Sleep like your immune system depends on it! (Because it does)

Sleeping well is synonymous with good health, and I think we all know how awful it feels when we are sleep deprived! 

Did you know there is a two way communication link between sleep and the immune system?  When we are sick, our immune system affects sleep in order to force us to rest. When we experience poor sleep or sleep deprivation, it affects our immune system’s ability to function well.

What happens during sleep

And while we may seem inactive during sleep, our brain and body are highly active. There is a glymphatic system in the brain that works to flush out all of the “garbage” that the brain no longer needs in order to avoid neuroinflammation. With insufficient sleep, this system is unable to do its job and the “garbage” piles up, leading to neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration(1). This system also clears the protein (amyloid beta) that is associated with the degeneration seen in Alzheimer’s disease, making sleep disturbance a risk factor. All it takes is restful sleep, your brain does the rest! Adequate rest also provides your body with the time it needs to return to balance, including balance in your immune system. Quality sleep can improve your ability to fight an infection and is associated with a lower risk of experiencing infections in the first place (1).

Tips for sleep hygiene

So, how are you sleeping? If your sleep isn’t stellar or you sleep but don’t wake feeling rested, there are a few things you can do:

  • Set up a consistent sleep routine
  • Use essential oils in a diffuser (i.e. lavender)
  • Wear an eye mask
  • Install black out curtains/blinds
  • Use a white noise machine if it isn’t quiet enough
  • Avoid eating 3 hours before bed
  • Avoid alcohol before bed
  • Avoid screens 2-3 hours before bed (or wear blue light blocking glasses if you can’t avoid it)
  • Avoid distressing news/shows before bed
  • Aim to get to bed by 10 pm

If the above list seems overwhelming, start with one change and slowly work your way through.  Perhaps just a few tweaks will improve your ability to experience quality sleep. There are also supplements that you can try if getting to sleep is still a struggle; however, individual needs and dosages vary depending on your specific situation.  I recommend you work with a health care practitioner to get the support you need. 

Sleep well and support your immune system!

1) Besedovsky, Luciana, et al. “The Sleep-Immune Crosstalk in Health and Disease.” Physiological Reviews, vol. 99, no. 3, 27 Mar. 2019, pp. 1325–1380., doi:10.1152/physrev.00010.2018.


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