Why Sleep Is Essential For A Healthy Immune System

Sleep For The Immune System

There’s nothing like getting a good night’s rest.

It not only helps you look and feel refreshed, but research consistently says that sleeping helps keep us healthy and fit too.

When you’re feeling sick, the first thing doctors advise is to get some rest.

That’s because a healthy immune system depends on you getting enough sleep.

Let’s dive into how sleep strengthens your immune system.

Sleeping Is Key To Creating Helpful Protein Cells

One of the ways sleep boosts your immune system is by making and releasing cytokines, a type of protein that helps create an immune response by targeting infections and swelling.

When you don’t get enough sleep, your body struggles to create enough cytokines.

Your body’s normal cellular processes get interrupted as well, creating a domino effect where a weaker immune system is fighting to protect an already weaker body.

And because some cytokines also help regulate sleep, the longer you go without enough sleep, the harder it is for you to raise your cytokine levels again and get healthy.

T-Cells Depend On Sleep To Properly Function

T Cell Activation

T-cells can be thought of as your body’s soldiers.

Whenever something like a virus enters your body, the immune system sends T-cells to investigate.

If the T-cells recognize the foreign cells as a germ, they activate their “weapons” called integrins.

Like cytokines, integrins are a type of protein. But integrins have an extremely specific role in the immune system: they help your T-cells work properly.

The T cells rely on integrins to attach to their targets, such as virus-infected cells.

We still don’t know exactly how T-cells activate these integrins. However, some studies have shown it might have something to do with the cytokines your T-cells produce.

A couple researchers took a deeper look.

In the first part of their study, they found some molecules actually stop your T cells from activating integrins. And when this happens, your T cells cannot attach to the infected or inflamed cells properly!

So, the researchers kept studying..

They knew that during sleep, there were lower levels of at least three of the troublesome molecules. They wondered if sleeping would help T-cells work better.

When the results came in, they found sleep deprivation does in fact lead to T-cells not activating integrins properly!

Other Ways Sleep Deprivation Affects Your Immune System

In an older study, researchers looked at how sleep deprivation affects your immune system.

The result was as expected..

Lack of sleep leads to a higher level of infection and a weaker immune system.

The study also showed these effects aren’t always noticeable after just one night of little or no sleep.

Rather, the longer you go without getting enough sleep, the weaker your immune system gets until it’s noticeable even without testing.

For example, one night of bad sleep does not seem to negatively affect how well a flu shot will work.

But after just six days of poor sleep, your body isn’t able to use the vaccine to develop immunity against the flu as effectively as it would if you were getting enough sleep.

The same is true for developing natural immunity too.

A study found getting less than seven hours of sleep a night over two weeks makes you almost three times more likely to get a cold!

This is because your body isn’t able to create enough antibodies, the proteins your immune system uses to fight things like viruses.

Additionally, researchers found sleep deprivation makes it more difficult for your immune system to create antibodies for viruses, bacteria, and vaccinations you haven’t encountered before.

How Much Sleep Do I Need Exactly?

How Much Sleep

As you know, no two people are exactly alike.

You might be able to function properly with less sleep than others, or you might need more.

However, the National Sleep Foundation did a two-year study and came up with the following guidelines:

  • School-age children (6-13) need between 9 and 11 hours of sleep
  • Teenagers (14-17) need between 8 and 10 hours of sleep
  • Adults (18-64) need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep
  • Older adults (65+) need between 7 and 8 hours of sleep

Is there such as thing as getting too much sleep, though?

Yes! Oversleeping is just as bad for you as not getting enough sleep and can lead to a lot of the same health problems.

So, if you’ve made a sleep schedule mirroring your recommended dosage of sleep per night, don’t hit the snooze button when your alarm clock goes off instead jump right out of bed.

Fortunately, over time, you’ll find your body naturally adjusts to your sleep schedule, allowing you to wake up without the need for an alarm at all.

This is for the best as alarm clocks can also be bad for your health. They interrupt your biological clock, leading to sleep deprivation, which defeats the whole purpose.

So, take into consideration your lifestyle and the amount of hours that feel naturally healthy in the recommended range set by the National Sleep Foundation.

If you’re having trouble getting the required amount, try adding (or taking away if you’re oversleeping) 10 minutes a night until you get enough sleep.

Your immune system will thank you and so will your overall health and energy!

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