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We all know sleep is important — and that there are consequences to not getting enough. But missing out on the recommended seven to nine hours of shut-eye each night does more than make you feel groggy and grumpy. From weight gain to bloodshot eyes to potential heart failure, there’s more of a connection between sleep and your health than you might realize.
When it comes to your health, sleep plays an important role. Sleep and the immune system are inherently linked. While additional sleep won’t necessarily prevent you from getting sick, consistently skimping on sleep can unexpectedly affect your immune system, leaving you susceptible to a bad cold or case of the flu. To stay healthy and avoid COVID-19, you need to understand how to improve your immune system through sleep.
How To Boost Your Immune System Naturally
It’s no secret that inadequate sleep may increase your risk of getting sick, but do you know exactly how changing the amount of sleep you get affects your immune system? Most adults should get at least seven hours of sleep per night to avoid putting your health at risk, but each individual is unique.
Although there are plenty of methods on how to improve your immune system, sleep is one of the most effective. If you’re trying to learn how to boost your immune system naturally, then try getting more rest. In one study of healthy adults, those who slept fewer than six hours each night were more likely to catch a cold than those who slept six hours or more each night.
3 Unexpected Ways Sleep Impacts Your Immune System
1. Fewer Cytokines
Cytokines are a type of protein that targets infection and inflammation, effectively creating an immune response. This protein is produced and released throughout your body while you sleep — which means without sufficient sleep, you won’t be producing enough cytokines to fight off viruses that make you sick. In addition, chronic sleep deprivation can make the flu vaccine less effective by reducing your body’s ability to respond with antibodies.
2. Less Effective T Cells
T cells (T lymphocytes) are one of the most important components of the adaptive immune system. It’s a specialized cell that eliminates pathogens by preventing their growth. This “killer T cell” targets and kills infected host cells. When you don’t get enough sleep, there’s an increased level of stress hormones and pro-inflammatory molecules in your body. This inhibits the stickiness of a class of adhesion molecules called integrins which prevents T cells from being able to get in direct contact with virus-infected cells, according to Dr. Stoyan Dimitrov, a researcher at the University of Tübingen in Germany. This renders the T cells less effective, which makes your immune system’s response weaker.
3. Decrease Immune System Memory Creation
It’s been proven that sleep increases your brain’s ability to store memories. Now, it’s been proven that your immune system stores memory when you sleep, too. Hormones secreted by the endocrine system during sleep cements an immune memory. Immune memory is when your immune system recognizes an antigen it’s seen before and is then able to kickstart the appropriate immune response. The quicker your body remembers antigens, the less likely you’ll feel symptoms. When you sleep, antigen-presenting cells pass information to T cells, which is key to immune memory creation and the responsiveness of your adaptive immune system.
How Much Sleep Do You Need For Your Immune System?
As you can see, adequate rest can strengthen your natural immunity. For your immune system to stay healthy, you need at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Sufficient rest enables your immune system to fight sickness and protect you from other health issues including heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
Are You Getting Sufficient Sleep?
Sleep and the immune system are inherently linked, so if you’re constantly feeling under the weather or you’re worried about getting sick, then you might need to hit the hay. If you’re learning how to improve your immune system, start with your sleep schedule and bedroom. Establishing a bedtime routine can help with insomnia, but if you’re still struggling then take a look at your sleep environment. Everything from how dark your bedroom is to your mattress can affect your quality of sleep and your immune system.