Writer: Unnati Singhania (MSc. Biotechnology, Symbiosis School of Biological Sciences, Pune)
Quality sleep is the measurement of how well you are sleeping and lack of sleep is more relevant in the current pandemic where people work from home, which eventually creates more work pressure, late-night shifts, stress, irritability, etc. To balance all these, we can get help from our immune system. It is a complicated network that provides multiple lines of defense against illness.
The defense system can be divided into innate immunity and adaptive immunity, and sleep adds to both.
During sleep immune system secrets proteins called cytokines.
Cytokines are essential for a defense mechanism against infection, inflammation, or stress condition. Less amount of sleep can reduce the production of cytokines and weakens the immune system.
The stress hormones like adrenaline, noradrenaline, and prostaglandins released by our boy are less in amount during sleep. Also, sleep improves the efficiency of T- helper cells.
T-helper cells fight against bacteria, viruses, and foreign antigens.
Good quality sleep helps to maintain the balance of the defense system, which results in an efficient and robust response. A strong immune system means it should be strong enough to detect and attack the potential threat, but a balanced immune system should be well regulated so that our body is not always on alert mode.
Whereas sleeping disorders like Insomnia, sleep apnea, etc., interfere with the defense system and weaken it. Insomnia, in which a person struggles due to a lack of sleep.
Some remarkable symptoms are fatigue, irritation and, lack of concentration.
How much sleep is required by an individual to boost their immune system?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep ranges are-
Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours
Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours
Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours
Preschoolers (3-5 years): 10-13 hours
School-age children (6-13 years): 9-11 hours
Teenagers (14-17 years): 8-10 hours
Younger adults (18-25 years): 7-9 hours
Adults (26-64 years): 7-9 hours
Older adults (65years and above): 7-8 hours
Immune memory can be boosted with good quality sleep.
Sleep can help the brain to fortify learning and memory capabilities suggested by researchers. Just like that, sleep also strengthens the memory capacity of immune cells. The interaction of resistant system components during sleep reinforces the immune system’s ability to remember how to recognize and react to dangerous antigens.
Sleep boosts the immune system as breathing and muscle activities slow down to free up enough energy for a critical task like inflammation during rest. If it occurs during the working hour, it can harm mental and physical health. Also, melatonin is produced, which counteracts the stress produce due to inflammation.
Lack of sleep can cause short-term illness to long-term diseases. Few percent of the population can manage to get through the day without getting enough sleep, but the immune system never gets used to ‘limited sleep’ and later causes a chronic problem.
Therefore, the body needs good quality sleep to boost the immune system.
1. Besedovsky, Luciana et al. “Sleep and immune function.” Pflugers Archiv : European journal of physiology vol. 463,1 (2012): 121-37. doi:10.1007/s00424-011-1044-0
2.Sleep & Immunity: Can a Lack of Sleep Make You Sick? | Sleep Foundation https://www.sleepfoundation.org/physical-health/how-sleep-affects-immunity Accessed: 2021-09-24