Have you been taking your sleep for granted? If you haven’t been getting enough sleep and your schedule is all over the place - now may be the time to fix it. Sleep science has shown a direct relationship between your sleep and immune system. Thanks to extensive research, we now know that both the sleep and immune system significantly impact each other.
If you have an infection or a virus, it’ll affect your sleep quality - if you have sleep deprivation, it’ll weaken your immune system. In this post, you’ll get a better understanding of sleep and how it can be a tool to strengthen your immunity.
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The immune system is what protects our bodies from foreign invaders, such as bacteria, viruses, and toxins. It is a mass network that consists of proteins, cells, and organs that work together to protect the body. There are two parts of the immune system: innate immunity and adaptive immunity. Innate immunity is a pre-existing defense system in your body that works as the first line of defense - it isn’t generated from an outside antigen, like a vaccination or virus.
Whereas adaptive immunity, also known as the acquired immune system, is a defense system that is continuously developing. Unlike innate immunity, it is the result of an outside antigen. Adaptive immunity fights against pathogens, such as diseases or infections, and works on eliminating them or preventing their growth. This type of immunity is developed to target specific attacks in the body.
An integral part of the immune system is T cells or helper cells, which is a type of white blood cells. When a foreign antigen enters the body, it stimulates the production of proteins called cytokines, which fight against the pathogen. Additionally, another protein called integrin is released and it helps T cells bind to the antigen to regulate cytokine activation. Cytokines control the body’s immune response, which can be in the form of a fever, fatigue, redness, or inflammation - ultimately, it eliminates the threat.
Sleep allows your body to recover and regain energy to function the next day. Everything from your sleep quality to your sleep wake cycle highly affects your immunity. Our internal clock or circadian rhythm regulates our sleep as well as our immune system, this is based on the inflammatory response that occurs during sleep.
Research has shown that factors like stress, anxiety, or adrenaline, can disrupt the binding of integrins with T cells, which is necessary to fight off antigens. When you’re asleep, melatonin, a sleep-promoting hormone, decreases your stress hormones and adrenaline levels while cytokines production is increased. Cytokines are an essential component of your immune system. As a result, an efficient amount of sleep strengthens your immune system.
Sleep deprivation will lessen the production of cytokines and as a result, weaken your immune system - your body won’t have the strength to fight pathogens, especially those associated with sleep deprivation like diabetes, high blood pressure, or cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, this is why your body needs to rest and sleep when you’re ill - it needs the sleep boost to fight off the symptoms.
A study that was conducted on 15 healthy individuals showcased the vital connection between sleep and immune system. The participants were split into two groups - one group was subjected to follow an 8-hour sleep schedule for a week while the second group was subjected to stay awake for a 29-hour period. The study concluded that group one had a higher level of cytokine activation than that experienced in group two. This indicates that sleep is the main factor that allows T cells to function properly.
Now that you understand how sleep affects immunity, consider tweaking some of your sleep habits to achieve healthy sleep and as a result, boost your immune system.
Improving Your Sleep Schedule: Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day promotes healthier circadian rhythm, which regulates your sleep and immune system. A consistent sleep schedule may be hard to accomplish if you have a busy work schedule but it’s important to try and keep it as stable as possible.
Sleep deprivation can be the result of stress, anxiety, jet lag, an irregular circadian rhythm, or sleep disorders like insomnia or sleep apnea. A lack of sleep can have long-term and short-term effects, these effects include:
Getting plenty of sleep is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It’s important to give your body enough time to produce the agents that fight against infections and diseases. As a result, getting enough sleep every night is crucial. Other ways to boost your immunity include:
Regular nourishment and ensuring you’re getting all of the essential micronutrients will strengthen your immunity. Some micronutrients that significantly change immune responses are iron, zinc, folic acid, and Vitamin B6, C, and E. You can find a lot of these nutrients in the following foods:
If you don’t like vegetables, you can look into taking vitamin supplements. However, experts don’t recommend this because your body absorbs more nutrition through food. Always remember to carefully wash your fruits and vegetables as well as your hands before eating.
Exercising is just as important as eating well-balanced meals. A moderate to vigorous amount of exercise per day for at least 30 minutes, can reduce inflammation and improve your immune function. Exercise enhances the blood flow, which accelerates the movement of immunity cells in your body. The best type of exercises to boost your immunity are cycling, running, or even just walking - these exercises don’t require equipment or a certain skill!
Drinking water helps all of your body functions, not just the immune system. It induces oxygen through your bloodstream and purifies your body by removing toxins and bacteria that can be harmful, before they build up. As a result, dehydration or not drinking enough water can affect the innate immune system. Your necessary water intake will mostly depend on your body weight, but experts recommend drinking at least 2 liters of water per day.
Reducing stress during the day will easily help your body prepare for bedtime at night. A high level of stress hormones can prevent white blood cells from eliminating pathogens, like infections or viruses. Thanks to the close connection between sleep and immune system, getting good sleep reduces stress and strengthens your immunity. You can try other methods as well to minimize stress, such as exercising, meditating, or practicing a hobby. In some cases, something as simple as going for a walk can put you in a positive place.
Sleep and the immune system have a direct connection, as sleep is an important pillar that boosts your immunity. Sleep reduces your stress levels and gives the space for your defense system to produce immunity cells that fight infections and viruses.
When you’re sleeping, your stress levels, adrenaline, and anxiety decrease while cytokines production is increased. Sleep deprivation will lessen cytokines production, which is one of the main factors fighting against diseases. As a result, the lack of sleep will weaken your immune system.
It is recommended for adults to sleep an average of 7 to 9 hours per day. Your immunity is boosted when you’re in the REM stage, which is the deepest stage of sleep. You need an efficient amount of hours to reap the benefits of sleep. If you get less than 7 hours of sleep, it can have negative impacts on your health and productivity the next day.
You should always work on strengthening your immunity but there are a few methods that you can try to get positive results faster. This includes getting plenty of sleep, sticking to a sleep schedule, drinking a lot of water, eating nutritious meals that are high in vegetables and fruits, and exercising regularly.
When you’re sick or injured, it is recommended to get a lot of sleep because sleep is a strong factor that can boost your immunity. During sleep, your muscles relax and blood pressure decreases - giving your body a chance to reduce inflammation and start healing.
Now that you understand the clear connection between sleep and immune system, consider trying and prioritizing sleep to avoid negative health impacts. This may be hard at first but by sticking to a consistent sleep schedule and practicing better sleep hygiene, you’ll be able to achieve quality sleep and stay healthy.