Why Sleep is Vital For Health & Performance

Sleep is vital for human function, health and performance. The aim of this article is to look at the implications of poor sleep to health and performance, to serve to focus your awareness and appreciation of its importance to your day to day performance, being vital in recovery from fatigue as well as your long-term health. A part of my work over many years building people’s health, has involved helping people to improve their sleep.

The importance of proper sleep quality and volume has always been a pillar in any comprehensive holistic field of health, this is nothing new. We have had this wisdom for thousands of years. However this awareness or appreciation of the importance of sleep and also how to little sleep can potentially be a factor in disease progression is only in recent years starting to get recognition in mainstream medicine and health care. The British Heart Foundation acknowledge that: “Getting enough sleep is vital for mental, physical and emotional wellbeing”; and that “Insomnia sufferers appear to have an increased risk of heart failure”(1). Although with this last statement it is worth mentioning that quite rightly the British Heart Foundation draw attention to the need to consider other risk factors for heart disease in addition to the correlation to poor sleep and increased heart disease.

The Great British Sleep Survey (2012) also suggests that half of the UK population do not get enough sleep. This study also highlights the implication of reduced sleep in the conditions of diabetes and depression. The study also questions the rationale behind drug-lead approaches using sleeping pills as a means of dealing with sleep problems(2). The Author of that study,  Professor Colin Espie, also highlights the impact of poor sleep on: degrading health, the link to poor concentration, relationship difficulties, reduced work productivity, low mood, reduced energy levels, reduced happiness and its overall negative influence on society at large(3). I would add to those comments by asking the question: what part of human function does sleep not influence?

If you view this topic from an even more comprehensive natural health perspective we consider the role of lack of sleep adding strongly to a person’s overall stress load, impairing both psychological and physical regeneration, compromising immune function, hormone disruption, as well as consideration of the danger of the potential increased use of stimulants to stay awake, such as caffeine, and their effect on the body. In addition, there are problems such as the indirect effect that chronic sleep deprivation might have on health conditions such as its contribution to obesity for example. In this instance the body’s stimulation of hunger cravings to encourage consumption of sugars, to elevate blood sugar levels enough to encourage a hormonal profile to encourage sleep are a direct response to chronic sleep deprivation(4).

 I hope from these points you can see a need to view sleep as a priority to health and wellbeing. So what can we take from all this? From a long-term health view, the above information says enough really. I would like to highlight that a lack of quality sleep is stressful on the body in itself. In addition to which sleep plays a vital role in your recovery from the stress of the day with the role of sleep in our recovery and regeneration, both physically and psychologically. For those who are busy and have been for a long time, maybe feeling exhausted at the end of the day, be aware sleep will likely be a key part of any recovery strategy.

The acute drop in performance at work, for example in your productivity from lack of sleep the next day is obvious, we have all been there. I would encourage you to prioritise your sleep as a tool to recover, as many will sacrifice sleep to get more ‘productive’ things done, however this as a long-term strategy is completely flawed. I would propose your level of productivity would in fact be a function of your capacity to recover from the demands recent days and weeks.

My hope in writing this is that we all take the opportunity to consider our sleep with a greater appreciation of its value with regards our health, well-being and performance.



(1) British Heart Foundation: Insomnia Linked to Heart Health. (2013)

(2) The Great British Sleep Survey (2012) Professor Espie, C., Glasgow University Sleep Centre

(3) Mental Health Foundation Report Reveals Impact of Poor Sleep on the Health and Happiness of the UK, (2011), Mental Health Foundation.

(4) Optimum Health and Fitness through Practical Nutrition and Holistic Lifestyle Coaching- Level 2 (Course Manual) (2002) C.H.E.K. Institute.


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About the author, Shaun Mckeown: could be labeled as a performance strategist, or coach, or a life balance specialist. In essence Shaun is a strategic, creative problem solver, with a holistic view. He has over 15 years professional experience helping people with health, well-being, sport performance, reducing stress and life balance. He has a BSc.(Hons) degree in Sport and Exercise Science, as well as experience coaching and teaching in exercise conditioning, holistic lifestyle and nutrition, sport performance and Reiki. So has both science and holistic perspectives. 


The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this article are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this article. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this article. Shaun Mckeown, disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this article.