Do you notice you get sick more often during times when your sleep is suffering?
That’s because your sleep quality is directly related to your overall immune health.
Good sleep leads to a strong immune system, and vice versa.
This article will talk about how sleep can specifically impact immunity, the importance of getting a good night’s sleep, and ways to improve your sleep habits.
How Sleep Can Impact Your Immune System
Cytokines are proteins in our body that target inflammation.
While we’re sleeping, our bodies make and release cytokines to protect us.
Therefore, when we don’t get adequate sleep at night, we make fewer cytokines. This may impact how well our body can fight off an illness.
Additionally, research has found a lack of sleep at night, or disturbances in sleep, are strongly linked to increased levels of inflammation.
Numerous studies with healthy participants subjected to sleep restrictions demonstrated changes in cytokines.
When we have more inflammation in the body (from lack of sleep), our immune system can be impacted in a negative way (1).
Furthermore, antibodies that support immune function in the body have been shown to be reduced when we don’t get enough sleep at night (2,3).
Lastly, a small study found looking at the impact of a lack of sleep, found that disturbances in sleep causes the same reaction in the body as shown when exposed to stress.
Research has found a negative impact on the immunity during times of stress, and has found that stress can actually weaken the immune system (4,5,6).
Ultimately, numerous studies have found an association between sleep and the immune system.
To support your immunity, it’s important to focus on getting good quality sleep each night.
A relaxing environment can go a long way towards boosting your sleep quality.
The Importance of Sleep
We spend about one-third of our day sleeping, so it's important to make the most of that time.
Along with supporting the immune system, sleep impacts our health in several other ways. Those include (7):
•Brain health: Sleep helps us form and maintain pathways in our brain that allow us to create new memories, concentrate, and respond to something quickly.
•Metabolism & weight: A lack of sleep can cause weight gain by influencing the way our body metabolizes and stores carbohydrates, as well as causing an imbalance in our appetite hormones ghrelin and leptin.
•Heart health: Insufficient sleep has been linked to symptoms of poor cardiovascular health such as irregular heartbeat and an increase in the stress hormone in the body.
•Moods: Not getting enough sleep at night can cause impatience, irritability, and moodiness. Plus, it can leave you feeling tired and unmotivated to do certain tasks.
So not only is sleep important for supporting the immune system, but it’s also important for other key areas of our health as well.
Why People Don’t Get Enough Sleep
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of Americans don’t get the recommended 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night (8).
For some people, it’s a busy schedule or stress that gets in the way of a good night’s sleep.
Other reasons could be caffeine intake, brain activating LED lights, or children waking up at night.
Whatever the reason may be, if you’re struggling with getting good sleep at night it’s important to address the cause of the problem and find potential ways to resolve it.
Ways to Improve Your Sleep & Support Your Immune System
Below are some helpful tips for getting better sleep at night.
•Set a consistent schedule: It’s important to go to bed and wake up at similar times each day; even on the weekends.
•Limit food and beverages: Avoid drinking a lot of fluids and snacking before bed within an hour of bedtime. Additionally, avoid any caffeine in the afternoon.
•Avoid alcohol before bed:Alcohol can inhibit your body’s ability to sleep well at night, so it’s best to avoid it before bed.
•Limit light exposure: Exposure to blue light can impact the production of our sleep hormone Melatonin. Avoid exposure from cell phones, computers, or television for at least an hour before bed. If that’s not possible, use blue-light blocking glasses to help block the light.
•Change the environment: Keep your room dark, the appropriate temperature (it’s best to be on the cooler side), and use a sound machine if you need to block certain noises.
•Incorporate high-quality supplements:Using certain supplements can help promote a good night’s sleep for those experiencing occasional sleeplessness. Try out our selection of sleep aid supplementshere.
Journaling prior to bed is a great way to de-stress and allow your mind to relax
Sleep is a critical part of our health.
It’s important to make it a priority not only to support the immune system, but also to support your focus and concentration, positive mood, and heart health.
If you’re struggling to get a good night’s sleep, consider incorporating some of the suggestions above.
The better we sleep, the healthier we will be.
What’s one way you can improve your sleep habits?
Autumn Enloe, MS, RD, LD, CLT
Autumn Enloe is a registered dietitian in Minnesota. She has a private practice where she focuses on helping women take care of themselves through proper nutrition, supplement and lifestyle adjustments. She provides remote nutrition coaching and frequently posts free nutrition content and recipes at her website: www.autumnenloe.com. In her free time she enjoys chasing around her toddler, laughing with her husband, creating recipes in the kitchen, and practicing yoga.