How Does Sleep Boost Immunity?

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Most people have experienced the effects of a good night’s sleep on the body’s ability to fight a sickness. When it comes to your health, sleep is your armour. Research shows that people who are sleep deprived, or consistently miss out on quality sleep, are not only more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, but their bodies take longer to recover when they’re hit with an illness.

While stocking up on sleep can’t always prevent you from getting sick, it’s a key way to ensure your body is armed and ready to defend against what comes its way. If you’re looking to give your immune system some extra support, here’s what you need to know:

Your Defenses Are Weaker If You Cut Corners on Sleep

Sometimes we write off sleep as expendable. However, one of the many consequences of losing out on sleep is a weakened immune system. Research shows that individuals sleeping 6 hours or less a night were more than 4 times more likely to catch a cold compared to those who were logging 7+ hours of sleep. With every hour of sleep lost, the risk of catching a cold continued to rise.

How Sleep Affects T Cells

T Cells are a specific type of white blood cell that are of key importance in immunity and tailoring the body's response to new pathogens. Recent research has shown that sleep has a marked effect on the ability of T Cells to act effectively as part of the body's immune response.

Your Immune System Ramps Up While You Sleep

Along with regulating your sleep, your body’s network of internal clocks helps manage your immune system and signals for it to kick into high gear while you’re asleep. Although your immune system functions throughout the day, nighttime represents a unique opportunity for it to act while you aren't interrupting it with meals, movement, or tasks.

Your immune system requires a lot of energy to power its activities, so it takes advantage of reduced demands from the rest of your body during sleep. As your immune system ramps up its nightly activity to defend your body, all that fighting releases chemicals, some of which cause inflammation. As a result, you tend to experience stronger symptoms - including fever, congestion, body aches, or sore throat - when your immune system is hard at work. Sometimes feeling worse at night, or first thing in the morning after all this activity, is a sign that your body is working harder to help you get better. In addition to ramping up nightly activity, your immune system changes its strategy as well.

Although there are obviously many nutritional factors that affect your immune system, getting a good night's sleep is important for keeping the body's defenses at their optimum level.