Can better sleep boost your immune system?

Between working, keeping up with friends, school runs, and house chores, sometimes there just aren’t enough days in the week, let alone hours in the day. And in order to fit in the above (and more!), we often end up de-prioritising our sleep. But is this having a detrimental effect on our health?

According to research, getting a healthy amount of rest is key to boosting our immune system and ensuring that our bodies are in the best shape possible to fight the germs.

An American Physiological Society study looked into the relationship between sleep and the immune system and found that there was a direct relation between the number of T-cells (a subset of white blood cells essential for fighting infection) and the level of sleep the participants were getting. A follow up study then discovered that these T-cells are more effective at attaching to their targets when the body is resting.

According to the Sleep Foundation, when we go without sleep our body makes less cytokines (a type of protein that helps fight infection and inflammation) so with less of these in the body, the immune system isn’t very well equipped to deal with any nasties. The study also points out that chronic sleep loss can make flu vaccines less effective.

How can you help your body sleep better?

Stick to a regular schedule
Sticking to your usual bedtime and wake-up time (even on the weekends!) is important in ensuring your body gets the same, recommended hours of sleep each night. The consistency will train your body into feeling tired naturally at the right time, and likely reduce the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep and wake up… without hitting the snooze button!

Strengthen your circadian rhythm
Strengthen your sleep cycle by doing the same activities in the morning and evening to reinforce waking and sleeping patterns in your brain. Exercising and showering routinely will help your body clock recognise that it's time to wake up and get going, while reading and meditating will help your mind unwind before bed.

Sticking to a sleep schedule takes determination. It’s easy to watch ‘just one more episode’ or snooze the alarm for an extra 10 minutes but keep going! Once your body has established a rhythm, you’ll find yourself with better mental and physical energy, all the better for fighting any germs that come your way.

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