Although we are aware that sleep brings many health benefits, few of us are aware of just how much depends on it. It turns out that effective rest has a huge impact on the proper functioning of our immune system, which is responsible for keeping most diseases at bay. Frequent or recurrent flu and infections are very often based on sleep deprivation. What exactly happens to our body then?
What is deep sleep?
Deep sleep, i.e. regenerating and effective, is based on passing through the right number of REM stages, during which our muscles relax completely, and we begin to dream. However, when we are woken up by every little noise at home or wake up several times during the night, our body does not reach this key stage, so it doesn’t relax properly. It is also a common condition for people who don’t have dreams, they don’t get to the REM phase. What happens to our body then? According to scientists, we are then three times more susceptible to catching a virus infection!
The immunity of sleepy people
Experts at Carnegie Mellon University have investigated the importance of sleep for immunity. To this end, they gathered a group of volunteers of both sexes and gave them nasal drops containing a virus that causes a common cold. The same volunteers were monitored for 14 days for sleep quality before the virus was given to them. Researchers also asked about the time they spend on sleep and how regenerative it is for them. The researchers found that both the length of sleep and its effectiveness were the factors that determined whether a person would fall ill after coming into contact with the virus or not. Volunteers who slept for 8 hours or more were almost 3 times less prone to catching a cold than people who slept less than 7 hours. However, sleep time alone was not as important as its effectiveness. On this basis, volunteers were divided into 3 groups: low-quality sleep, medium and good. People with poor sleep quality had up to 5.5 times lower immunity than people whose sleep efficiency was at a high level! So, whether we get sick after contact with the virus largely depends on how we sleep.
Sleep as medicine in illness
If we do get sick, will the right amount and quality of sleep guarantee us a faster recovery? It turns out that sleep also affects the number of cells produced by the immune system! According to researchers at the University of Lübeck, hormones are the key to sleep having an effect on the immune system. Sleep causes an increase in the level of growth hormone (GH), which stimulates the immune system. Sleep also regulates the cortisol production cycle, which suppresses the immune system. Cortisol, in turn, determines the waking attitude that reduces our sleep and causes irritability the next day. The smaller the amount of effective sleep, the greater the amount of “stress hormone”. The more “stress hormone”, the harder it is to fall asleep and achieve relaxation – it is a vicious circle which over time, is difficult to escape from.
How can we help each other?
If you feel that your sleep does not bring you rest, then before reaching for medications, try to remedy the problem in a natural way. Here are some simple tips that you can use to change your body’s functioning and protect yourself against diseases. Remember that it isn’t always easy to stick to these simple guidelines, so be persistent and patient.
- Sleep at least 6.5 hours, and it’s best to write your sleep on the calendar, just like other routine activities.
- Set fixed times of getting up and going to sleep regardless of the day of the week – it’s more important than you think!
- Try to replace the usual duvet with a weighted blanket – its special design naturally reduces the level of cortisol produced and increases the production of serotonin.
- Take care of your diet – stick to the 80/20 ratio – 80% eat healthily, and the remaining 20% is what you fancy. It is recommended that the diet should be rich in fruit and vegetables.
- Take care of your bedroom – air it before bedtime, ensure the cleanliness of bedding and change the mattress every few years.
- Remove all electronic devices from the bedroom – TV or other screens before bedtime will drastically impair your rest.