What everybody wants, what everybody needs, yet what few people get enough of…. quality sleep. So many people treat a good night’s sleep as a luxury, something they do on vacation or maybe on a rare Sunday morning. They try to trick their body to get less than the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep fix each night by drinking coffee, energy drinks or taking energy-boosting products. There are ample studies to show that chronic sleep deprivation can lead to the development of diseases like obesity, diabetes, and hypertension.
Newer sleep studies are now showing something equally concerning about sleep deprivation. Severe sleep loss alerts the immune system that something is not right and jolts the immune system into action. A new study reports this immune response is equal to the immediate response that happens during exposure to stress. Without proper sleep fix, the body cannot perform the multitude of cellular repair actions, take out the garbage (cell debris cleansing), toxin removal, memory consolidation and organ rejuvenation. You wouldn’t turn your car on and let it run for 18 hours at a time, so why would you treat your body with less care?
In this blog, we will take a deeper look on how sleep deprivation impairs your immune system.
What is Sleep Deprivation?
Everyone experiences an occasional night where you toss and turn, get up several times, and stare at the walls. You wake up with a headache, cranky, and not in the mood for anything. While your body can withstand a night of this on a rare occasion, a steady repeat of lousy sleep fix will eventually take a great toll on your body.
Sleep deprivation is the inability to meet your body’s daily sleep requirements. These requirements vary based on a person’s age, health status, lifestyle, and workload. According to the National Sleep Foundation’s Guidelines, adults need around 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night, whereas those above 60 need to sleep for 7-8 hours. While many people, particularly men, will tell you they are fine on 5-6 hours of sleep their body is telling them something else.
A full 15-17 hour day usually includes a full day’s work, finding food for 3 meals, driving from place-to-place, taking care of your living space, connecting with friends and family, perhaps paying bills, caring for a loved-one, walking the dog and catching up on some reading. Your brain and the rest of your body is on “go time” without stopping except for basic biological needs. Well-trained athletes know the power of rest and restoration, and everyone needs to understand that an ordinary body will not last long without the requisite 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep fix.
Where the health crisis lies is in the statistics: up to 35% of adult Americans do not get even 7 hours of sleep at night, whereas 45% of Americans admit that insufficient sleep impacts their routine activities. Chronic sleep deprivation comes with an extensive list of health consequences and safety issues beyond just feeling irritable and with low energy. One of the latest health issues to be studied in connection with sleep deprivation is immune dysfunction.
The Link Between Sleep Deprivation and the Immune System
If you have read our article, Why Sleep Deprivation is Your Worst Enemy, you already know what lack of sleep does to your body. If you haven’t read it, go check it out and you’ll see the price your body pays when you constantly get less than the necessary hours of rest.
In today’s world where the threat of a viral pandemic is constant, having a strong and well-functioning immune system is a mandate to keep you and those around you safe. While you sleep, your immune system is going to work making the protective antibodies and cytokines that you need to combat foreign viruses and bacteria. These immune system proteins are the Superheroes of your body, coming to save the day if you do get infected. Without proper sleep, your immune system is weakened and loses its “superpowers” to properly defend you.
A study was conducted to examine the connection between sleep deprivation and suppressed immune function. This study looked at the participants ability to form antibodies in response to being injected with a vaccine. The results of the study were very concerning in that it showed sleep deprived people were not able to form a proper antibody response and were more likely to contract the virus they were vaccinated against. In addition, they were at risk of taking longer to recover from illness.
How Sleep Deprivation Makes You Prone to Infections
Although a vast majority of serious health effects are linked to chronic sleep deprivation, even if you don’t sleep well even for a single night there can be health implications.
How can that be right? Here’s what a clinical sleep study performed on 23 healthy males explained:
All 23 of them were kept sleep deprived and were allowed to sleep for only 4 hours at night, after which their Natural Killer (NK) cell activity was monitored. The result showed that their immune activity of NK cells was reduced by 72% in 78% of the volunteers.
Natural Killer cells or NK cells are particular types of immune cells that have a proven role in fighting viruses and cancer cells. These cells are responsible for identifying and killing dangerous intruders to the body. When your NK cell activity is reduced, you get prone to viral illnesses. In fact, people with decreased NK cell action tend to get sick more often.
Hence, a loss of 72% of NK cells activity resulting in a weakened immune system from just one night of poor sleep is actually very concerning, especially in times of a pandemic or flu season.
What Sleep Does to Immune Cells
Circadian rhythm refers to a natural sleep pattern that includes 16 to 18 hours of wakefulness during daytime and 7 to 9 hours of sleep at night.
When you adjust your sleep-wake cycle naturally according to your circadian rhythm, your immune system functions correctly.
There are many different ways that a proper sleep-wake cycle maintains the normal function of your immune system:
- Your body is designed to work in cycles, and that includes your brain. When there are disruptions in your life, this can bring on stress which then leads to activating your “flight or fight” system, otherwise known as the adrenal hypothalamus axis (HPA). When the HPA is put on alert, it produces a stress hormone called cortisol and another hormone called epinephrine (adrenaline). Under non-stress conditions, the HPA starts to wind down around 10 0’clock at night. However, if you are constantly up late at night the HPA stays aroused and will continue to produce cortisol. The constant “on” of the HPA can result in down regulating your immune system.
