A good night’s sleep is one of the most important things for good health!
Not only does it encourage muscle repair, but it enhances digestion, resets your metabolism, restores your brain to full functionality, and, most important of all, boosts your immunity.
Sleeping well will enable your body to better protect itself from disease and fight off invading pathogens. As you’ll see by the studies below, science has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that improving your sleep quality will raise your natural immune capabilities.
In 2015, the Journal of Immunology Research published a study  detailing the “bidirectional relationship between sleep and immunity against infections”. The researchers highlighted the importance of sleep for the immune system, stating that lack of sleep led to a decreased immune response and increased susceptibility to infection. It linked short sleep duration to an increase in the common cold, and sleep deprivation was linked to a higher risk of viral, parasitic, and bacterial infections.
The paper goes on to explain other ways that a lack of sleep can impair immune function: the reduced proliferation of lymphocytes, decreased expression of important immune cells and related genes, and more.
The interesting thing is that the study linked the immune system to sleep quality in both directions—your immune health affects your sleep, just like your sleep quality affects your immune system. The study ended by saying that sleep quality is important for maintaining a healthy body (homeostasis), emphasizing the importance of improving sleep in order to enhance protection against disease.
A study from 2011  found that both sleep and our circadian rhythms have a prominent role to play in the regulation of our immune system. People who sleep “normally” and go through “normal” sleep-wake cycles tend to produce proper amounts of both pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines during the night and day, as well as cytotoxic killer cells. Sleep also encourages the distribution of killer T cells to the lymph nodes. One experiment found that a good night of rest after taking a vaccine actually helped to increase the production of critical antibodies. This proves that sleep not only helps in the short-term, but plays a role in what is called “immunological memory”—our body’s ability to remember diseases and produce antibodies to counter them in the future.
Slow-wave sleep, in particular, is critical to our immune health. Slow-wave sleep is also known as “deep sleep”  and it typically makes up just 18-22% of our total sleep time. It’s Stage 3 and Stage 4 of REM sleep, and it involves slower brain wave activity. It’s vital for the restoration of brain function and neurological repair. Greater time spent in slow-wave sleep helps to increase both endocrine function and immune response, encouraging better overall health.
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As you can see, there’s a lot of scientific evidence that more deep sleep is critical for a healthy body. Below, we’ve compiled a few of the best tips to help you sleep better, longer, and more deeply:
Eliminate all stimuli. Light, sound, heat, and tactile sensations (such as scratchy sheets) can all wake you up, or at the very least, make it harder to sleep. To ensure better quality sleep, make sure your room is dark, quiet, cool, and comfortable. Use blackout curtains, white noise, noise canceling sleep headphones, ear plugs, a humidifier, and anything else you need to make sure your room is optimally comfortable for a good night’s rest.
Sleep and wake at the same time. Following a sleep schedule trains your body’s circadian rhythms to be consistent, which will make it easier for you to wake up and fall asleep. It may inhibit your social life, but it’s worth making sure you sleep well.
Get more sunlight and bright light during the day. Sunlight increases the production of Vitamin D, boosts your immune system, and helps to maintain proper melatonin production. Bright artificial light during the day is also important, as it keeps you awake. That way, when you turn down the lights at night, it will simulate sundown and trigger an increase in melatonin to help you sleep at night.
Avoid things that impair sleep. Bright blue light from your electronic devices can keep you awake and make it harder to get to sleep. Exercise too late in the afternoon/evening will also increase your metabolism and produce more energy, making it harder for your body and mind to shut down. Caffeine will stimulate your nervous system and keep sleep at bay, so make sure not to have any coffee or tea after 2 PM. Alcohol and nicotine also impair sleep quality. You may fall asleep faster if you drink, but you’ll spend less time in deep sleep and experience more sleep interruptions.
Relax at night. One of the best ways to encourage better sleep quality is to prevent anxiety, worry, and stress from interfering with your sleep at night. Make it a point to do some activity that relaxes you: read a book, do a puzzle, talk with your family, play a game, etc. Take a hot bath or a long shower, and spend a few minutes meditating at night. The more relaxed you are in the evening, the easier it will be to sleep deeply through the night.
As you’ve seen above, a good night of rest can make a huge difference in your immune health, so use these tips to make your sleep the best quality it can be!
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