Now more than ever it is important that we do everything we can to keep our bodies as healthy as possible! As if you ever needed another reason to get a good night’s sleep… but this could be it. Did you know sleep helps the immune system and a lack of sleep can weaken immunity, increasing organism vulnerability to infection. 

An article published by 7News that interviewed Dr Carmel Harrington stated “When we go to sleep at night, our natural killer cell activity fires up, and that gets rid of viruses, mutated cells and bacteria. It keeps us healthy in the short and long term.

“If we don’t get enough sleep, we’re not getting that natural killer cell activity, so we are more prone to catch colds and the flu.

“So, what we need to do right now – even though we are stressed and worried about the coronavirus – is to be diligent about our sleep patterns, and how much sleep we are getting.”

Sleep is a necessity that gives your body the time it needs to rest, repair and strengthen your body’s immune response. T cells play an important role in the body’s immune system and research shows that good sleep assists T cells in your body fight off infection. During healthy sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines which help promote sleep. Studies have shown that our T cells go down if we are sleep deprived and inflammatory cytokines go up. For example, a study published in ScienceDaily took blood samples from 11 pairs of identical twins with different sleep patterns and discovered that the twin with shorter sleep duration had a depressed immune system, compared with his or her sibling.

While sleep isn’t going to necessarily prevent you from getting sick, lack of sleep can leave you more vulnerable. Dr Manfred Walzl, University Professor and medical expert in the field of sleep research, states that as little as three hours of lost sleep can affect the immune system. A study that collected blood from sleepers at 2am contained large proportions of activated adhesive proteins. Blood collected at the same time from those who were sleep deprived, showed that they had much less active adhesive proteins.

From the point of view of science, it is therefore clear that just a few hours of sleep loss is enough to reduce the adhesion capacity of specialized T-cells and thus weaken the function of the immune system.   

So, please remember to not only practise good hygiene; washing your hands regularly, avoiding close contact, sneezing into your elbow or tissue but also get a good night’s sleep. Strengthening of the body’s defenses is always recommended, no matter the circumstances, but now is the perfect time to reflect on the importance of sufficient sleep. Sleep is an important cog in the gearbox to strengthen the immune system!

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