeing and physical health. This article will explore the importance of sleep as a pillar of lifestyle medicine, highlighting its impact on various aspects of human health.

Optimal cognitive function

Sleep is closely linked to cognitive function. Sufficient sleep is necessary for memory consolidation, learning and problem-solving abilities. 

During sleep, the brain processes and stores information acquired throughout the day, enhancing memory retention and recall. Research has shown that sleep deprivation impairs cognitive performance, attention and decision-making skills, leading to decreased productivity and increased risk of accidents (Alhola and Polo-Kantola, 2007). Therefore, prioritising sleep is crucial for maintaining optimal cognitive function.

Emotional resilience

Sleep also plays a significant role in emotional wellbeing. Insufficient sleep has been associated with an increased risk of mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and mood disturbances. Sleep deprivation affects the regulation of emotions, leading to heightened emotional reactivity and reduced ability to cope with stressors (Walker, 2017). 

Adequate sleep, on the other hand, promotes emotional resilience, enhances mood and improves overall mental health.

Physical health

Furthermore, sleep is closely intertwined with physical health. It is during sleep that the body repairs and rejuvenates itself. Lack of sleep has been linked to various chronic health conditions, including:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Compromised immune function (Cappuccio et al, 2010). 

Sleep deprivation disrupts the balance of hormones involved in appetite regulation, leading to increased hunger and cravings for unhealthy foods. Additionally, inadequate sleep negatively impacts glucose metabolism, insulin sensitivity, and blood pressure regulation, increasing the risk of developing chronic diseases (Cappuccio et al, 2010). Therefore, prioritising sleep is essential for maintaining optimal physical health.


In conclusion, sleep is a fundamental pillar of lifestyle medicine, alongside nutrition, physical activity, stress management, and social connections. Adequate sleep is crucial for optimal cognitive function, emotional wellbeing, and physical health. It enhances memory consolidation, learning, and problem-solving abilities, while also promoting emotional resilience and mental health. Furthermore, sleep plays a vital role in maintaining physical health by supporting the body’s repair and rejuvenation processes and reducing the risk of chronic diseases. Therefore, it is imperative to prioritise sleep as an integral part of a healthy lifestyle. 

Sleep stats

A healthy adult usually needs around seven to nine hours of sleep each night. However, age, health and personal circumstances affect how much sleep we need, plus some people naturally sleep more than others.

Infants, young children and teenagers should get more sleep to support growth and development, but that varies, too, with a newborn sleeping anywhere between eight to 16 hours.

Overall, prioritise getting enough sleep each night to stay happy, healthy and sharp.


  1. Alhola P, Polo-Kantola P (2007) Sleep deprivation: Impact on cognitive performance. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment 3(5): 553-567
  2. Cappuccio FP, D’Elia L, Strazzullo P, Miller MA (2010) Sleep duration and all-cause mortality: A systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. Sleep 33(5): 585-592
  3. Walker MP (2017) Why we sleep: unlocking the power of sleep and dreams. Simon and Schuster

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