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Sleep and Immunity – Are They Related?

Sleep-and-Immunity

Sleep has been the hot topic of debate and controversy for some time now. In this world of constant pressure and a million things demanding your attention, sometimes it becomes difficult to squeeze everything in the 24 hours you get. It gets very tempting to push back sleep especially when you don’t see any benefits attached to it. For most people sleep is an overrated activity nothing better than wastage of time! But is it? This article will help explain if and how important sleep can be for your health and if sleep helps your immunity stay strong.

Sleep Defined

Sleep is the most important function of your body. It is the period when your body slows down all the other functions and concentrates on the repair of the daily wear and tear that your body has gone through during the day. In simplest terms sleep can be defined as a naturally recurring state in which your body undergoes:

  • Reduced Muscle activity
  • Altered consciousness
  • Reduced sensory activity
  • Inhibited interaction

This prepares your body for the onslaught of the next day. It’s not just the physical aspect that sleep helps you recover from. During sleep, your mental faculties also get refreshed.

It’s important to remember that while getting more sleep than required won’t necessarily stop or prevent you from getting sick, but lack of sleep, especially over, some time will wreak havoc on your body.

Sleep and Immunity

The factor in your body that helps protect you from infections, diseases and otherwise is responsible for your general well being is the immunity of your body. Immunity takes care of preventing and limiting of infections. It is primarily of three types:

  • Innate Immunity
  • Passive Immunity
  • Adaptive Immunity

For your immunity to function optimally it needs optimal rest. It is only when you rest that you can work again. Continuous working tires you and your immunity out. While you are awake your immunity is awake as well. It is continuously working to keep those infections and inflammations at bay. Hence you need to sleep to provide your body and immunity the window period to refresh and rejuvenate. The question that now arises is how does the body refresh and rejuvenate its immunity during sleep?

Your body is a complex mechanism. During sleep not only does your body concentrate on gearing up for the next day it is also busy producing certain antigens to protect you from the foreign bodies. Your immunity system becomes stronger when it is well-rested. During sleep, the immunity with the help of “T – Cells” produces a protein known as “Cytokines”. It is these cytokines that are responsible for fighting off infections and inflammations in your body.

What Are T-Cells?

As per Britannica T-Cells or T – Lymphocyte is a type of white blood cells and primary importance to your immunity. The T – cells are at the core of your adaptive immunity. Adaptive immunity being the immunity that “adapts” to the different pathogens that invade your body. It effectively streamlines your defense mechanism to suit the type of bacteria or virus that attacks your system. They search out and destroy the foreign invaders. In other words, T – Cells determine the specificity with which your immune system responds. Hence you can appreciate the importance of these T – Cells.

The T – Cells need to be mature to afford you their protection. Immature T – Cells are also known as T – Stem cells mature in the thymus gland of the body. These mature T – Cells then differentiate into different types and become active in your immune system.

Importance of T-Cells and Cytokines

T – Cells form the core of your adaptive immunity. They have two major immunity functions in your body:

  • Production of Cytokines: Cytokines are a type of signaling protein molecules and act as cellular messengers for your body. They enable the communication and interaction between your body cells and are responsible for:
  • Regulating Immunity
  • Reducing Inflammation
  • Fighting Infections
  • Aids Hematopoiesis

Hence cytokines are an essential component of the immunity system. When your body is not rested enough the T-cells of the immune system will produce lesser cytokines.

  • Integrins: Integrins are adhesion receptors. The T – cells of your immune system recognize pathogens and then activate these Integrins. This, in turn, enables the T – Cells to attach to the pathogens and effectively destroy them.

Effects of Less Sleep on Immunity

Sleep plays a crucial role in the T – cell functions and hence immunity. The basic problem comes when your body is not rested well i.e. when you don’t get enough sleep. Sleep not just helps in repair work but also aids immunity. How to sleep aids immunity are listed below:

  • Stress: During sleep, your body strengthens the T – cell functions. They are then able to produce enough cytokines and the Integrins to work efficiently. The main causes that interrupt the T – Cell mechanism include stress. The stress hormones decrease while you are asleep. Hence sleeping leads to more efficient T – Cells.
  • Gas Receptors: According to a study, the level of activated Integrins is considerably higher in people who are asleep than people who are awake. This is primarily because the Gas – coupled receptors are less efficient during sleep. Hence sleep enhances T – Cell functions and hence your immune system.
  • General: Apart from these specific immunity effects sleep deprivation also has effects on immunity indirectly. Less sleep increases your chances of:
  • Depression
  • Tiredness
  • Blood sugar problems
  • Heart diseases
  • Inflammation
  • Weight gain
  • Insulin resistance

All these mental and physical conditions stress out your immunity. Whenever your body is not feeling optimal your immunity gets thrown off gear especially when the reason is something innate and not a foreign object of particle. This exerts immense pressure on your immune system thereby compromising it over time.

Signs and Symptoms of Insufficient sleep

Ideally, you should be aiming at 7 to 9 hours of sleep as per Sleep Health Journal. Now that you understand the importance of sleep it makes sense to look out for the telltale signs of not getting enough snoozes. Some of these are:

  • Grogginess
  • Irritability
  • Tiredness
  • Poor judgment
  • Constant Yawning
  • Depression

Common Causes of Sleep Deprivation

It’s important to understand the underlying causes of not getting enough sleep. This will help you pinpoint the exact reason and work on it to improve your sleep quotient and hence your immunity. The causes are generally lifestyle-related and not chronic causes and hence easily rectified. Some common causes of not getting enough sleep are:

  • Choice
  • Illness
  • Work
  • Stress
  • Sleeping Disorder
  • Medications
  • Sleeping Environment
  • Poor Diet

Tips to Help You Sleep Better

You just like everybody else will want your immunity to be top-notch. After understanding how pivotal your sleep is to your immunity level you must be keen to catch up with those sleepy hours. Some helpful tips to get you to sleep better are:

  • Aromatherapy and relaxation
  • De-stressing and unwinding
  • Keeping all entertainment to an hour before bedtime
  • Avoid taking caffeine and other stimulants at least a couple of hours before sleeping
  • Making sure you have a good sleeping environment with no light and quiet surroundings

Certain Questions Answered about Sleep and Immunity

Will Sleeping Better Improve Your Immunity?

Yes, sleeping better is known to boost your immunity health. Boosting immunity is a threefold plan. It involves a mixture of a good diet, exercise, and sleep. Sleeping helps your immunity work efficiently and effectively.

Does Sleep Deprivation Lead to Autoimmune Diseases?

Sleep deprivation is a term used for prolonged periods of going with less sleep than is required by your body. Sleep deprivation makes your immune system go crazy. It can lead to it going on overdrive and hence triggering the autoimmune disease.

How Does Sleep Deprivation Affect You?

Not getting enough sleep has a lot of effects on your body. These effects can be both mental and physical. Some common results of sleep deprivation are obesity, depression, stress, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

Does Not Getting Enough Sleep Cause Fever?

Sleeping less will make your body and immune system tired. Your immune system will not be able to work efficiently or effectively under such conditions. Hence when attacked by an infection the immunity will not respond effectively leading to fever. So sleep by itself will not cause a fever but it can lead to fever by compromising your immunity.

Bottom Line

Immunity is your defense mechanism. As such you should take very good care of keeping your immunity in top form. One of the most important and pivotal factors to immunity is sleep. You should aim to give your body the sleep it requires to be able to function both optimally and efficiently. Remember a good healthy lifestyle begins from within. Taking care of your immunity will automatically lead you to take care of all the external factors crucial to good health.

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