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Although it seems forgotten in our fast-paced, to-do driven world, sleep has long been thought of as a healer, even before studies or research has proven it to be true.
In the following article, we will explore why sleep is important, how much you should be getting each night and how you can improve your sleep quality.
Science has proven that sleep loss impairs immune function
A study has shown that even limited sleep loss is associated with a reduction of natural immune responses as measured by NK (natural killer) cell activity and LAK (lymphokine-activated killer) cell function.
Research shows that sleep actually helps our bodies to create the immune cells we need to fight off pathogens. One study found that interleukin-7 (IL-7) concentration in the blood increased significantly during sleep. IL-7 helps to create immune cells such as T cells and B cells.
Another study found that sleep helps to shift the balance of IL-10 and IL-12, which are both involved in the regulation of the immune system and development of immune cells, to 'increase the efficacy of adaptive immune responses around the body'.
How much sleep should I get for better immunity?
The optimal amount of sleep for most adults lies between seven and eight hours of sleep each night. This will keep your immune system in fighting shape and also help protect your body from obesity, heart disease and depression.
However, more sleep isn’t always better. More than nine to ten hours of sleep may result in poor sleep quality.
How can I improve my sleep?
The quick answer is – create good daytime habits as they have a large effect on your sleep. We have compiled seven steps for better sleep to boost your immune system.
1 Stick to the same daily schedule
Regular sleep patterns reinforce the circadian rhythm and have several benefits. Firstly, it reduces the time it takes you to fall asleep and makes it easier to get up in the morning. Secondly, it boosts immune system function, improves alertness and sharpens focus and short-term memory.
Last but not least, a study has shown that sleep regularity is important for happiness and well-being.
Find a way to cut stressors out of your daily life. Stress can negatively affect your immune system and your ability to fall asleep at night and getting quality sleep.
If you’re feeling under pressure or anxious, try finding a new hobby, reading or taking a hot shower before going to bed.
3 Limit screen time
Televisions and other digital screens contain high concentrations of blue lights, which suppresses the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps make you sleepy. Therefore, make sure you turn off all screens at least an hour before going to bed.
4 Create a good sleep environment
Having a good bedroom atmosphere is critical for good sleep. A dark bedroom is best for sleep as it triggers the brain to slow down and stimulates the production of melatonin. Hence, block outside light
For optimal sleep quality, make sure your bedroom is cool.
5 Stay away from alcohol & caffeine
While having a nightcap may be popular, it negatively impacts your REM sleep phase, so try to avoid alcohol before going to sleep.
The same holds true for caffeine. Caffeine stimulates the nervous system and stays in your system for hours after ingestion. If you are struggling with your sleep, we suggest not to drink coffee, black or green tea and caffeinated sodas after 3 pm.
If your sleep schedule is interrupted due to a busy week or other factors, try adding two naps that are no longer than 30 minutes each. This has been shown to improve performance, alertness and mood as well as offset negative effects of too little sleep on the immune system.
7 Exercise regularly
Multiple studies have shown the beneficial effects of exercise on sleep quality. Hence, exercising is a great way to stay healthy and boost your immunity. Studies have also shown a positive effect of exercise on adults with sleep problems.
However, if you exercise vigorously late in the evening or right before going to bed this can be over-stimulating and result in difficulty falling asleep.
This blog post is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. The views and nutritional advice expressed are not intended for the purpose of providing medical advice. Please always consult your health care provider if you are experiencing any medical conditions. All content on this page has been thoroughly reviewed. Nevertheless, no liability can be accepted for the completeness and accuracy of the information.