Want Better Immunity? Sleep on it!
Dr. Niveditha Navin
We know the importance of adequate sleep, but with blurred office hours, and a late-night culture, how many of us get the ideal 7-8 hours each night?
There is strong evidence linking sleep to immune function, which aligns with the popular wisdom, ‘sleep helps healing’.
The Sleep-Immunity Connection
Your immune system is a bit of an unsung hero, quietly protecting your from daily health threats, without you even being aware. The immune response actively fights infection, harmful organisms, and other environmental challenges that you are exposed to. There is no doubt that an infection makes us tired, often urging us to sleep. This is a sign that our body wants to conserve energy towards fighting the infection and healing. Nothing beats a good night’s sleep for a speedy recovery.
While you sleep, your body continues to work. It produces proteins called cytokines, that help ward off infection and inflammation. Sleep has also been shown to improve the effectiveness of immune T cells, which possess “immunological memory”. This allows the body to recognise a previous invader immediately, and mount a protective response faster the second time around. Effective T cell production plays a critical role to fight against infectious diseases, such as COVID-19, and other viruses.
Research shows sleeping for less than 6 hours per night makes you 4 times more likely to catch a cold. Sleep deficiency can lead to inflammation, and is associated with various diseases like diabetes, stroke, and neurodegeneration. Ensuring you have good quality sleep is essential to an efficient and effective immune system.
Follow these tips for a good night's sleep:
- Consistency- you may think that you can get away with “catch-up” sleep after pulling an all nighter. Unfortunately, your body doesn’t work that way. You need a good 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day helps your body create a routine that promotes better quality sleep.
- Avoid Blue Light- Our sleep-wake cycles are tuned to the natural day-to-night cycle of the sun. This is why even a small amount of artificial light at night can disrupt normal sleep. Put away your electronic gadgets around an hour before bed, as the blue light emitted from their screens stimulates your brain to stay awake.
- The Darker, The Better- We tend to have more restful sleep when the room is quiet, dark, at a comfortable temperature. If you have sleeping problems, try using blackout curtains, a sleep mask or earplugs to help create the ideal sleep environment.
- Restrict Caffeine- Limiting your caffeine intake from 2pm may improve your sleep quality, if you are caffeine sensitive.
- Listen to your body- turn in when you feel sleepy, do not fight your urge to sleep
About Dr. Niveditha Navin
Dr. Navin is a clinical research specialist, who holds a degree in dentistry. After completing her postgraduate diploma in clinical research, she has experience working as a clinical affairs specialist in the pharmaceutical industry. She is passionate about medicine and wishes to carve a distinct niche in the field of research.
- Besedovsky, Luciana et al. “Sleep and immune function.” Pflugers Archiv : European journal of physiology vol. 463,1 (2012): 121-37.
- Short Sleepers Are Four Times More Likely to Catch a Cold. https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2015/08/131411/short-sleepers-are-four-times-more-likely-catch-cold
- Besedovsky, Luciana et al. “The Sleep-Immune Crosstalk in Health and Disease.” Physiological reviews vol. 99,3 (2019): 1325-1380.