Adequate sleep is vital for good health, unfortunately very few people follow the recommendations of specialists on the necessary rest time. Research has shown that sleep can affect immune system, especially the lack of sleep or poor sleep quality, can destabilize the immune system and also can lead to serious health issues on a long term.
Consequences of Insomnia
Insomnia is a condition in which a person is unable to sleep. A person with insomnia may experience the following symptoms:
-He feels sleepy and tired throughout the day;
-He is always irritated;
-He has problems with focus and memory;
Lack of sleep, on a long term, can increase the risk of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Sleep is also vital for an adequate immune response. Lack of sleep can weaken the immune system, increase the body’s susceptibility to infections and impair the ability to fight against diseases.
Lack of sleep and immunity
Sleeping and feeding habits are governed by the circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is a natural process that controls the sleep-wake cycle. The sleep-wake cycle is determined by the complex interactions between the central nervous system, the endocrine system and the immune system.
During sleep, your body releases cytokines, which are essential for regulating the immune system. Cytokines are needed in high amounts when you are attacked by a pathogen or under stress. Cytokine levels increase during sleep and therefore, a lack of sleep impairs the body’s ability to fight against infections. This is also a reason why the body tends to sleep more while suffering from any infection.
How many hours of sleep do we need for an optimal health?
The US National Sleep Foundation recommends the following sleep intervals:
-Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours;
-Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours;
-Young children (1-2 years): 11-14 hours;
-Preschoolers (3-5 years): 10-13 hours;
-School age children (6-13 years): 9-11 hours;
-Adolescents (14-17 years): 8-10 hours;
-Young adults (18-25 years): 7-9 hours;
-Adults (26-64 years): 7-9 hours;
-Older adults (65 years and over): 7-8 hours;
The numbers above reflect the ideal amount of sleep under normal circumstances; however, there are certain cases in which people need more sleep, for example, while recovering from illness, radical time zone change, and so on.
Can good sleep improve immunity?
Poor quality sleep can damage the immune response, however, a good sleep can boost immunity. A good sleep quality helps to improve the efficiency of T cells. T cells are cells that fight off invading bacteria, viruses, or any foreign antigen cells as part of the body’s defense system.
Whenever a foreign pathogen enters the body, our immune cells recognize it and release a protein called integrin. Integrin helps T cells to bind to the foreign antigens and ultimately destroy them.
According to a study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, T cells activate integrins and also identify factors that may compromise the effectiveness of T cells in attachment to the target pathogen.
Hormones such as adrenaline, norepinephrine and pro-inflammatory molecules such as prostaglandins have been found to disrupt T cells from combining with integrins. The level of these stress hormones (adrenaline, noradrenaline) and prostaglandins decreases during sleep. Therefore, a good night’s sleep increases the efficiency of T cells and improves the body’s immune response.
A good night’s sleep should be a priority in every person’s life. Maintaining sleep hygiene, such as sleeping in a comfortable, dark, cool environment, and eliminating electronics at night can help you to get a good sleep. Regular exercise and avoiding too much caffeine and alcohol before the bedtime, are also vital for improving sleep quality.