Nobody likes getting sick. Fortunately, your immune system works diligently to fight against harmful invaders. Alas, sometimes the stresses of daily living take a toll on the immune system, leaving you much more susceptible to illness. We all know that eating a healthy diet, smoking cessation, and drinking plenty of fluids are great steps toward proper immune system health. However, we often forget that adequate sleep is a necessary part of holistic health.

What Happens While We Sleep?

Although you might not know it, your body is doing work while your brain sleeps. During the sleep cycle, your immune system produces and releases protective proteins (called cytokines) that help fight illness and infections. This is part of the reason why your doctor recommends getting plenty of sleep when you have cold or flu symptoms.

 

Without proper sleep, the immune system is not able to produce the number of cytokines that the body needs, and in addition, the production of disease-fighting antibodies is reduced which leaves your body without the degree of protection that it needs.

The Production of T-Cells

As if cytokines and antibodies were not enough, the sleep cycle furnishes the production of another immune booster known as T-cells. These cells adhere to and kill virally infected cells, thanks to the sticky protein that surrounds them (integrins). T-cells are best able to multiply, then seek out and destroy infections during periods where stress hormones are at their lowest, during sleep. Studies show that people who frequently sleep fewer than six or seven hours each night have a harder time fighting off infections.

Getting Decent Sleep

Plenty of people struggle to fall asleep at night, but adopting some new habits can help make it easier to stay asleep longer. According to the Sleep Foundation, developing these sleep-related rituals will help improve the way your mind approaches sleep.

 

  • Wind down a couple hours before you are due to sleep. Avoid any substance that might keep you from falling asleep, like caffeine, cigarettes, and alcohol.
  • Stick to a sleep schedule and practice getting into bedtime rituals to remind yourself that you’re going to sleep soon.
  • Keep your home brightly lit during the day and your bedroom dark when it’s time to go to sleep.
  • Ensure that your bedroom is comfortable by keeping the temperature optimal (60-67 degrees) and having bedding and pillows that are supportive and suit your specific needs.
  • Get moderate exercise each day, preferably a couple hours before your bedtime.

 

Bottomline: Getting sleep should be as important as eating a healthy diet, drinking water, exercising, and taking vitamins when it comes to your health. So sleep well!

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