Your immune system may be suffering if you are lacking sufficient shut-eye according to a new study. Even though small, the study shows that people who fail to get adequate sleep suppresses their immune gene expression due to chronic sleep deprivation putting them at risk of increased illness.
Eleven pairs of adult twins were found through the Washington State Twin Registry with an average age of 43 and eighty percent of them were female. The sleep patterns and routines of each set of twins were significantly different from one another.
For two weeks the twins sleep routines were tracked under “natural real-world circumstances.” Seven hours of sleep a night was the average amount among the pairs of twins with one twin in each pair sleeping about 64 percent less each day than their sibling. To assess the immune system’s white blood cell count indicating its functionality, blood samples were analyzed.
Discovered from the blood samples was the twin who slept fewer hours appeared to have a weaker immune system due to a lowered white blood cell count. This finding supports the recommendation that adults should aim for at least seven hours or more of sleep each night for optimal health. Over the century, Americans have lost about 1.5 to 2 hours of nightly sleep according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Up to one-third of adults who are working obtain less than six hours of sleep each night.
This chronic lack of sleep puts people in peril of weakening the immune system which in turn makes them more vulnerable to sickness such as a rhinovirus making them more likely to catch a cold than someone who is getting adequate sleep.
Why is sufficient sleep necessary for a strong immune system?
During sleep, our body regenerates itself and enhances the immune system pathway protein production. Sleep deprivation lowers the production of antibodies necessary to fight off infections. Being chronically sleep deprived can also result in a greater chance of feeling depressed along with a lack of energy to exercise, both of which can lower immune system activity and functioning. Even minor sleep disturbances cause a significant drop in the number of natural killer cells whose job it is to attack and destroy invaders within the body wanting to cause harm.
How to get a good night’s sleep
Sleep needs to be prioritized and is just as important as exercise and a healthy diet for enhancing health.
There are several things one can do to improve upon not only the number of hours of sleep but the quality too. The following 12 sleep solutions from the National Sleep Foundation can not only improve your sleep but can help you feel more productive, mentally sharp, emotionally balanced, and full of energy for the day.
Here’s how to achieve a good night’s sleep you deserve:
1. Have a bedtime routine – Going to bed and getting up the next morning at the same time helps set your body’s internal clock. One way to tell if you’re getting enough sleep is if you wake up naturally without an alarm.
2. Avoid sleeping in even on the weekend – It’s better to opt for a daytime nap to catch up missed sleep than to try to make up for it sleeping in till mid-morning. When our weekday and weekend sleep schedules differ, the worse you will feel.
3. Only nap if absolutely necessary – Taking an afternoon nap can be pleasant but keep it short – limit them to no more than 15 to 20 minutes early in the afternoon. Napping frequently or longer will make it more difficult to fall asleep at night.
4. Fight after meal drowsiness – Whether you find yourself wanting to nod off after lunch or dinner, don’t. Get up and find a stimulating activity such as going for a walk, calling a friend, cleaning up the house of picking out your clothes for the next day. Taking a siesta after a meal can make it harder to get to sleep later.
5. Keep your blinds and curtains open during the day. Having natural lighting throughout the house helps wake you up during the day helping regulating your sleep-wake cycle.
6. Get outdoors during the day – Taking time to be in the sunshine by taking a walk or during a break at work stimulates you to be and stay awake.
7. Avoid screen 1 – 2 hours before bedtime – Our electronic devices emit a blue light disruptive to getting to sleep. Turning the brightness down can help or just have a rule to put them away a few hours before turning in. Screen time also includes no late-night TV or reading from an e-reader.
8. Keep your bedroom as dark as possible – Block light by using heavy curtains or shades or use a sleep mask.
9. Limit caffeine and chocolate – Stop drinking or eating anything with caffeine or chocolate after 4 pm.
10. Avoid eating a big meal at night – Having an early dinnertime (5-6 pm) can help with your body’s circadian rhythm. Eating a heavy, rich meal within 2 hours of bedtime can result in heartburn and stomach problems.
11. Avoid alcohol before bed – It may be tempting to want a nightcap right before bed for relaxation but that often results in interfering with your sleep cycle.
12. Avoid drinking too many liquids before bed – Within 2 or more hours before bedtime, reduce the amount of fluids you consume to prevent making frequent bathroom trips during the night.