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Sleep Deprivation Compromises Your Immune System

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Did you know there’s a big connection between the quality of your sleep and the strength of your immunity?

Yes…this is true!

People who generally sleep six hours or less have altered immune responses in several parts of the immune system.

Sleep deprivation especially impacts the body’s white blood cells, which are a part of the innate (primary) immune system–the body’s first line of defense against invading pathogens.

In a study of identical twins, conducted at the University of Washington’s Sleep Center, it was found that the twin who got the least amount of sleep was more likely to get sick.

The lead scientist in the study Dr. Nathaniel Watson said, “What we show is that the immune system functions best when the body gets enough sleep. Seven or more hours of sleep are recommended for optimal health”.

Sleep deficiency can also increase inflammatory markers and overactive immune cells. The study showed for the first time that chronic sleep deprivation (less than 6 hours a night) shuts down the immune response effectiveness of circulating white blood cells.

Sleep is so critical to immune system function that sleep-deprived people don’t even develop a very strong antibody response to a vaccine.

Our complex immune system has three basic parts. Check them out here:

The innate (primary) immune system, which is the immunity you’re born with, and constitutes our body’s first line of defense against disease.

Its purpose is to disable or kill any invader before it enters our cells and reproduce.

Research shows that sleep deprivation has a strong negative impact on the innate immune system, which acts immediately to stop the spread and movement of foreign pathogens.

One study looked at exposure to the common cold virus among two groups…

One group had more than 7 hours of sleep, while the other had less than 6 hours of sleep.

The study found that the group with less than 6 hours of sleep was 4 times more likely to be infected than the group that got more than 7 hours of restful, restorative nightly sleep.

The white blood cells and immune proteins that work as barriers that kill contagious microbes in the body are weakened by sleep deprivation.

Numerous studies have looked at the health benefits of a good night’s sleep…

And researchers from Germany found that sound sleep improves a vital part of the immune system called T-cells, which are critical to effective immune response.

T-cells are a type of immune cells that fight against pathogens that intrude healthy body cells. These pathogens may include Covid-19, influenza, HIV, herpes, and cancer cells.

When T-cells recognize a pathogen, or an infected cell, they activate proteins that attach to the target cells, thereby blocking the pathogens from attacking the cells…

And, in case of a viral-infected cell, they kill it.

The researchers compared T-cells from healthy volunteers who either slept or stayed awake all night. The T-cells in the well-rested participants showed higher levels of activation than in the cells of those who had not slept.

For people who get poor sleep, stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline also tend to rise…

And these stress hormones also tend to dampen the ability of T-cells to fight off pathogens effectively, as well as raising inflammation levels.

These findings show that sleep has the potential to boost the efficiency of T-cells response, which is especially important considering that sleep disorders are also tied to mental health conditions such as depression, chronic stress, and even aging.

Better yet, during sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep.

Certain cytokines also play a role when you have an infection, or inflammation, or when you’re under stress.

Cytokines are actually a set of proteins that serve as chemical messengers. They tell immune cells what to do, as well as telling the body to produce more of the cytokines to help deliver a knockout blow to an infection, should need arise.

Sleep deprivation has been shown to decrease the production of these protective cytokines. Furthermore, infection-fighting antibodies tend to dip during periods of inadequate sleep.

Cytokines can be pro-inflammatory, leading to heightened inflammatory response from the immune system. This tends to worsen during shorter periods of sleep.

In severe cases of the flu or Covid-19 viruses, cytokine production can get out of control. Immune cells release cytokines that tell the body to produce more immune cells, and in turn, these new cells release even more pro-inflammatory cytokines–it’s a vicious cycle!

These excessive amounts of cytokines can lead to a phenomenon called cytokine storm, which means an overwhelming inflammatory immune response that can damage lungs and kidneys, leading to death.

Cytokine storms are one of the reasons many people die from Covid-19.

Sleep can help ease the effects of an over-reaction of cytokines, while protecting and balancing the immune system.

Still, this isn’t all…

Sleep helps reduce stress hormones while raising helpful sleep hormones such as melatonin.

Melatonin is a sleep hormone produced naturally by your body in the pineal gland of the brain…

And enough of it helps you fall asleep fast and sleep more blissfully.

Melatonin is also a powerful antioxidant, which may provide a variety of other health benefits, including strengthening the immune system.

Better still, sleep helps to lower inflammation, including CRP levels–an important inflammatory marker–while strengthening the overall immune response.

What Amount of Sleep is Enough?

It’s strongly recommended that adults get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep on a regular basis for optimal overall health.

Unfortunately, this target remains very elusive, with most adults getting less than 5 hours of sleep a night. This is considered insufficient, and it’s actually associated with higher ‘allcause‘ mortality, increased risk of depression, stress, infections, weight gain, and blood sugar issues.

How Can You Ensure Adequate Sleep on a Regular Basis?

There are some sleep guidelines that have been found to work for most people and you can try them out:

  • Try to go to bed at around the same time every night and get up routinely at the same time.

You see, getting in sync with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle is one of the most important strategies for achieving good sleep.

If you keep a regular sleep schedule–going to bed and getting up at the same time each day–you’ll feel much more refreshed and energized than if you sleep the same number of hours, but at different times. Consistency is vitally important.

Sticking to a consistent sleep-wake schedule helps set your body’s internal clock and optimize the quality of your sleep.

Start by setting a realistic bedtime that will work with your lifestyle…

Choose as time when you normally feel tired, so that you don’t toss and turn. If you’re getting enough sleep, you should wake up naturally without an alarm.

Avoid sleeping in–even on weekends or nights you’ve stayed up late. It can be tempting to oversleep on weekends, but even a couple hours difference in wake time disrupts your internal clock.

The more your weekend/weekday sleep schedules differ, the worse the jet-lag-like symptoms you’ll experience.

If you want to make up for a late night, opt for a daytime nap rather than sleeping in. This strategy allows you to pay off your sleep debt without disturbing your natural sleep-wake rhythm.

And, be smart about napping–limit it to 15-20 minutes, and if possible, do them in the early afternoon.

Fight after-dinner drowsiness

If you find yourself getting sleepy way before your regular bedtime, get off the couch and do something mildly stimulating to avoid falling asleep or dozing off.

If you give into the drowsiness, you may overdo it only to wake up later in the night and have trouble falling back asleep.

Try these tips as well:

  • Avoid too much alcohol or heavy meals just before bed
  • Avoid intense workouts right before bedtime
  • Get plenty of exercise during the day
  • Soak up sunshine daily
  • Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, 6 hours to bedtime
  • Try to ease stress, and possibly get a pre-bedtime meditation
  • Avoid the blue screens–your phone, computer, etc

These tips will help you optimize your sleep so you can be productive, mentally sharp, emotionally balanced, and full of energy, all day long.

And in case the foregoing protocol doesn’t yield enough sleep, don’t curse or lament…

Because there’re healthy sleep supplements containing natural melatonin that will send you to dreamland and keep you there for the better part of the night.

Get yourself Liposomal Melatonin based sleep supplements…

They are clinically proven to work the best!

This related article will help deepen your knowledge about getting restorative sleep:

And if you find the posts useful, share them widely to promote good sleep-health for an optimally productive world.

To your life in dreamland!

I heartily appreciate your time on this site.

Stay tuned for more…

Publisher’s Note

This article is for general health education, and does not purport to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any disease. As always, consult your professional healthcare giver.