Can better sleep boost your immune system?

Over the last few weeks, it’s fair to say that more than a few of us might have lay awake with anxiety over a certain virus that is making life quite difficult at the moment. And, with many people being told to stay and work at home while practicing social distancing, it’s almost certain that daily routines have been disrupted. As a result of this upheaval, it may well be the case that your sleep has suffered.

However, is sleep really a priority right now? Should we not be concentrating on washing our hands, staying two metres from others, and running in the other direction if we hear someone cough? Well, according to research, getting a healthy amount of rest is key to boosting your immune system. So, it stands to reason that if you got ill, getting the right level of sleep would ensure you were in the best shape possible to fight the disease.

In this blog post, we’re going to take a closer look at what studies say about the link between sleep and your immune system, before sharing a few tips for maintaining healthy sleep during lockdown.

What does the science say?

One study into the relationship between sleep and your immune system was carried out in 2016 by scientists at the American Physiological Society. It found there was a direct relation between the number of T-cells — a subset of white blood cells essential for fighting infection — and the level of sleep participants were getting. Furthermore, a 2019 study discovered that these T-cells are more effective at attaching to their targets when the body is resting.

What’s more, the Sleep Foundation highlights that, when we go without sleep, our body makes less cytokines, which are a type of protein that helps to fight infection and inflammation. Therefore, with less of these in your body, your immune system is worse equipped should you suffer from illness. They also point out that chronic sleep loss is even able to make flu vaccines less effective. How to maintain healthy sleep during lockdown

To help you keep to a healthy sleep schedule during these trying times, we’ve put together a few tips for keeping things as regular as possible.

Stick to your regular sleep schedule

Even though you might be working from home, it’s important to stick to your usual sleep schedule as much as possible. You may be tempted to stay up a little later or nab an extra hour’s lie in, but try to stick to your regular bedtime and waking time. Doing so will ensure your body doesn’t suffer from a disturbed sleep pattern and that you will be getting the recommended 7–9 hours (as long as you were before the crisis began).

Strengthen your circadian rhythm

In addition to sticking to a sleep schedule, you can strengthen your sleep cycle by performing certain activities in the morning and evening to reinforce waking and sleeping patterns in your brain. For example, exercising and taking a shower routinely in the morning will help your body clock recognise it is time to wake up, while reading, meditating, or bathing will help your mind unwind before bed.

Take regular naps, if necessary

If your sleep is being disrupted by one thing or another — there’s a lot going on at the moment so it’s understandable — then you could try topping up your rest by taking a nap through the day. This is a lot easier if you have flexible working hours, but even a 20-mintue siesta on your dinner break can be beneficial. Check out our blog posts on the art of napping and avoiding sleep debt to get tips on balancing your sleep and getting that perfect nap.

Use your outdoor time wisely

When you’re cooped up inside for social isolation purposes, the chance to get outdoors is one that you should not pass up. Under the current advice, you can go for a walk or exercise outdoors if you stay more than 2 metres from others, which means that it’s possible to go out and get some sun and fresh air, both of which are essential for how your body regulates sleep. That being said, if you’re particularly at risk from COVID-19, it might be safer to go out into the garden or sit near a window.

Remember: always seek the latest medical advice from the NHS and updates on measures from the Government if you’re not sure on a course of action.

During the coronavirus crisis, it’s essential that you keep up with your sleep and stay as healthy as possible, so hopefully this post will prove useful. You can stay up to date on all things rest related on the Dormeo blog or in our advice centre.

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