The Arts
Angie Newman Johnson Gallery

“It’s Your Superpower” EHS Welcomes Sleep Expert Dr. W. Christopher Winter

With the opening of the new deButts Health & Wellness Center, Community Wellness Coordinator Emily Straight is prioritizing the Healthy Choices Speakers Series as an opportunity to teach students the importance of their decisions. For the last speaker of the year, Straight decided to focus on the top thing students tell her they struggle with — sleep.  
On Wednesday, April 19, Dr. W. Christopher Winter, MD, neurologist, author, and sleep specialist, visited EHS to speak with the student body about the importance of sleep — both in regard to wellness and performance and how one goes about getting a good, restorative sleep. Dr. Winter is the author of The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep Is Broken and How To Fix It, as well as The Rested Child: Why Your Tired, Wired or Irritable Child May Have A Sleep Disorder — And How To Help. In addition to working with numerous professional sports organizations to help their athletes optimize sleep, he is the host of the podcast “Sleep Unplugged with Dr. Chris Winter,” which has consistently ranked as one of the most popular medical podcasts in the country. 
“It's not a topic that is on the top of the list when you think of an entertaining keynote,” Straight explained. “Dr. Winter brought humor, helpful and relatable information, and an impressive history with professional athletes that made student buy-in easy. Our hope is the students take what they learned and explore new ways to tweak their morning and night habits to help them thrive.”

During his nearly hour-long presentation, Winter engaged the audience with his personable demeanor and engaging props — utilizing objects like a white noise machine, meditation tools, and yellow light glasses. Defining sleep as a “superpower,” he addressed issues adolescents face with unhealthy habits. He also described the importance of understanding their sleep personalities, sleep hygiene, and the difference between light and deep sleep.

“It's been estimated that one out of three students will experience something going wrong with their sleep,” Winter revealed to 450 students in Pendleton Hall. “It starts to cause other parts of your body to break down, so from a doctor's perspective, sleep is often the root of many chronic health issues.”

Touching on his traits, Winter explained to students that he only requires six hours of sleep and considers himself a short sleeper, a characteristic he inherited from his father. “Genetics affect everyone’s sleep habits. About 70% of the population needs between seven to nine hours,” Winter said. “However, that other 30% may need more or less sleep depending on their genetic makeup.” Winter’s journey with sleep began in 1993 when he interned at a sleep lab in Charlottesville, Va., for college credit. Three decades later, he now owns Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine Clinic and CNSM Consulting. 

Students and faculty raved over Winter’s lecture, citing the importance of learning about their sleep habits. Assistant Head for Student Life Phil Spears, described the presentation as informative and entertaining. “Dr. Winter kept the students engaged fully for an hour-plus, helping them learn how to maximize their health and well-being,” Spears said. “This built beautifully upon our 10th-grade health curriculum unit on sleep and provided information we can reference continuously with students moving forward.” 

Current sophomore Nellie Miller characterized Winter’s as engaging and informative. “His presentation helped me understand the effect sleep has on our bodies, while also emphasizing how to create healthy sleep habits. This is a concept high school students struggle to understand, but he made it easy with his creativity and charming personality,” Miller said. 

View Dr. Winter’s entire presentation here.