- Sleep is when your body gets time to fix things from the wear and tear of the day. It includes regulating your cell growth, repairing damaged cells, and promoting the growth of new cells. Hormones like growth hormone, prolactin, and melatonin speed up this process and keep your immune cells active. Interestingly, all of these hormones are active when you sleep at night so when you stay sleep-deprived, you interrupt the body’s natural process of producing these hormones.
- We found this one to be most exciting: Your immune cells also like to take rest when you sleep at night! Their levels in the blood tend to get lower during nightly sleep. Scientists are trying to figure out more on this subject, but it is most likely that immune cells conserve their energy for the daytime, when your body is more vulnerable to foreign invasion.
How to Get Immune-Boosting Sleep
If you typically sleep less than 7 hours a night, it might take you a little time and commitment to improve your sleep routine. If you are fretting about struggling to get that immune-boosting 7-9-hour sleep, we can offer a few pointers.
Ensure your room is sleep-friendly
Your room’s environment plays a crucial role in affecting your sleep. A comfortable room with dim light, an excellent mattress, and a quiet environment can do miracles for helping you sleep better. What you don’t want is blue light and electronic screens 2-3 hours before bedtime.
Next, you want to make sure that your thermostat is neither too low nor too high. 65 degrees is recommended by many sleep studies.
One favor you can do for yourself is ensure that your mattress is super inviting. If you feel that your bed tends to get too hot or too cold in certain weathers, you can try a Cooling Pad or Heating Pad to maintain a perfect sleep temperature right within your bed! The unique temperature control system of this sleep pad helps you fall in a deep sleep and keeps you comfortable and sweat-free all night.
Go to Sleep at the Same Time Every Night
You cannot “bank” sleep. You also cannot make up for a deficit of sleep from the prior day, so you need to get in the habit of getting a good night’s sleep every night. One of the best ways to do that is to get on a regular sleep schedule for all 7 days of the week. One of the worse sleep habits is to “sleep in” on the weekends. This habit disrupts your sleep cycle and it is far better to stick to a set bedtime and wake time every day.
Avoid Coffee and Alcohol
Coffee is used by most people to help stimulate them to overcome lack of sleep. However, it takes a while for the caffeine in the coffee to break down. If you have that last cup of coffee too late in the day, it will still be in your system later in the evening. This can lead to either not being able to go to sleep or waking up during the night. Many people like a couple of drinks at night to relax, but it has the opposite effect on your sleep cycle. It may help you fall asleep, but the body, particularly the liver, has to process what the body perceives as a toxin. Once again, you are waking up at night rather than getting quality and restorative sleep.
Use Sleep-Inducing Essential Oils
Known for their distinct “essence,” certainly essential oils can help you sleep better. Scientists have discovered that essential oils can improve your health in many different ways and one of those is to help you sleep better at night.
Our favorite is the beautifully scented Lavender oil extracted from the stunning purple lavender flowers. It is known to relax your mind, calm your senses, and help you fall asleep easier. You can use a few drops of lavender oil to your pillows, bedding, and lightly massage on the bottom of your feet and / or the back of your neck.
Use Sleep Aid Supplements
Pharmaceutical remedies for sleep are not recommended because most of them prevent you from having REM sleep. This is a part of your sleep cycle that allows you to dream and release emotion. However, naturally sleep aids are not sedatives and are designed to just lightly relax you to prepare you for sleep.
Specifically formulated to mimic the relaxing effects of green tea, L-Theanine is an amino acid blend widely acknowledged for its soothing properties. As a vital component of green tea, L-Theanine can help you sleep fix better by relaxing your mind without causing drowsiness.
Melatonin is a natural hormone involved in regulating your normal sleep-wake cycle. It is produced both in the gut and in the brain and also protects your cells from oxidative damage. You don’t need very much Melatonin taken as a supplement and a 1-3 mg dose is adequate. Melatonin needs to be taken a few hours before bed, otherwise it can have the opposite effect of waking you up.
Magnesium threonate is a truly amazing and simple supplement that is a special form of magnesium that can cross the blood-brain barrier. It supports the relaxation of the brain’s blood vessels and works on the nerve synapsis. It has very relaxing and calming properties and can also be used not only as a sleep aid, but as an anti-anxiety supplement. Magnesium threonate can be taken a few hours before bed to induce sleep fix and produce a calm night of rest.
If you would like to learn more about how you can get immune-boosting sleep, have a look at these Top 10 Things You Should Do Now For a Better Night’s Sleep.
Ready for ‘Immunity Sleep’?
Now that you know sleep fix is yet another way to boost your immune system – make it a priority!
Would you like to increase your odds of staying healthy? Start going to bed on a regular schedule, giving your body the time in needs to rejuvenate. It is that simple. You are more productive, more alert, and more emotionally stable when you are not sleep-deprived.
If the above tips helped you in improving your sleep fix, do let us know. We love to hear from you!
Also, if you find this article helpful, don’t forget to hit the share button and spread the word among your family and friends. After all, sharing is caring!
Until then, Happy Healthy Immunity Sleeping!
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.