How Sleep Affects Your Immune System
Cold and flu season is in full effect. Before you rush out to stock up on vitamin C and echinacea, consider utilizing something that you’re already doing. A full-night’s sleep of 7-8 hours for adults is needed to remain healthy. Let’s look at the science of how sleep bolsters your immune system.
What happens when you sleep
During sleep, cytokines are released by your immune system. Cytokines are proteins, and certain ones need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation, or you’re under stress. Without proper sleep, meaning the length and quality of sleep, cytokines production can decrease. Other infection-fighting antibodies and cells that are produced and repaired during sleep may reduce when you don’t get enough sleep.
What happens when you don’t get enough sleep
Research shows that when we do not get enough sleep, our bodies react like they do when there is a physical stressor like illness, injury, or stress. White blood cell counts increase like they are fighting off a disease. Sleep deprivation, even for one night, decreases the amount of proteins, hormones, and other disease-fighting chemicals that are produced during sleep that help boost our immune systems. With these decreased levels, our bodies are more susceptible to new viruses and bacteria we encounter. We may then be sicker for longer periods of time as our bodies don’t have the resources to fight whatever is making us sick like they could have with a proper night’s rest. Long-term lack of sleep can lead to obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
Too much of a good thing
Ironically, too much sleep can lead to its own set of problems. Adults who sleep more than 10 hours a night on a regular basis may have a higher risk of disease and other medical conditions. Too much sleep can also lead to irregular sleep cycles, difficulty falling asleep, and difficulty staying awake, continuing the cycle of a poor immune system.