The immune system is pretty much your body’s superhero — it recognizes viruses, bacteria and parasites that are harmful to your body and fights them. And just like any superhero, your immune system must remain healthy to effectively fight off the invaders. So, keeping your immune system as healthy as possible is certainly in your best interest. But how do you do it? One of the easiest, yet oft-overlooked contributors to an optimal immune system: good ol’ quality sleep!
How Proper Sleep Boosts Immunity
It may sound too easy to be true, but quality sleep can work wonders for keeping you healthy. Here’s how:
- Sleep proactively fights infection by helping your body release more cytokines, the protein that targets infection and inflammation. Cytokines are produced and released during sleep, so without good rest, you’re robbing your body of the essential proteins that it needs to keep you healthy. One study found that people who slept less than five hours, or slept between five and six hours, were at a greater risk of developing the common cold than those who slept more than seven hours per night.
- When you do get sick, research shows that good sleep might help you get better faster. Ever wonder why you feel more sleepy when you’re sick? That’s no coincidence — there’s a connection between sleep and healing. Need proof? Scientific studies on sick fruit flies and worms have found that they sleep more when sick, too. Don’t be afraid to get all the sleep you need when you’re not feeling your best!
- Sleep gives you needed energy to tackle daily tasks that keep you healthy, like working out and cooking balanced meals. Physical activity, in particular, is a powerful way to boost your immune system, as it lowers stress hormones, that can otherwise lead to an impaired immune system and make you more susceptible to getting sick.
Getting Quality Sleep
So, you’re convinced that better sleep can improve your immune system. But how do you achieve it?
- Start with perhaps the most difficult adjustment: going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. While easier said than done, this will greatly increase the quality of your sleep.
- Put your phone, laptop and iPad away at minimum one hour before bed.
- Avoid large meals and alcohol approximately three hours before bedtime. If you have to have something to eat, try one of these foods or drinks.
- Avoid excessive caffeine during the day. Stick to one cup in the morning if possible, and stop drinking caffeine after noon.
- Keep pets out of the bedroom — if that’s not realistic, at least keep them off your bed. The shuffling of pets at night can cause minor sleep disturbances that can negatively impact sleep quality.
Is It Something More?
If you implement these tips into your daily routine and still find yourself constantly sleepy throughout the day, or if you’ve tried healthy sleep habits in the past with no luck, you may be suffering from a larger sleep disorder. Obstructive sleep apnea is one common sleep disorder, affecting 3-7% of men and 2-5% of women in the general adult population.
The common symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea are persistent snoring and chronic fatigue. If you experience these symptoms, as well as any of the other symptoms associated with sleep apnea, it’s possible that you suffer from the disorder. To know for sure, it’s a good idea to contact a sleep specialist to get the treatment you need. At Sleep Better Georgia, we have years of experience treating patients with sleep apnea — request a free consultation with us today to start getting better rest and improving your overall health.