According to a recent study published in the Journal Sleep, researchers from the University of Washington demonstrated a link between chronic sleep deprivation and a weakened immune response. Specifically, they observed a reduction in white blood cell activity in those consistently lacking sleep.
This helps explain why many people report getting sick when they’re sleep deprived. And it further emphasizes the importance of sleep when it comes to health. A compromised immune system increases the risk of developing diseases, such autoimmune disorders, allergies, and cancer.
Experts have long recommended seven or more hours of sleep per night to achieve optimal health. But according to the 2013 International Bedroom Poll, less than 50% of participants reported sleeping well most nights.
Sleep is impacted by many factors, which include stress, medications, illness, work, diet, and lifestyle. Thus, improving your duration and quality of sleep often requires a holistic approach.
Tips for Better Sleep
Below are a few tips to help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer:
- Set a bedtime and stick to it: Set a time based on how many hours of sleep you need to feel refreshed and the time you need to wake up in the morning. For instance, let’s assume you need eight hours of sleep. And you need to start your day at 6:00 AM. In this example, your target bedtime should be set at 10:00 PM.
- Create a relaxing bedtime routine: Take some time before bed to relax the mind and body after a long (and often stressful) day. Some ideas include taking a bath, reading a book, meditation, breathing exercises and yoga. Creating a comfortable sleeping environment is also important. Thus, keep it dark and cool for optimal sleep.
- Go offline: At least an hour before bedtime shut down your computer, put away your cell phone and turn off the TV. Electronic devices may stimulate the brain. The light they emit may also interfere with your internal clock. And reading a work email right before bed could be stressful.
- Keep it bright during the day: Light is an external cue for our internal clock. And the natural transition from light to dark in the evening is what signals the body to start producing melatonin, a sleep-regulating hormone.
- Eat plenty of protein: Eating a healthy balanced diet is important for good sleep and health general. But protein is made up of amino acids. And amino acids are the building blocks of hormones necessary for sleep, including serotonin and melatonin.
- Exercise regularly: According to The National Sleep Foundation’s 2013 Poll, consistent exercise was associated with better sleep. While spending hours in the gym is not necessary, moving your body more on a regular basis can help.
To Sum It Up…
Sleep is more than just rest. It’s a time for the body to repair and rejuvenate. And adequate sleep is necessary to maintain a robust immune system capable of warding off germs and preventing disease.
University of Washington Health Sciences/UW Medicine. “Chronic sleep deprivation suppresses immune system: Study one of first conducted outside of sleep lab.” ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/01/170127113010.htm (accessed February 2, 2017).