Sleep and Your Immune System
Are you having trouble getting proper sleep? You should find a solution as soon as possible as lack of sleep has been linked to a wide range of physical and mental health problems, including those that are caused by an impaired immune system. Because it is designed to protect us from the flu, colds and other ailments, our immune system needs to be healthy and in optimal working condition. When it is weak and unable to function properly, it cannot do its job of protecting our health. One of the best ways to make sure that you have a healthy immune system is to get proper sleep.
How Lack of Sleep Affects Immunity
Lack of sleep does not only play a role in whether you catch a cold or the flu. It also has a major influence on how your body fights illnesses once you fall sick. For example, your body fights infection with the help of fevers. When you sleep, one of the things that occurs is that you get a better response to fever. Due to this, fevers tend to rise during the night. However, if you are not getting sleep, your reaction to the fever is not primed, which in turn means that your body may not be fighting an infection as effectively as it can.
While you sleep, proteins known as cytokines are released by your immune system. Some of these proteins help in promoting sleep. When you are under stress, or have an infection or inflammation, there needs to be an increase of certain cytokines. Production of these protective proteins may decrease due to sleep deprivation. Additionally, production of infection-fighting cells and antibodies is reduced when you do not get enough sleep.
Your body needs good sleep in order to be able to fight infectious diseases and illnesses like the common cold and the flu. Long-term sleep deprivation also increases your risk for diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) disease.
Studies Showing How Sleep Might Support the Immune System
There are a number of studies suggesting that sleep actually has the ability to help the body produce immune cells that you need to combat pathogens. For example, in one study, it was found that the concentration of serum interleukin-7, also known as IL-7, increased significantly while a person sleeps. IL-7 lays an important role in creating immune cells like B cells and T cells.
In another study, researchers found that sleep helps in shifting the balance of IL-10 and IL-12 in the body. These cells, both play a crucial role in regulating the immune system and developing immune cells. This in turn helps in globally increasing the efficacy of adaptive responses of the immune system.
Tips to Sleep Better to Help Your Immune System
If you have a problem getting proper sleep, there may be tips that can help you. Here is a look at some useful tips that can help you sleep better for your immune system:
- You should avoid using phones or tablets in bed. The blue light from the screens will stimulate your brain and you will end up staying awake for a longer period of time.
- If you are having problems getting to sleep earlier, keeping your lights dim in the hours leading up to bedtime to simulate the sunset could help. This will help in triggering the release of the sleep hormone, melatonin.
- If you have difficulty falling asleep, you should make sure to avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening. Caffeine can stay in your bloodstream many hours after consumption. This means that pick-me-up cup of coffee you drank at 3 pm could still be in your system by 10 pm and prevent you from getting the sleep you need.
- When you experience broken sleep, it means that you are getting poor quality sleep. This is not good for your immune system. You should pay attention to what time you wake up in the middle of the night as it could be an indication of issues with certain organs in your body. For example, if you wake up at 3 am, it often means that you have a stressed liver.
- Your mattress might be the reason you are not getting proper sleep. Changing your mattress might just be the solution to help you sleep better. Not only will a more comfortable mattress help you fall asleep faster, but will also help in sustaining a long, deep and restful sleep.
To make sure that you are healthy and that your body can fight infections and diseases, you need to have a strong and healthy immune system. Proper sleep plays a critical role in keeping your immune system functioning properly. If you suffer from sleep deprivation, you should make sure to find a solution quickly to help your immune system and stay healthy.