Good sleep is crucial for our everyday life. It affects our quality of life in many ways, including our performance at work, the efficiency of daily tasks, mental health, immunity from many illnesses, and more. We often ignore the power of good restful sleep, which increases sleep problems globally.
With the recent advancement in the sleep medicine field, many researchers prove that sleep affects every system in our body, including the immune system.
The immune system is a complex structure that gives protection from disease-causing pathogens, foreign substances, and various toxins. The immune system includes many organs (thymus, lymph nodes, and the bone marrow), antibodies, chemicals, and white blood cells (WBCs). It protects us from many life-threatening conditions and promotes healing.
The immune system maintains a balance between threats and responses in our body. When a potential threat occurs, our immune system responds in various ways, such as swelling, flushing, fever, pain, or tiredness.
How does sleep affect our immunity?
The relation between sleep and our immunity is two-way. A good sleep fortifies our immunity and health. Similarly, a good immune system helps in sound sleep. A lack of sleep for an extended period can cause many illnesses. Even inadequate sleep for a few days can cause reduced alertness, lack of judgment, a problem with memory retention, fatigue, and irritability.
Good restful sleep is crucial for the proper functioning of our organs. It also affects our immune system. Sleep strengthens innate and adaptive immunity, limits allergic reaction response, and enhances vaccine effect.
Sleep helps the brain to convert our learning into memory for long-term retention. During sleep, our immune memories strengthen as the immune system can remember how to recognize and respond to foreign antigens.
An adequate sleep permits our mind and other body organs to re-energize at night to fight the daily negative impacts with full alertness. Some immune system components become active while sleeping, such as cytokines release. Cytokines are the inflammatory response of our immunity against injury or conditions. When the body works to repair wounds or eliminate infections, it boosts our innate and adaptive immunity. So if we cut our sleeping time, our body’s circadian rhythm can’t reduce this inflammation or infection.
A night of good sleep increases the efficacy of vaccines by giving sufficient time to our body to develop immunological memories.
Sleep maintains our body’s circadian rhythm, which manages our reaction to any allergens. Lack of sleep or sleep disorder disturbs the circadian rhythm, increasing the chances and severity of allergic reactions.
Healthy sleep habits strengthen our immune system
A night of consistent, high-quality sleep is crucial to strengthen our immune system. Just like exercising and beneficial for our health. Sleep deprivation can affect our work, health, and relationships. It is scientifically proven that people who don’t sleep sufficiently or have sleep disorders fall ill frequently because of a weakened immune system. So to strengthen our immunity, we should include some healthy sleep behavior in our daily routine, including:
- Sleep consistency: You should practice consistent sleep by going to bed same time daily. Building a consistent night-time habit is crucial as constant sleep regulates the release and recovery of many hormones, which play a critical role in our body functioning.
- Sleeping environment: Ambiance plays a crucial role in our sleep quality. Our sleep is more restful in a dark, quiet, and comfortable temperature room. So try dark curtains, sleep masks, and temperature adjustments to create the ideal sleep environment.
- Light: Our body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm) responds to light. So when night comes, our brain releases melatonin, which helps us fall asleep. So any light during sleeping time disturbs melatonin release, and we can’t go to sleep. So, don’t watch phones, tablets, or computers before sleeping as their screen light interferes with hormonal release and prolongs falling sleep time.
- Bedding: A comfortable mattress and comforter enhance restful sleep. So change your mattress, pillow, or covers to more comfortable ones.
- Sound and noise: Any sound can hinder the sleep process, such as T.V., radio, watch-clock sound, or noisy fan. Blocking these noises by appropriate measures improves the quality of sleep.
- Avoid caffeine: Caffeine works as a stimulant on our brain and body. Try to avoid drinking caffeine-rich beverages a few hours before going to bed.
- A balanced diet: A change in dietary pattern to more healthy and nutrient-rich food improves sleep quality.
- Exercise: Healthy routine of relaxation exercise or yoga helps fall asleep faster and improves sleep quality. Try to avoid strenuous exercise near bedtime as it can cause opposite results.
These simple modifications in our lifestyle improve our health and immunity to fight against many infectious pathogens. So, sleep well and enjoy a better immune system for an extended period of life.
Dr. Navneet Sood, Clinical Lead and Senior Consultant– Pulmonology, Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Delhi