Sleep is the second pillar of optimal health and wellness


By Jessamine Sothard

Functional Medicine Nurse Practitioner

Sleep is a normal routine part of our lives. Most of us do it at least once within 24 hours and some of us more than once, in the form of naps. We know that sleep provides rest when we are tired, but do we fully understand the importance of quality sleep?

Sleep resets our circadian rhythm, ensuring we are awake during the day and tired and ready for sleep at night. Quality sleep boosts our immune system, detoxifies the brain of damaging proteins and sleep is when healing takes place. During sleep we also convert short-term memories into long-term memories and proper sleep improves our ability to learn and retain new information and skills.

Sleep isn’t just something we do because we are tired; it’s essential for many biological processes to occur. Poor sleep practices can affect our mood and our ability to learn, weaken our immune system (making us more susceptible to illnesses) and can lead to brain fog. Poor sleep increases distractibility, which can impair our ability to learn. Sleep deprivation also releases inflammatory markers which over time are damaging to our cells and DNA — which increases our risk of chronic diseases.

Ensuring proper sleep starts in the morning. UVB light from the morning sun signals our brain to produce cortisol which helps set our circadian rhythm and provides us with energy for the day ahead. Try to get 5-10 minutes of first morning light every day. Avoid artificial UVB lights one hour before bedtime to avoid increasing cortisol and decreasing melatonin. Artificial UVB light comes in the form of screens like TVs and phones. Instead, try a wind-down activity like meditation or reading to prepare your mind for a proper night’s rest. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep every night. Improving overall sleep quality is an investment in improving your health.

Five pillars — stress, sleep, activity, nutrition and positive social connection — are the very foundation of health and wellness. They empower people to take control of their lives. These five pillars can impact your health in either positive or negative ways.


Sothard will cover the pillars of health and wellness in future articles and during a presentation at the Champaign Family YMCA on Feb. 9 at 11:30 a.m.

Triad High School alumna Jessamine Sothard, APRN, is a board certified nurse practitioner and owner of Thrive Integrative Medicine in downtown Urbana. She specializes in chronic disease and functional medicine with undergraduate and graduate degrees from Wright State University. Sothard has been invited by the Champaign Family YMCA to speak about the five pillars of optimal health and wellness. Her presentation will be held at the Y on Feb. 9 at 11:30 a.m. Members of the community are welcome to attend.

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