In these scary and uncertain times our immune systems are facing a potential unknown threat. This in itself is stressful which is not beneficial for the intricacies of our immune system response.
The good news is sleep is a key component to helping us feel better and supporting our immune systems year round.
Our immune system is our own built in army against the good, the bad and the ugly that we face day in and day out.
An immune response is activated when our immune system recognises antigens (bad guys. possible infection be it viral or bacteria) - things that can be harmful essentially to our body.
Antibodies (good guys) are made by our amazing bodies to remember this particular assault and hopefully protect us from getting this again
Sleep helps with your immune system and helps it work as efficiently as possible.
As it was explained to me- sleep is the half time break that players take when playing a sportsmatch. They need the break between each half to re group, assess what the issues are, hydrate, and take a minute to fire up and energise for the second half.
Sleep helps our immune system have a half time break. If we don’t get good sleep, particularly if this becomes ongoing, our immune system is affected and not as efficient.
The Sciencey stuff:
When our immune system is under threat it makes certain types of cells and chemicals to try to fight the assault. One of these cells are called T cells. Sleep boosts the production of these types of cells.
A study* published recently looked at this in more detail and found that those who got a full nights sleep reported a higher level of T cell activity versus those who did not get enough sleep.
Not enough sleep also has an effect on how efficient the T cells are in terms of reasoning to threats- making it difficulty for the body to fight illness.
Another important chemical that is made when we are faced with an unknown assault are cytokines ( sy-toe-kine-s).
By sleeping well- meaning that you are sleeping your way through our natural sleep cycle (https://www.nogginbrain.co.uk/what-happens-when-you-close-your-eyes-at-night/) - you are helping production of cytokines.
This is important as these guys provide an important supporting role to the bigger immune response needed against a threat - speeding up communication between cells and mobilising these cells in the right direction of the threat.
Broken, insufficient sleep can reduce cytokine production and therefore slow up our immune responses. Which is not what we want.
Ways to help you sleep better?
- Regular bed time
- Keep your room cool
- Stay off social media in the evenings- especially at the moment
- Make time to relax- we love www.calm.com for a good sleep story or some chill out music
- Write down your worries before you drift off
Dr Clara Russell.