A lack of sleep can suppress your immune system. Studies have shown 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 the common cold virus. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick.

Research has shown:

  • being sleep deprived can affect the way the body develops antibodies to some vaccines which may mean it takes longer for the body to respond to immunizations.
  • prolonged periods of suboptimal sleep  increase pro-inflammatory activity in the body. In one study where subjects had 4hrs sleep for 10 days they found an increased concentration of C-reactive protein – which is a clinical marker for inflammation.
  • even a modest reduction in sleep (6hrs for 1 week) resulted in an increase in pro-inflammatory cytokines.

Long-term lack of sleep also increases your risk of obesity, diabetes, depression, hypertension, heart attack and stroke (cardiovascular disease)
How much sleep do you need to boost your immune system? The optimal amount of sleep for most adults is seven to eight hours of good sleep each night.

Reference:Besedovsky, Luciana, Tanja Lange, and Jan Born. “Sleep and Immune Function.”Pflugers Archiv 463.1 (2012): 121–137. PMC. Web. 16 June 2015.

Tips to help you sleep:

  • Avoid Caffeine in the evenings – try not to consume caffeinated foods and drinks to drink within 5-6 hrs of sleeping.
  • Get regular exercise during the day but avoid exercising late into the evening.
  • Avoid alcohol as a means to help you get to sleep – alcohol will make you feel drowsy and you will get off to sleep but you can often find yourself awake again at 3am and find it very difficult to get back to sleep.
  • Avoid going to bed hungry or just after you’ve had a meal – both can interfere with the quality of your sleep.
  • Limit how much you have to drink before bed to avoid having to get up to use the bathroom. Alcohol and caffeine are bladder irritants.
  • Make your bedroom as dark as possible.  Consider using an eye mask if you are unable to darken the room.  Darkness switches on the pineal gland to produce melatonin and melatonin is important to help regulate the circadian rhythm.
  • Minimise noise pollution in your bedroom.
  • Try to stick to a sleep routine. Same time to bed and same time getting up- even at the weekends.  This helps to regulate your body clock.
  • Try to incorporate a regular relaxation practice into your routine.
  • Take a hot bath or shower before bed. The rise and then in body temperature promotes drowsiness. You could incorporate some relaxing aromatherapy with the bath to really help you relax.
  • There are many naturopathic remedies and supplements which may help with sleeping issues.  Some things work for some people and not for others.  Consider talking with a naturopath.
  • Consider a course of acupuncture to help rebalance your system and calm the mind to assist with sleeping.
  • Remove clocks from your line of sight- clock watching when you can’t get to sleep only intensifies anxiety.
  • If you have been awake for about 20mins it may be better to get up and do something relaxing in another room such as reading or listening to quiet music until you feel drowsy again.  Alternatively download some relaxing music or a relaxation audio onto your phone and play this whilst you are in bed to help you to relax again.
  • Here are some free sleep specific relaxation audios to download.