Categories: Sleep Science

How Sleep Helps Your Body Fight Infection

Did you know that the quantity and quality of your sleep is scientifically proven to boost T cells, which helps your body fight infection? Various studies report the many benefits of obtaining enough quality sleep each night. And, researchers find restorative sleep can help improve your T cells (immune cells).



What Are T Cells?

Your T cells are a form of your immune cells that fight against intracellular pathogens, such as HIV, flu and cancer cells. They’re a type of white blood cells which are essential to your immune system. They are at the center of your adaptive immunity. This is the system that modifies the immune response of your body to certain pathogens. Your T cells work like soldiers, seeking out and destroying the unwanted invaders.

Researcher, Stoyan Dimitrov, PhD, from the University of Tübingen in Germany, explained how their study, which was published in the Journal of Experimental Medicines, found a way in which sleep could help your immune system.

Importance of T Cells for Immune Response

Your T cells are essential for your body’s immune response. When they recognize a certain target, like a virus-infected cell, they activate integrins (sticky proteins) that help them attach to their specific targets (i.e. the virus-infected cell), and destroy them.

The study shows, by reducing Gas-coupled receptor (a protein) activity, sleep helps your T cells (immune cells) work more efficiently.

You see, when you have an infection, your immune system goes to work immediately. It sends various immune cells to attack, each with its own task. Your T cells work on the front line, recognizing and killing infected cells.

But, for a T cell to destroy an infected cell, it must first attach to this cell. And, for this to occur, it must activate integrins, which help the T cell attach itself onto the infected cell, until it’s had a chance to inject toxic molecules. The researchers of the study believed sleep could impact this process, so they decided they would take a deeper look.

They observed a molecule collection known for increasing Gas-coupled receptor activity. These molecules, including the prostaglandin inflammatory molecule and the adrenaline hormone, work by suppressing immune responses.

The researchers found this molecule collection can keep T cells from activating their integrins or sticky proteins. And, when they can’t activate their integrins, they can’t attach to the infected cell in order to destroy it.

Sleep’s Role in Making T Cells Work Efficiently

But, where does sleep fit into all of this? Well, your levels of inflammatory molecules and hormones change while you’re sleeping. Sleep is linked in particular with lower levels of the molecules, like prostaglandin and adrenaline, that activate the Gas-coupled receptor. Because of this, when you’re sleeping, your T cells aren’t interrupted, and can perform their job better.

The researchers decided to test this theory. They took white blood cell samples, from healthy volunteers, including T cells, as they either stayed awake all night, or slept through the night. Those who stayed awake experienced lower T cell integrin activation than those who slept.

Therefore, the study shows good sleep helps with your immunity, since it turns down the activity level of your Gas-coupled receptor. But, this receptor becomes more active, when you get too little sleep. And it makes your T cells less sticky, resulting in your T cells becoming less efficient at attacking and killing infections.

Despite the number of studies that prove the adverse health effects of poor sleep, a lot of individuals are still not making sleep a priority. Now that you know good sleep can strengthen your immune system, you need to make sleeping well a priority. Taking steps to ensure you’re obtaining sufficient quality sleep each night, can help with your immune system response to different illnesses, keeping you as healthy as possible.

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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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