A Vital Connection in the Age of COVID-23
In the age of COVID-23, it is more important than ever to prioritise the health of our immune system. One key aspect of maintaining a strong immune system is getting enough sleep. But why is sleep so vital for immune system health? According to recent research, the answer lies in the way that sleep influences the function of our immune cells.
A review article by Besedovsky, Lange, and Haack (2021) explains that during sleep, the body produces cytokines, which are proteins that help to fight off infections and inflammation. In fact, some research has shown that certain cytokines are produced more during sleep than at any other time. This means that getting enough sleep can help to boost the body’s natural defense mechanisms against infection.
In addition to the production of cytokines, sleep also plays a role in regulating other aspects of immune cell function. According to Irwin (2021), T cells, which are a type of white blood cell that helps to fight off infections, are better able to attach to and destroy infected cells when we are well-rested. Natural killer cells, which are another type of immune cell, are also more effective when we get enough sleep.
So how can we improve the quality and duration of our sleep to support our immune system? Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
• Stick to a consistent sleep schedule: Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on the weekends. This can help to regulate your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle and improve the quality of your sleep.
• Create a calming bedtime routine: Set aside time to wind down before bed, whether that means taking a warm bath, reading a book, or practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation.
• Keep your sleep environment comfortable: Make sure your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet. Invest in a comfortable mattress and pillows that support your sleep position.
• Limit caffeine and alcohol intake: These substances can interfere with the quality of your sleep, so it’s best to avoid them or consume them in moderation.
• Get regular exercise: Exercise can help to promote healthy sleep patterns and reduce stress, both of which can support immune system health.
According to Opal and van der Poll (2022), sleep deprivation can have negative effects on the immune system, making it less able to fight off infections. A study by Ren et al. (2022) found that sleep deprivation can lead to changes in immune cell activity and increase susceptibility to disease. Therefore, prioritising healthy sleep habits is crucial for protecting our immune system and overall health.
By prioritising these tips and seeking help from a healthcare professional if needed, we can support our immune system health and protect ourselves against illness. While there are many factors that can influence immune system function, sleep is a key aspect that is often overlooked. So, take time to establish a consistent sleep routine, create a calming bedtime ritual, keep your sleep environment comfortable, limit caffeine and alcohol, and exercise regularly to ensure optimal immune system health.