The connection between Sleep and Immunity

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Have you heard the proverb “A good sleep and a good laugh are the best cures in the Doctor’s book”? As kids when we complained of body aches, cold, or just uneasiness the only remedy our mums would suggest was “sleep and everything will be fine”.

Well Science also agrees with our mums that a good sleep is the best way to get over illnesses. So, let’s understand why and how sleep affects our immunity.

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Connection between Sleep and Immunity


To know how sleep boosts our immunity we must first understand what happens within our body when we are asleep. When asleep the energy consumption of our body and mind is minimal as there is not much physical and mental activity happening. This is when the extra or stored energy is redirected towards the immune system.Quality sleep helps our body produce and release a protein called cytokines which helps fight infections and inflammations. When asleep, these proteins along with our immunity cells get out of normal circulation and move into the lymph nodes to flush out toxic waste. Presence of these toxins in the body causes inflammation which increases the probability of catching an infection like cold or flu. A good quality sleep is therefore essential to help build and maintain a healthy immune system.

How insufficient quality sleep affects immunity

Insufficient or poor sleep quality affects the production of antibodies and proteins that fight infection. If you are already suffering from a cold or flu, then insufficient sleep will only worsen the condition and delay recovery. There are some other reasons why one mustn’t skip sleep especially during seasons when probability of catching cold or flu is high.

  • Occurrence of fevers: Fever is an indicator that our immunity soldiers are fighting a ferocious battle against the evil virus. When we sleep our body redirects all the extra energy towards this activity which is why fever tends to rise more during the night than day. Therefore, absence or lack of quality sleep directly impacts the performance of our immune system.
  • Effectiveness of vaccine: When we are not sleeping well our body is unable to respond to the immunization effectively. This increases the probability of catching an infection despite immunization.
  • Autoimmune disease: Lack of sleep puts the immunity system out of sync. Prolonged sleeplessness and constant attack of virus and bacteria can cause a breakdown of immunity system which can trigger autoimmune diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Sclerosis etc.

How much sleep is enough to maintain good immunity?

Ideally 6-7 hours of good quality sleep every night is sufficient to keep your immunity system in ship-shape. But before we discuss about how to attain quality sleep, we must know the reason why we aren’t sleeping well. Usually it is 1 of the 2 reasons;

  • out of choice (working late, watching TV, partying) or
  • suffering from a sleep disorder

If your reason is the latter one, then you must consult a sleep expert to understand the nature and severity of your condition and its medical remedies. However, if it is the former then all you need is determination and will to change your lifestyle. Here are some tips to help you create a sustainable sleep hygiene.

  • Avoid stimulants (coffee, energy/soft drink, alcohol, smoke) towards bedtime.
  • Turn-off all distractions (TV, Phone, Laptop, Video games) 1 hour prior to bedtime.
  • Follow a sleep-wake up cycle i.e. cut down late night working and parties.
  • Maintain a healthy diet and include 30-45mins of exercise in your day.



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