What role does sleep play in immunity?
While we sleep the body produces and releases cytokines. This is a type of protein that targets infection and inflammation. Thus creating an immune response. So, if you are not sleeping the recommended level of sleep then your body is not getting the opportunity to produce this important protein to fight off infection.
How Much Sleep do I Need?
Research, Sleep & Immunity!
When working with families I often refer to the book, Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker. Walker is a renowned sleep neurologist and in his book, he brings us through clinical research the looks at the mysterious world of sleep in a way that everyone can understand. He cites examples that relate the research to our own day to day lives – making it all relevant and real.
In a section of the book, he looks at the role of sleep in immune response and fighting infection. Walker looks at a study that was conducted where those involved were infected with a cold in a controlled setting. The study found that the people who had less sleep prior to infection were more likely to become sick following infection. Specifically, those who slept 5 hours on average were 50% more likely to become infected and those sleeping 7 hours or more were at an infection rate of just 18%. So the findings of this study were clear. The less sleep the participants had the more likely they were to become ill. Walker goes on to state that prolonged sleep deprivation is recognised as being an issue however he looks at how just a few nights of shorter sleep phases can negatively impact immunity.
So, what Walker references here is very relevant to what we now know about the role that sleep plays in the production of cytokines. Without adequate levels of sleep, this protein is not getting the opportunity to be produced at its optimum level and thus our immune response would be lowered.
5 Simple Ways to Protect Your Sleep for Better Immunity!
- Create a calm restful space for sleep. Declutter your sleep environment and ensure it is a space of calm rather than chaos.
- Remove all screens from your bedroom. Revert to reading prior to sleep time rather than endless scrolling.
- Set a regular bedtime. I like 10 pm! This might be early for some but by getting into bed at a regular time you help to set your circadian rhythm & your body will thrive on the routine.
- Don’t exercise too late in the day! I have a whole blog post related to sleep and exercise!
- Make sleep a priority in your home. If you are experiencing difficulties around your family sleep then take some time to figure out what could be tweaked to create more valuable sleep for the family.