How Sleep Affects Your Immune System

I’ve seen people who get every cold and flu that’s making the rounds, yet who also eat healthy meals and get adequate exercise. When they ask for help to boost their immune system, after the traditional dietary questions, I ask about their sleep habits. In most cases, these people aren’t getting adequate sleep. They claim they have too much to do for that to happen, yet they end up spending days in bed, unable to get tasks accomplished. One of the factors for a healthy immune system that’s often overlooked is lack of sleep.

What happens when you sleep?

Understanding why sleep is important for good health requires knowing what sleep does for your body. Cytokines, a protein created by T cells, provides a strong immune response when infection or inflammation occurs. They’re created while you’re asleep. They’re also released during sleep. If you don’t get adequate sleep, not only won’t you make them, those that are made in the short time frame when you do sleep won’t be released.

You’ll eat healthier and maintain your weight better when you get adequate sleep.

People who are overweight or obese tend to be more susceptible to disease. It’s more than just heart disease or high blood pressure, it can include viruses, too. Lack of sleep affects your hormone balance between leptin, the satiety hormone, and ghrelin, the hunger hormone. It suppresses the creation of leptin and increases ghrelin. That causes you to eat more. Lack of sleep also tends to make you crave instant energy from sugar and highly refined foods. You’ll eat more and less healthily.

The body needs sleep to do its work.

If you lack sleep, it stresses your body, producing hormones like adrenaline, cortisol and noradrenaline. These are pro-inflammatory and can inhibit the effectiveness of T-cells, which stick to cancerous cells and cells that are infected with viruses. In order to be functional, T-cells require the ability to stick to cells. Sleep lowers the amount of stress hormones, allowing the transmembrane receptors that facilitate the stickiness of T-cells to function and giving more direct contact that boosts the immune reaction.

  • Not only is the amount of sleep important, so is the quality of sleep. Don’t sleep with lights on or the television. It’s especially important for older people who feel less rested after adequate sleep.
  • Not only does the stress response interfere with T-cell activity, but lack of sleep also increases the stress response. It triggers the release of hormones that are detrimental to your health.
  • To get the best quality of sleep, keeping your bedroom cooler is important. It’s important not to have too many covers. Your core temperature needs to be lowered to attain a deep sleep.
  • Just like scheduling exercise, you should have a sleep schedule that you keep even on the weekends. You should go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time every day to enhance your circadian rhythm.

For more information, contact us today at LIV Fitness

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