As many of us begin to resume work and socialise in the age of coronavirus and COVID-19, looking after our immunity and our immune system is more important than ever.
Whilst scientists continue working on antiviral treatments, vaccines and immunisations and we edge down the long road towards herd immunity, it is essential to continue to protect ourselves and our families. As well as using PPE, hand washing
and social distancing, there is another line of defence you may not have considered: sleep.
Many experts are suggesting the public take a holistic approach to general health maintenance to help the human body protect itself.
While more sleep won’t necessarily prevent you from getting sick, skimping on it could adversely affect your immune response, leaving you susceptible to illness. Put simply: getting enough quality sleep boosts your immune system.
There is a clear linear relationship between sleep and infection rates with sleep providing clear benefits in strengthening the immune system. In a study run by University of California two sets of participants were given a dose of a cold virus directly up their nose. The group sleeping 5 hours a night on average had an infection rate of 50%, in those sleeping 7 hours or more the infection rate was 18%.
There are a number of complex processes in the immune system that take place while we are sleeping.
Sleep and Cytokines
Lack of sleep means your body makes fewer cytokines, a type of protein that targets infection and inflammation, effectively creating an immune response. Cytokines are both produced and released during sleep, causing a double whammy if you skimp on shut-eye. Studies have also proven that chronic sleep loss resulted in sleep deprived participants producing less than 50% of the immune reaction in response to a flu vaccine than their well slept counterparts.
Sleep and T Cells
Researchers have demonstrated the importance of good quality sleep time and time again, showing that a solid night’s rest can contribute to many aspects of physical and mental well-being. One study recently conducted by a team from the University of Tübingen in Germany found a mechanism linking sleep to the functioning of the immune system, boosting the effectiveness of certain specialized immune cells called T cells.
Sleep and recovery
“Sleep is the single most effective thing we can do to reset our brain and body health each day.” Matt Walker
While we sleep our bodies process toxins, emotions, memories, skills and information; it repairs and enhances muscles, neural synapses, organs, tissue; it creates and balances cells and hormones. There isn’t a single organ or human function that isn’t repaired, improved and reset every time we sleep.
If you are one of the many people struggling to sleep well at the moment, read some of our tips in TOP 10 TIPS, Sleep Snack Hacks and try our blog on Immune Boosting Tips and sign up for our newsletter to learn more about the Art and Science of sleep.