July 27, 2018
Sleep Deprivation & the Immune System
You can’t remember the last time you got a good night’s sleep. You find yourself getting sick quite frequently, catching a cold or flu, or generally just feeling under the weather. You chalk it up to having to run around for your busy schedule and the fact that you go to bed at a different time every night, but you’re not quite sure what’s really causing you to feel run down all the time.
Multiple studies have confirmed it: a lack of sleep wreaks havoc on your immune system and reduces your body’s ability to fight infections. The consequence is both a greater chance of becoming sick when exposed to a virus, as well as a more difficult time recovering when you’ve fallen ill. What’s even more alarming is that long-term sleep deprivation increases your risk for more serious chronic illnesses like obesity, diabetes, and hypertension.
What Happens When You Don’t Sleep Enough
Your body produces proteins during sleep that protect you from the side effects of stress, infections, and inflammation. A good night’s sleep ensures that your immune system is functioning optimally and is able to neutralize bacteria and viruses to which you may have been exposed. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body loses this system of defense and leaves you susceptible to catching an illness.
A 2017 study explored the results of sleep deprivation by taking blood samples from 11 pairs of identical twins, each with different sleep patterns. The results confirmed what we already suspected: the sleep-deprived twin had a depressed immune system and an increased inflammatory response compared to the twin that got sufficient sleep.
How Much Sleep Is Enough?
According to the CDC, one-third of adults are not getting the necessary sleep they need. Adults between the ages of 18-60 should receive at least 7 hours of sleep per night, and of course, more important than quantity is quality.
If you struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep, improving your sleep environment and bedtime routine can help you get better sleep. A few strategies to consider include:
- Create a comfortable, dark environment. Make sure your mattress and pillow are comfortable and that your room is as dark as possible.
- Set the temperature between 60-67 degrees. Your body naturally cools down when you sleep. Help the process by making sure your room is already cool.
- Eliminate distractions. Keep technology out of the bedroom, particularly before you go to bed. The bright light on screens can trick your body into believing it’s still daytime and inhibit the natural processes that prepare your body and mind for sleep.
- Try a relaxing activity. Read a book or listen to relaxing music, preferably outside of the bedroom. By reserving your bedroom just for sleeping, your body will associate it with that activity, making it easier to fall asleep when you are there.
- Keep it consistent. Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day — even on weekends.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine. Try to limit caffeine consumption to before midday and avoid drinking alcohol before going to sleep.
If you still don’t feel rested after getting enough sleep or are experiencing disturbances during the night, you may be suffering from a sleep disorder. The American Sleep Association reports that 50-70 million US adults have a sleep disorder that’s affecting their quality of sleep and ultimately, their health. If you’re concerned you may be suffering from a sleep disorder, it’s vital that you contact a sleep physician who will be able to diagnose your condition and provide effective treatment options.
Sleep Dallas provides custom-fit oral appliances as treatment for sleep apnea and snoring. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.