Did you know International Sleep Awareness Week takes place between 8 March and 14 March, with 13 March being World Sleep Day?
How can sleep help protect you against illness? Sleep helps build a strong immune system. Lack of sleep compromises your immune system. Health professionals are encouraging South Africans to find ways of boosting their immune systems in order to reduce their vulnerability to viruses including COVID-19.
World Sleep Day: Getting Enough Sleep
Research has shown that people who don’t get quality or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick.
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 production of these protective cytokines. In addition, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you don’t get enough sleep.
Cytokines are both produced and released during sleep, causing a double whammy if you skimp on sleep. Chronic sleep loss can also reduce the effectiveness of flu vaccines by reducing your body’s ability to respond.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, in order stay healthy, especially during the influenza season, you need to get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep a night. This will help keep your immune system strong, whilst protecting you from other health issues including heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
Of course, getting enough sleep isn’t the only way of building a strong immune system and guarding against illness. One should also:
- Wash your hands with soap regularly
- Avoid close contact with people who are ill
- Take vitamin C and/or a multivitamin supplement
- Eat well
- Get a flu injection
Are You Sleeping Enough?
Blue light from electronic devices, televisions and LED lights reduces the body’s ability to manufacture the sleep hormone melatonin, which is needed for good quality sleep. SleepSpec are amber tinted glasses that absorb blue light in our environment and allow the body to produce melatonin.
Did you know melatonin helps boost the immune system? Aside from assisting the body to sleep, melatonin is also an essential hormone for immune support and disease prevention. As we age, our T-cells, which regulate our immune response and fight disease, become less effective; this in turn breaks down our immune systems.
Melatonin increases T-cell activity, which creates a more powerful antibody response and helps us fight viruses. It also supports the thyroid, which bolsters our immune system.
Our expert: Dr Robert Daniel, a Specialist Ophthalmologist with training in Human Physiology and Neuroscience, developed SleepSpec and has a particular interest in the control systems of the brain and how they affect sleep.