By this time, we all know enough about coronavirus. We also know what social distancing, being in self-quarantine means. The ongoing #safehands challenge is teaching us to wash your hands for 20 seconds. And we also have all the information on immunity-boosting food items to be included in our diets!
But unfortunately, in this scenario of pandemic scare and uncertainties revolving around it, there is one piece of big advice that is still completely overlooked to fight and cope with Coronavirus by boosting your immunity. I am talking about mother nature’s immunity booster – Good Sleep.
A night of good quality sleep is more elusive and important than ever!
Human studies involving prolonged sleep loss indicate alterations of immune function.
Sleep well for boosting immunity
Yes, lack of sleep can affect your immune system. Prolonged and severe sleep deprivation is associated with alterations of natural and cellular immune function.
Studies show that people who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold virus. Back in 1982, a study found that workers who had chronically struggled with disturbed sleep exhibited depressed cellular immune functions which made them more vulnerable to respiratory tract infections.
A study with a sample of nearly 57,000 women conducted in 2012 reported that those sleeping 6 hours or less a night, were at significantly greater risk of developing pneumonia compared to those sleeping 8 hours a night.
Even a modest disturbance of sleep produces a reduction of natural immune responses and protective (T cell) cytokine production. A 2009 study found that even 10 to 38 minutes of staying awake in the case of an 8-hour sleeper, were associated with a 3.9 times increase in the risk of developing a cold.
In another experiment, researchers discovered that when volunteers cut back from seven-and-a-half to six-and-a-half hours’ sleep a night, genes that were associated with processes like inflammation, immune response and response to stress became more active. The team also saw increases in the activity of genes associated with diabetes and the risk of cancer. The reverse happened when the volunteers added an hour of sleep.
During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep. Certain cytokines need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation, or when you’re under stress. Sleep deprivation may decrease the production of these protective cytokines. Besides, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you don’t get enough sleep.
Therefore, highlighting the preventative role that good sleep plays in helping you not only stay healthy but also increase the odds of you successfully fighting the virus.
Sleep well for better recovery!
Changes in sleep after infection are also important determinants of disease and mortality levels. Lack of sleep can affect how fast you recover after getting sick.
Research suggests that more sleep in the two days before infection leads not only to increased resistance to infection but also to higher survival rates after having an infection. Many of the health benefits of sleep take place during Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) sleep i.e. tissue growth and repair occurs; energy is restored and hormones that are essential for growth and development are released. Emphasizing, increase in NREM sleep leads to increased survival rates after an infection.
So, the clear message is that if you are getting less than seven hours’ sleep a night, you are leading yourself to an immediate decline in your immune system’s ability to fight off viruses and bacteria, thereby increasing your chances of falling sick frequently and if you alter your sleep habits, even just a little bit, it could make you healthier as well as help your recovery after catching the infection.