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How Sleep Affects the Immune System

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Getting more – and better quality – sleep makes you feel good and gives you more energy throughout the day. But it does more than that. It also keeps you from catching viruses, developing infections, and even feeding nefarious diseases. 

immune systemIt’s not just a myth that when you don’t sleep enough, you get sick. Recent studies have now backed this up. Lack of sleep can cause an impaired immune system, making you more susceptible to catching colds and flus. Improving your sleep schedule can be difficult, but if you want to keep your immune system working at its best, it’s imperative to make sure you’re sleeping well and enough. After all, your immune system is the first line of defense for many foreign invaders, including damaging malignant cells. 

What’s the connection between sleep and immunity?

immune systemLack of sleep creates many problems in the body, ranging from mental and emotional issues to physical ones. When the immune system is weakened, it can’t do it’s job. The immune system is designed to protect the body from invaders that cause illnesses like colds and flus, and it also helps the body to fight off infections in an efficient way. When the immune system is impaired, you’ll notice that you are sick more often. Studies have shown that when we are deprived of good quality sleep, our T-cells are decreased and our inflammatory cytokines are increased, both of which can make us more susceptible to getting sick. So when you lose out on sleep, your immune system is suppressed and unable to respond well to colds or bacterial infections. 

The immune system not only fights viruses before they can manifest, but also helps your body to fight off current infections. This means that how well you sleep also makes a difference in how well and quickly your body can fight off illnesses. One of the ways your body fights off illnesses is through fevers, and when you get more sleep, your body can produce a more efficient fever response. So when you’re not sleeping, your fever can’t do the job it needs to do to fight off the infection.

Is this a life or death issue?

While it doesn’t seem like pulling an all-nighter will make your break your life expectancy, it just might. Studies have shown that when we don’t get enough sleep, our body is unable to fight off serious health conditions like heart disease and cancer. When you lose out on sleep, you have an increased level of C-reactive protein (CRP), which produces a lot of inflammation in the body. Inflammation can lead to heart disease as well as certain cancers and autoimmune diseases. It’s also been proven that people who get enough good quality sleep are less likely to die than those who do not.   

How do you know how much sleep you need?

immune systemThe amount of sleep you “need” each night varies from person to person. Some people can function better on less sleep than other people do. If your immune system is particularly strong, it might take many sleepless nights to impair it. Try to find your “perfect” amount of sleep by taking away your alarm for a few nights and seeing what time your body naturally wakes up. When you’ve figured out the number of hours your body needs, adjust your bedtime accordingly. You might also have to adjust your nighttime routine to start getting to bed at a reasonable hour. This means avoiding caffeine, sugar, and alcohol close to bedtime, as well as reducing TV, laptop, or cell phone screen time.

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