What to Know About Sleep and Immunity

Posted by Nicole on June 3

If you’ve ever skipped out on sleep for an extended period of time, someone concerned in your life might have said something to you like, “You really need to get more sleep, or your immune system is going to suffer.” Did you ever wonder if that is true? Do you need a full night of sleep each night to keep your immune system in tiptop shape?

Mayo Clinic says, “Yes, lack of sleep can affect your immune system. Studies show that people who don't get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold virus. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick.”

Sleeping adequately helps your immune system in the following ways:

  • As Mayo Clinic explains, “During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep. Certain cytokines need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation, or when you're under stress. Sleep deprivation may decrease production of these protective cytokines.”
  • As referenced in this study, your immune system requires you to sleep so that it can efficiently produce white blood cells called T cells. Indeed, T cells are involved with cytokine production. They also kills cells that are infected.
  • You probably are also aware that stress adversely impacts immunity. When you do not get sufficient sleep, you may be more stressed.

How Can You Get Better Sleep to Promote Immunity?

Now you know some of the mechanisms through which sleep can support your immune system. But how can you improve your sleep so that your immune system gets that much-needed support?

For starters, you are going to want to make sure you are sleeping according to a consistent schedule. Try to go to bed and get up each day at the same times. If you do not have enough time for a full night of sleep each night, it may be time to reconsider your priorities and cut back on some of your morning or evening commitments.

You also should mind your sleep hygiene. That means no big or spicy meals before bed, no late night caffeine or alcohol, and no stressful activities right before sleep if possible. You also should try and filter blue light from your devices at night.

Having a soothing late night routine can go a long way toward helping you relax and nod off. Figure out what is most calming to you, whether it be a warm bath or an engrossing novel. The key is to try and get your mind off of the problems of the day while getting your body into a relaxed state.

As for your bedroom, make sure that your mattress and pillow offer the healthy support you need. Block out bright lights from outside, and do your best to soundproof your room. Playing white noise may help, since it can help screen out disruptive noises.

Now you know more about the relationship between immunity and sleep. When you get the sleep you need, you are less stressed, and your body can more efficiently produce T cells and cytokines. So, it is well worth it to make some adjustments to your lifestyle if you need to in order to get adequate rest.