How sleep can boost your immune system and help you fight off illness

Lifestyle

In a global pandemic it’s really important that we do everything we can to keep our bodies as healthy as possible.

That includes improving our hygiene, staying active, hydrating and eating well. But one thing that often gets forgotten about is the importance of a good night’s sleep.

Today is World Sleep Day, so it’s the perfect time to think about your sleeping pattern – and experts say that getting enough, good quality sleep can be really important in keeping you healthy.

Most of us know that we should be aiming for seven hours of sleep every night, and that consistency is key. That can be hard to achieve when you have a busy social life and unpredictable working hours, but now that people are hunkering down and cancelling plans, it should get a bit easier to stick to a routine.

How does sleep keep you healthy?
You know how rough you feel when you don’t get enough sleep.

You’re groggy, irritable, prone to headaches, find it hard to focus. You can even see it all over your face – a lack of sleep can affect your skin and even contribute to breakouts. So it’s no wonder that sleep can impact your body’s ability to stay healthy and fight off illness.

‘Ensuring you get a proper night’s sleep plays a vital role in promoting good health, as it can strengthen your immune system and help protect your physical health, mental health and wellbeing,’ explains Mr Parvinder Sagoo, pharmacist and medical advisor at SimplyMeds.

‘During a healthy sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines which help promote sleep, so it’s imperative that your body gets a good seven-eight hour rest per night to fight off infectious diseases.’

Parvinder says that a lack of sleep can cause long term issues such as a lower immunity and it can increase your risk of conditions such as diabetes, heart and cardiovascular issues and obesity.

‘Lack of sleep also puts you at risk of being more susceptible to catching viral diseases,’ he adds, ‘and not having the healthy immunity you need to fight them off.’

The health benefits of sleep
A good night’s sleep can make you feel like a new person. And that’s not surprising when you consider just how many health benefits sleeping well can have.

Strengthens your immune system

Sleep gives your body the time it needs to rest and repair, which is why you feel so tired when you’re unwell – sleep is your body’s chance to fix whatever’s wrong.

Sleep supports the proteins and cells of your immune system to detect and destroy bugs and germs – it also helps them to remember them, so they can fight them off even quicker in future. Sleeps strengthen your body’s immune response, and at times like these it’s more important than ever that we’re getting enough of it.

Reduces stress

A good night’s sleep can relax the systems in your body that are responsible for the chemical stress response in your body – which is good news if you’re feeling particularly anxious about the apocalyptic news cycle.

Sleep is also vital for looking after your mental health too. If you’re not sleeping well, you’re at a higher risk of developing poor mental health.

Improves heart health

Studies also say that lack of sleep can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes and coronary heart disease.

Poor sleep has also been linked to poor insulin regulation and resistance. Insulin is the hormone that controls your blood sugar. So you really need to make sure you’re getting enough of it.

How to make sure you get a good night’s sleep
Everybody has different methods for getting enough sleep. And if you’re really struggling on a long-term basis, the best thing to do would be to talk to your GP.

But if you just need a little help developing a routine and some sleep consistency, then these tips could help.

Research, conducted by eachnight, has revealed the sleep routines that most frequently help people to drift off.

They found that one in 10 people sleep better after exercise. One in eight people surveyed said that reading a book before bed, between the hours of 9.15 pm and 10 pm improved their ability to sleep.

Nearly a third (30%) of people sleep better on freshly washed sheets, and sleeping with two pillows is the formula to getting the best night’s sleep with more than half (54%) of people using two getting more than seven hours a night.

With all that in mind, it might be worth taking a closer look at how much sleep you’re getting. Anything that can give your body’s immunity a boost has to be worth a shot.