Understanding How Sleep Affects Your Immune Health

The amount of sleep an individual needs is largely based on their age. According to The National Sleep Foundation, most adults need between 7-9 hours each night while teens need between 8-10 hours and babies up to 17 hours each night. How much sleep you get will allow you to feel your best as healthy sleep affects your mood, memory, concentration, learning ability, immune system, and even helps you to maintain a healthy diet. 

Healthy Sleep Patterns

Sleep affects your entire body. When you sleep there are a series of stages that you go through which include light sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep. When you sleep through these stages on a consistent basis your body and mind are able to reap the benefit of restoration which is critical to your overall health.

As mentioned above, the amount of time that you sleep depending on your age is essential to your sleep patterns. However, there are other factors to consider on top of your age. Genetics, daily activity, and your day-to-day schedule will all impact how much sleep your body needs in order for you to thrive. 

Sleep must also be continuous in order for it to help restore your body. This means that minimal disruptions are necessary in order to have a good night’s sleep. Interrupted sleep interferes with this natural cycle and often keeps people from REM sleep which makes an individual feel sleep-deprived. Brain fog is one side effect of not getting good REM sleep. 

Lastly, the amount of sleep you get within a 24 hour period also plays a role in getting healthy sleep. Your body is built with an internal clock that takes cues from your environment. One of the most impacting environmental triggers is light and darkness. When a person wakes up to natural light they are more likely to feel awake than one who wakes up to an alarm in a dark room. On the flipside, darkness or light dimming also initiates chemical changes within the body causing one to feel sleepy. A person’s circadian rhythms are partly regulated by these factors. When the timing of one’s sleep is established outside of daytime/nighttime cues, this natural rhythm is thrown off causing one to always feel tired even after they’ve slept. 

Signs You May Not Be Getting Good Sleep

  • Tired, irritable, fatigued
  • Always need a nap
  • Have trouble focusing
  • Sleep longer than usual 
  • Have trouble waking up
  • A desire for sex decreases
  • Have difficulty remembering things
  • Experience mood changes
  • Feel anxious, depressed, or paranoid
  • Stress levels increase
  • Crash at bedtime
  • Fall asleep in places other than your bed

How Does Sleep Affect Your Immune Health

There is plenty of research out that shows the effects sleep has on the immune system. One study revealed that individuals who were restricted to four hours of sleep for one night showed an average reduction of 72% in natural killer cell activity compared to natural killer cell activity in participants who had a full night’s sleep. Natural killer cells play a huge role in killing tumor cells and a reduction of activity is also linked to an increased risk of cancer and viral infections. 

During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines which help promote sleep. Certain cytokines need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation, or when you’re under stress. Sleep deprivation can decrease the production of these protective cytokines and in addition, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced when individuals do not get adequate healthy sleep. 

Understanding how sleep affects the immune system plays an important role in fighting against illness and disease. 


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