Insufficient sleep is common in the USA, with up to 70% of adults stating that they obtain inadequate sleep at least once a week, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association. Sleep deprivation can have serious consequences, and has often been linked to a series of health concerns, such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity and cardiac failure.
A lack of sleep can also suppress the immune system, making you increasingly susceptible to illness and infection. Sleeping for the recommended amount of time can also have the opposite effect on your body’s immune system, giving it a very welcome boost and improving your well-being extensively.
Your immune system works best at night
While your immune system obviously works during the day as well, it is presented with a very unique opportunity to perform vital tasks at night. While you are asleep, your body does not have to contend with interruptions brought on by things such as eating and movement. As the workings of your immune system are very energy-intensive, it naturally takes complete advantage of the diminished demands your body has to contend with while you are asleep.
Since there is less cortisol in your blood at night, the immune system can detect and fight infections more readily. This may provoke stronger symptoms of the infection, such as fever, congestion and pain, to surface at night. Getting enough sleep can therefore provide your immune system with the boost it requires to put up a good fight against any infection that may originate in the body.
The immune system is very complex
Studies have indicated that vaccines trigger a decreased antibody effect in people who are sleep deprived. Apart from positively impacting the effectiveness of vaccines, sufficient sleep can also have an effect on various complex components of the immune system. When you are asleep, the immune system releases a range of proteins that are known as cytokines, which are required when you are fighting off an infection.
Additionally, sound sleep is able to boost the number of T-Cells in your body. These cells can be found on the frontlines of the immune system, where they identify and kill infected cells. When you sleep, these T-Cells’ ability to adhere to target cells improves drastically, rendering them increasingly effective.
Less stress keeps the immune system healthy
A lack of sleep can lead to increased stress levels, which, in turn, have a negative impact on the body’s immune system. Adults who sleep less than the recommended 7-9 hours a night typically report much higher stress levels than those who sleep at least 8 hours a night. When our stress levels increase due to a lack of sleep, the immune system’s ability to ward off illness is reduced considerably, making us more vulnerable to infections.
Cortisol, the stress hormone, has the ability to decrease the effectiveness of the immune symptoms significantly, as it lowers the number of lymphocytes in the body. By getting enough quality sleep, stress levels remain under control and the immune system remains intact to keep fighting off illness and infection in the body.
The amount of sleep we get can have a huge impact on our overall well-being. In order to keep our immune systems functioning optimally, it is therefore of vital importance to get enough quality sleep on a very regular basis.
How much sleep do you need to bolster your immune system? The optimal amount of sleep for most adults is seven to eight hours of good sleep each night. Teenagers need nine to 10 hours of sleep. School-aged children may need 10 or more hours of sleep.
But more sleep isn't always better. For adults, sleeping more than nine to 10 hours a night may result in a poor quality of sleep, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep.
Alaska Sleep Clinic is ready to help you improve your sleep and your life. Call us this week to speak with one of our board-certified sleep specialists.