After tossing and turning during the night, your primary concern might be feeling tired during the day. However, inadequate sleep can also negatively impact your immune health. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one-third of adults regularly do not get enough sleep.
How your immune system is affected by sleep
Your immune system and sleep are interconnected. Feelings of sleepiness are triggered by your immune system. While you sleep, your body’s natural defenses are bolstered. Researchers continue to explore the relationship between immune health and sleep.
While you have likely heard that getting more sleep is important, daily stresses might interfere with sleep. You might find yourself locked in a continuing cycle of inadequate sleep and illness. If your immune system is in poor health, any existing sleep disorders you might have can be exacerbated.
How inadequate sleep affects immune health
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, suffering a small amount of sleep deprivation can cause you to develop chronic immune disorders. Researchers have found that people who only get four hours of sleep during a night can suffer the following problems:
- Reduced functioning of killer T-cells
- Increase in inflammatory cytokines
- Decreased antibody response to influenza vaccinations
- Increased infection risk
Other research has also found that people who regularly get good sleep two weeks before being exposed to the rhinovirus have a much lower chance of developing the common cold.
Chronically deprived sleep can cause serious long-term consequences. It has been linked to obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, chronic illness, and cardiovascular disease. Some people might also develop anxiety, mild depression, or irritability.
How to get good sleep when you are ill
When you are ill, getting good sleep can help you to recover faster. Your immune health is affected by your circadian rhythms. Hormones that are necessary for producing antibodies are also affected by your circadian rhythms. As the day progresses, fewer of these hormones are released. This typically means that you might experience worsened symptoms at night that can interrupt your sleep.
If you have trouble falling asleep at night while you are ill, you can try the following approaches:
- Don’t take daytime cough medicine at night.
- Take a warm shower before bed to clear your sinuses.
- Elevate your head with pillows.
- Keep a glass of water and tissues nearby.
- Take a 20- to 30-minute nap during the day.
When should you see a doctor?
While poor sleep can negatively impact your immune system, it doesn’t mean that a single night of poor sleep will cause serious illness. Your body will respond by increasing your sleep intensity. If you give yourself sufficient time, you will likely recover without any further problems.
If you have tried to maintain good sleep and personal hygiene but have been met with limited success, you should consult with a reputable sleep doctor. Contact the Gainesville, Florida practice of Accent Sleep Solutions to schedule an appointment by calling us at 352.271.5375.