Many people, have experienced that a good night’s sleep helps body’s ability to fight a sickness. When it comes to your health, sleep is your armor and is a fundamental component for good sleep health.

Synergy Sleep offer a wider knowledge that exceeds the basic understanding of sleep and provide patients with an overall view of their sleep health. 

Research shows that people who are sleep deprived, or consistently miss out on quality sleep, are not only more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, but their bodies will take longer to recover when they’re hit with an illness. 

While stocking up on sleep can’t always prevent you from getting sick, it’s a key way to ensure your body is armed and ready to defend against what comes its way.

If you’re looking to give your immune system some extra support, here’s what you need to know:

Cutting Corners on Sleep, Your Body’s Defenses Are Weaker

Oftentimes, we write off sleep as expendable due to family commitments, grueling work schedules, time management and many other reasons.

According to current estimates, two-thirds of all adults in developed nations are not getting enough sleep. One of the many consequences of losing out on sleep is a weakened immune system.

Individuals sleeping 6 hours or less a night were more than 4 times more likely to catch a cold compared to those who were logging 7+ hours of sleep.

Entering our winter season the importance of sleep could not be greater because with every hour of sleep lost, the risk of catching a cold continues to rise.

I hear you ask, ‘Is there Anything else I should know?’  Well, the answer is yes, skipping out on sleep has also been shown to impact the effectiveness of one of the most important illness prevention techniques we have: vaccines.

Another study showed that people who slept fewer than 6 hours, on average, were far less likely to show the antibody response a vaccine is designed to trigger.  Sleep deprived individuals were 11.5 times more likely to be left unprotected by the vaccine than people who were getting 7+ hours of sleep.

There is much to learn regarding your sleep health and alongside Synergy Sleeps ethos of Working Together for Healthier Sleep allows patients to benefit from ongoing learning, which is why YES there is much more to know.

As sleep and immunity research continues to grow and you start to gain more knowledge of the importance of sleep, it becomes clear that sleep deprivation puts your body at a disadvantage.

When you get quality sleep, you empower your body to use every part of your immune system to battle any incoming or present threat. Don’t let your body head to the battlefield unprepared.

Your Immune System Ramps Up While You Sleep

Along with regulating your sleep and wake cycles, your body’s network of internal clocks helps manage your immune system and signals for it to kick into high gear while you’re asleep.

Although your immune system functions throughout the day, nighttime represents a unique opportunity for it to act at full capacity without daytime stresses interrupting its function. Common interruptions generally are the things we do every day for example meals, movement, or tasks.

The immune system requires a lot of energy to power its activities, so it takes advantage of reduced demands from the rest of your body during sleep.

Your immune system ramps up its nightly activity to defend your body, all that fighting releases chemicals, some of which cause inflammation. You tend to experience stronger symptoms—including fever, congestion, body aches, or sore throat—when your immune system is hard at work.

Sometimes feeling worse at night, or first thing in the morning after all this activity, is a sign that your body is working harder to help you get better.

In addition to ramping up nightly activity, the immune system changes its strategy as well.

Tactics at Night Change Your Immune System

Our immune system’s reactions are incredibly complex and have led to a growing field of research. What we already know is that your system is made up of a complex team of cells and proteins that work together to keep foreign invaders (such as colds or flu) at bay.

At night, they go on the offensive and work together to raise your defenses:

  • Turning Up the Heat: Your body has the ability to create a fever to help fight infection by deliberately raising your body temperature to an inhospitable level for pathogens (invaders) to reproduce. However, this comes at a high energy cost. Even a 1°C rise in body temperature requires a 10–12.5% increase in metabolic rate. This makes nighttime the perfect opportunity to use fever tactics because your body has more energy resources available when you’re powered down for sleep.
  • Prioritising Body Repair: Many illnesses cause your body to rearrange sleep stages (click here for our FAQs page) to increase the amount of time spent in NREM (deep) sleep while deprioritising REM. The benefits are two-fold. First, NREM sleep is primarily focused on body repairs, while REM is centered around cognitive benefits. A body at war needs more frequent repairs to recover. Second, temperature regulation is turned off during REM sleep and your body needs to remain in NREM longer to sustain a fever.
  • Releasing the messengers: Cytokines are a type of protein that act as the primary messengers of the immune system. They send signals throughout your body to orchestrate immune responses, turn on and off certain defense systems, and promote different phases of sleep, both produced and released during sleep, making it crucial for you to get shut eye when you’re sick.
  • Supercharging the Attack: Specialised cells, known as T-cells, primarily work on the front lines, where they recognise and kill infected cells. Like some animals, certain cells hunt best at night. Research has shown that sleep helps increase T-cell’s ability to ‘stick’ to target cells—making them more effective and lethal.

Even when you’re lying in bed, these systems are hard at work fighting a battle on a cellular level. Understanding how hard your body is working during sleep, can help you effectively prioritise your sleep health.

What Can I Do?

I am glad you asked. If you’re concerned and feel like you’re getting sick, keep an eye out for these signs of strain, and remember to compare them to your normal baselines:

  • Decrease in heart rate variability
  • Increase in resting heart rate
  • Increase in respiratory rate
  • Increase in body temperature

Keep in mind, even if you do start feeling under the weather, you’ll be able to bounce back faster if your body is well-rested. To promote better sleep the Synergy Sleep team ask you try out these useful tips (click here for our helpful fact sheets)

You can also support your immune system by being mindful of your daily routine and giving it the fuel, it needs to be prepared to take on any threat:

  • Stay hydrated
  • Stock up on immune-boosting nutrients (zinc, vitamin C, etc.)
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Eat a well-balanced diet
  • Make time for hobbies that reduce stress
  • Keep active

The beginning of flu season or the presence of a new illness may be out of your control, but by preparing your body and sourcing the correct sleep support and knowledge to take on any looming threats, you are already a few steps ahead. Prioritising sleep is key, and those 7+ hours can make all the difference in the battles your immune system fights for you.

If you require further assistance with your sleep health contact our therapists at Synergy Sleep (Click Here) or phone 07 3287 2385.  To have your doctor arrange a referral (Click Here)

References

Dimitrov, S., Lange, T., Gouttefangeas, C., Jensen, A. T., Szczepanski, M., Lehnnolz, J., … & Besedovsky, L. (2019). Gαs-coupled receptor signaling and sleep regulate integrin activation of human antigen-specific T cells. Journal of Experimental Medicine, 216(3), 517-526.

Ganz, F. D. (2012). Sleep and immune function. Critical care nurse, 32(2), e19-e25.

Imeri, L., & Opp, M. R. (2009). How (and why) the immune system makes us sleep. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 10(3), 199-210.

Evans, S. S., Repasky, E. A., & Fisher, D. T. (2015). Fever and the thermal regulation of immunity: the immune system feels the heat. Nature Reviews Immunology, 15(6), 335-349.

Smolensky, M. H., Reinberg, A., & Labrecque, G. (1995). Twenty-four hour pattern in symptom intensity of viral and allergic rhinitis: treatment implications. Journal of allergy and clinical immunology, 95(5), 1084-1096.

Prather, A. A., Hall, M., Fury, J. M., Ross, D. C., Muldoon, M. F., Cohen, S., & Marsland, A. L. (2012). Sleep and antibody response to hepatitis B vaccination. Sleep, 35(8), 1063-1069.

Prather, A. A., Janicki-Deverts, D., Hall, M. H., & Cohen, S. (2015). Behaviorally assessed sleep and susceptibility to the common cold. Sleep, 38(9), 1353-1359.

Jones, Jeffrey M. “In US, 40% get less than recommended amount of sleep.” Well Being 19 (2013)