Sleep is a vital part of our lives. We need our sleep in order to recharge our energy, set down our memory, and increase the function of the immune system. Without sleep, we set ourselves up for sleep deprivation, which causes disease.
While some believe that not getting enough sleep and getting sick is just an old wives’ tale and yet there have been studies showing that this is the case. Up to 70 million US adults don’t get enough sleep and it can affect the ability of the immune system to be ready to attack pathogens.
Understanding the Connection
A lack of sleep has been linked by research to numerous physical and mental health conditions, including those related to a poor immune system. Lacking sleep affects the ability of the immune system to protect people from getting flu, colds, and other infectious diseases. This can lead to more days off sick in bed.
The immune system is a complicated assortment of different kinds of cells and proteins that have as their goal the elimination of foreign substances, such as cold viruses and flu viruses. There have been many research studies indicating that the T cells of the immune system are reduced when we don’t get enough sleep. There is also a risk of increasing the inflammatory cytokines in our system, which results in an increased risk of getting an infectious disease.
This means that not getting enough sleep can suppress the immune function. You become more susceptible to all kinds of bacterial and viral infections.
Sleep Deprivation and Fever
It turns out that a lack of sleep affects more than just our ability to fight off colds and flu. It also influences the way the body responds to these illnesses once we get them. Normally, when we get an infectious disease, we develop a fever, which is helpful in killing off the pathogens. When we get plenty of sleep, our fever response is better. Fevers tend to be worse at night but if we don’t sleep, we can’t mount the kind of fever necessary to fight off infections and the infections are more serious.
Vaccines and Sleep Deprivation
There have been studies indicating that we don’t respond the way we are supposed to when we get a vaccine against the influenza virus. We develop fewer antibodies when we get a vaccine if we don’t get enough sleep. It also takes longer for the body to react to the immunizations we are given. This leads to an increase in susceptibility to getting the flu, even if we have been properly vaccinated.
Is Sleep Deprivation a Life or Death Problem?
It appears that a lack of sleep influences the way we fight off many different kinds of health problems. There is research to suggest that those who are sleep deprived have an increased risk of death due to heart disease.
The less we sleep, the higher are the levels of C reactive protein in the body. C reactive protein is one of the body’s markers of inflammation and inflammation can lead to getting a heart attack, stroke, or peripheral vascular disease.
Research also tells us that people who do not sleep have a greater risk of death from all different types of disease. Those who get at least seven hours of sleep per night have the greatest chance of survival while those who get six hours or less of sleep per night suffer from increased mortality.
How much sleep is necessary?
Some people function okay if they don’t get enough sleep while others need a full seven to nine hours of sleep at night to have an adequate immune system. If you are prone to getting infections, look into the quality and quantity of sleep you are getting, as it may be a major factor in why you are getting sick all the time.
Getting enough sleep
There are some good sleep hygiene tips you may wish to adopt. These include:
- Not exercising right before sleep
- Going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day
- Not eating a big meal before sleeping
- Avoiding alcohol before sleeping
- Keeping the room quiet and dark
- Avoiding stimulants before bed
The more you can do to get a good night’s sleep, the better your immune system will function, and the less likely you will be to come down with an infectious disease.(Source)
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