In our previous post, we talked about how good sleep keeps our natural killer cells able to identify and remove potential viruses and diseases that are detrimental to our health. Here, we’ll continue sharing our knowledge base and dive deeper into how sleep helps boost our immunity.
It is during sleep, including deep, non-REM sleep: stages 3&4, where the brain and the body cooperate to recharge the immune system, thereby creating more of our critical immune factors, such as our natural killer cells.
What studies conducted in the past have discovered is that upon getting good quality and quantity of sleep, our bodies show a more powerful sensitivity to our immune factors. They become more receptive to the command of immune instructions the next day. No wonder we become a far more robust organism from an immune perspective when we wake up the next morning.
Real-world implications of sleep and its direct effect on your immunity may be demonstrated through your annual flu vaccination. A study conducted several years ago took a group of healthy individuals and allowed them to sleep normally for 5-6 days, while simultaneously taking another group and limiting them to only four hours of sleep a night for 6 nights. At the end of that one week, everyone was subjected to a flu shot. The lab then measured the size of the antibody response in order to gauge how successful the flu shot was in terms of immunization.
What the study found was that the individuals who were not getting sufficient sleep were receiving less than 50% of the normal antibody response, making that flu shot far less effective as a consequence. What this means to you in terms of your daily life, is that if you are not getting the right amount and quality of sleep in the week leading up to that flu shot, it may not be as effective in successfully immunizing you for the incoming flu season. Of course, these results may have implications for future vaccinations for other types of viruses that we’re becoming aware of.
One study took this even further. They gathered a group of individuals and in the week before bringing them into the lab, they measured their sleep using a sleep tracking device, and then quarantined them. Upon quarantine, they deliberately squirted the active rhino virus up their nostrils.
What they found was that when they bucketed these individuals based on the amount of sleep they were getting in the week prior (i.e. 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 hours), the amount of sleep they got was was directly proportional to their rate of vulnerability to infection. In fact, relative to those who were getting 7 or 8 hours of sleep a night, the group who was sleeping only 5 hours every night were more than 50% more likely to become infected by the cold.
In other words, what this study demonstrated is that if you’re getting sufficient sleep, you become far more resilient, and far less likely to become infected. Why? Because your immune system is more robust and is able to fight off the infection at an early stage, thus you don’t get a full blown infection.
If you, like many of us, have been developing a heightened state of anxiety over world events and the news, maybe we should all try sleeping on it?
Light-heartedness aside, we hope this helped lend some insight into the immunity- boosting benefits of sleep, and why we should all be making time to prioritize it.
Stay tuned for our next article on how sleep affects our hormones!
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