Categories: Health and Wellness

How Sleep Strengthens Your Immune System

When it comes to being healthy, the quality and quantity of your sleep plays an essential role. You can’t avoid getting sick by sleeping more, but sleep deprivation can negatively impact your immune system, and leave you vulnerable to the flu and a bad cold. Read on to learn how sleep strengthens your immune system.

Sleep Deprivation and Your Immune System

Several factors play a role in how your immune system responds to a lack of sleep.

1. Vaccines

Research shows that individuals who are sleep deprived experience less flu vaccine protection than individuals obtaining enough sleep, according to Diwakar Balachandran, MD, director of the Sleep Center at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. When you’re sleep deprived:

  • Your immune response becomes suppressed.
  • You develop less antibodies to some types of vaccines.
  • It takes longer for your body’s response to immunizations to kick in.
  • You become exposed to the flu virus.
  • You’re more likely to become sick than if you received a vaccination but have been obtaining sufficient sleep.

2. Fevers

Sleep loss doesn’t just play a role in whether you contract a cold or the flu. It also can influence how you fight the illness once you become sick. For instance, your body fights infection with a fever. When you sleep, your body experiences a better fever response, reports the Better Sleep Council, which is why your fever often rises during the night. If you’re sleep deprived, your fever reaction is not primed. Therefore, your body might not have the ability to fight infection as best as it can.

3. Cytokines

While you’re sleeping, your immune system releases cytokines (proteins), and some of these cytokines help promote sleep, says the Mayo Clinic. Specific cytokines increase when you’re experiencing inflammation, an infection, or when you’re stressed. Sleep deprivation can reduce your body’s production of these protective proteins. Also, you also experience a decrease in infection-fighting cells and antibodies during periods of not obtaining enough adequate sleep.

4. T Cells

A number of studies have shown the advantages of obtaining adequate sleep. Researchers in Germany report that obtaining quality sleep helps to improve your immune cells, referred to as “T cells.” T cells are immune cells that are responsible for fighting against intracellular pathogens like virus-infected cells, including:

  • HIV
  • Flu
  • Cancer cells
  • Herpes

In this particular study, published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, the researchers found a new way in which sleep could help your immune system.

T cells play an integral role in the immune system of your body. When your body’s cells identify a virally-infected cell, it prompts them to activate integrins (a type of sticky protein), which enables them to attach to infected cells, and kill them.

Quality and Quantity of Sleep

Seven to eight hours of quality sleep is the optimal sleep amount for most adults. Teens require around 9 to 10 sleeping hours, and school-aged kids might require around 10 or more sleeping hours. However, it’s not just about how many hours of sleep you get. For adults, more than 9 to 10 hours of sleep each night could lead to poor quality of sleep, like falling asleep and staying asleep. We now know how sleep strengthens your immune system and the quality and quantity of your sleep plays an essential role.

Takeaway Thoughts

Bottom line: Despite the studies that prove the adverse health effects of poor sleep, many individuals still don’t make sleep a priority. If you’re one of these, it’s wise to honestly reflect on how much sleep you’re obtaining, and make the decision to make adequate, quality sleep a priority.

Having a dark, cool, and comfortable bedroom atmosphere, and doing away with distractions such as pets, electronic devices, or a snoring bed partner are essential. Sleeping on an organic, non-toxic and hypoallergenic mattress will provide you with the healthy night’s sleep that you deserve. Exercising can also help you obtain better quality sleep, too. Lastly, reducing your intake of caffeine and alcohol is also important.

Adequate sleep needs to be a priority, since there’s so much happening in the world around you. Consciously make the decision to prioritize your quality and quantity of sleep, so your immune system can protect you against illness.

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    Amber Merton

    Amber Merton is an accomplished writer on the topics of green living and sleep. Her work has been covered in numerous online publications. Amber has been a regular author on the PlushBeds blog for the past 7 years.

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