In order to improve your immunity, you can work on adopting a healthier diet, staying hydrated and keeping your motivation to exercise as often as possible. But there is also a fourth factor that you should take into consideration: a good sleep. Make sleep a priority for a better immune system.
If your immune system is down, then you’ll likely have poor sleep, but that applies in the other direction, too. So, as you can see, the connection between sleep and immune function is well-documented, and bi-directionally linked.
The quality of our sleep influences our health
Those with shorter sleep duration had a depressed immune system compared to the sibling who slept better shows a study made on identical twins. Dr. W. Christopher Winter, president of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine, and author of “The Sleep Solution” affirms that we are more likely to get sick if we’re exposed to a virus. Also, if we end up getting ill, poor quality sleep and its immune-suppressing effects could cause us to take longer to recover.
Winter adds: “Immune system function and sleep quality are so connected that you can do all these other things right like eating, exercising and de-stressing, but if you’re not getting the best sleep, you’ll still be at risk. Good sleep is not just nice to have, it’s absolutely essential to your health.”
Sleep – an immunity booster
Cytokines, the type of protein released by your immune system is the one key element in the equation. Think of these as your body’s go-to soldiers that fight off invaders and are enlisted whenever an infection is detected. They’re also a response to injury, and they cause inflammation as a way to kick off wound healing.
The production of these cytokines decreases, along with the development of infection-fighting antibodies when you don’t get enough good sleep, giving you fewer defenses against a virus.
A recent study found that the lack of sleep could even increase your risk of injury during exercise. This is because, during deep sleep, you secrete hormones that are crucial for muscle recovery, modulation of your inflammatory response, even how well you synthesize protein, says Winter.
You could suffer from the effects of an injury longer because of sleep deprivation, too, much like getting sick and having a slower recovery time due to poor sleep, he adds.
Do you aim for better health? Sleep more!
It’s worth the effort to look at your sleep habits to see if they can be made more efficient, even if you sleep fairly decently right now. Some people may be getting the right quantity of sleep — the recommended amount is 7–9 hours per night — but it’s the quality that’s lacking.
“We can handle some changes to our usual routine, but not as much as you might think,” she says. “When you go to bed only when you’re tired, you’re introducing too much unpredictability into your sleep schedule. And that can catch up with you.”
Avoid the temptation to get up and do something else, like catching up on email or reading the news if you have trouble falling asleep. Don’t get agitated about not being asleep if you find yourself awake. “As long as the body is relaxing and you’re resting, that can have a beneficial effect on your immune system,” concludes Winter.