Do you notice you get sick more often during times when your sleep is suffering?

That’s because how well we sleep and and how much sleep we get can impact the immune system.

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 and fights infection.

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 acute and chronic inflammation.

Numerous studies with healthy participants subjected to sleep restriction or sleep deprivation demonstrated changes in cytokines.

When we have more inflammation in the body, our immune system can be impacted in a negative way (1).

Furthermore, antibodies that fight off infection 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 our immunity, it’s important to focus on getting adequate sleep each night. 


The Importance of Sleep

We spend about one-third of our day sleeping; and for good reason. 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 hypertension, 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 our immune system, but it’s also important for other 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 or working out in the late afternoon, the room environment not being dark or the right temperature, or children waking up at night. 

Whatever the reason may be, if you’re struggling with getting enough 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 

  • 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 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. Try out our selection of sleep aid supplements here

 

Conclusion 

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, moods, 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?

 

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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.comIn her free time she enjoys chasing around her toddler, laughing with her husband, creating recipes in the kitchen, and practicing yoga.