Sleep – The Mother Of Immunity

12 Jun 2020

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When you spend your night tossing, turning, and struggling to sleep, you already know how you’re going to feel the next day – cranky, tired, and out of sorts. While on the contrary, a solid night slumber results in you being energetic, sharp, mentally agile, and ready to conquer the world. These drastic changes in our behavior, based on the quality and quantity of our sleep, indicate that there’s a more profound connection between our health and our sleep cycle. You may have read that sleep brings the period of regrouping, repairing, and rejuvenation that’s needed to maintain a healthy life. But what you may not know is how lack of sleep can adversely impact your health.

Sleep deprivation is a problem that is very commonly seen in people these days. Due to hectic lifestyles, millions of people across the globe are struggling to get sound sleep at night. While it can be managed if it occurs once in a while, chronic sleep deprivation can have some serious, long-term consequences. It holds the potential of draining your mental performance and can put your physical health at risk. One of the major risks associated with poor sleep is its adverse effects on the immune system. 

Decoding The Connection: How Does Lack Of Sleep Impact The Immune System?

When we are asleep, our immune system produces antibodies and cytokines that are used to combat foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses. The body also distributes T cells (cells that destroy other infected cells that pose a threat to the body) to the lymph nodes. With insufficient sleep, our body is unable to produce these essential fighting agents which results in a weakened immune system, leaving us susceptible to various diseases and many other health problems [1]. 

Apart from the inability to produce and transport T cells and cytokines, lack of sleep can also lower the white blood cell count, which is another indication of a poorly functioning immune system [2].

Lifestyle Conditions Associated With Sleep Deprivation

The link between sleep deprivation and chronic disease has grown scientifically and several studies have shown the long-term effects of lack of sleep. It has been linked to many chronic diseases including, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression.

  • Diabetes: Several studies show the link between lack of sleep and the development of type 2 diabetes. This happens as sleep influences the way the body processes glucose. Such studies also suggest that improving sleep quality can enhance blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes [3]. 
  • Cardiovascular Diseases: People with sleep disorders are more likely to experience coronary heart disease, stroke and hypertension, according to studies. People with sleep apnea (a type of sleeping disorder) are at an increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases [3]. 
  • Obesity: People who are unable to sleep for long hours often experience metabolic changes that could lead to obesity. This happens because our body secretes hormones while we sleep to regulate our appetite, metabolism, and glucose processing. Lack of sleep can disrupt the secretion of these hormones and increases midnight cravings [3]. 
  • Depression: The relation between sleep deprivation and depression is very commonly known. Researches have shown that people who sleep for less than five hours often suffer from stress, anger issues, mental exhaustion, and self-doubt, which later leads to depression [3]. 

Tuck Into Immunity Enhancing Sleep

Now that we’ve established the fact that sound sleep is extremely important to preserve the body’s defenses, here are a few takeaway tips for you to get good night sleep [5].

  • Stick to a particular sleep schedule (even on weekends). It helps fix your biological clock.
  • Be smart about napping. Avoid long naps, especially in the afternoon, as it can keep you up late. 
  • Expose yourself to the morning sunlight.
  • Leave your stress behind. Worrying about your problems at night won’t help, practice mindfulness instead. Shortly before bedtime, try a calming, and relaxing your mind. Relaxing strategies like deep breathing, meditation, and yoga can help you get better sleep at night.
  • Avoid screens (mobile phones, laptops, televisions) 1-2 hours before your bedtime. 
  • Keep the room lights as dim as possible. 
  • Limit your caffeine intake.
  • Avoid big meals at night.
  • Make sure your bed is comfortable.
  • Keep the room temperature moderate. A room too hot or too cold can disrupt your sleep.
  • Exercising during the day will keep your body healthy and will help you sleep better at night.

References: 

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5768894/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3256323/
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/chronic_disease.html
  4. https://www.unitypoint.org/livewell/article.aspx?id=4ddbe629-2e3b-4a0a-a7d9-2ace6c62445c#:~:text=Lack%20of%20sleep%20can%20lead,cardiovascular%20disease%2C%20obesity%20and%20depression.
  5. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/sleep/getting-better-sleep.htm

 

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