woman trying to sleep, restless sleep

From Sharp Health News, a publication of Sharp HealthCare

Sleep deficiency has long been linked to health conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, obesity and depression. But it can also affect the immune system.

A new study suggests a regular lack of sleep can negatively affect immune cells, potentially increasing the risk of inflammatory disorders and heart disease. On the other hand, healthy sleep supports the immune system and has been shown to play a role in improving antibody responses to vaccinations and preventing you from getting sick as often.

How does sleep impact the immune system?

A lack of sleep can influence the environment where monocytes (a type of white blood cell) form, develop and get ready to support immune function. Adults who did not get enough sleep were found to have a higher production of monocytes, higher numbers of immune stem cells in the blood and evidence of immune activation.

But aren’t more immune cells a good thing?

While a certain amount of inflammation is needed to fight infections and heal wounds, too much can be harmful. An overactive immune system leads to inflammation that can raise the risk of auto-immune diseases and coronary artery disease.

What can I do to improve my sleep?

The average adult should aim to get between seven and eight hours of sleep every night. Try these tips to get better sleep:

  • Wind down and clear your head. Residual stress, worry and anger from your day can make it difficult to unwind and sleep well. Jot down what’s on your mind or put together a to-do list and then set it aside for tomorrow.
  • Be consistent. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning, including on the weekends.
  • Get enough exercise. Exercise reduces stress levels, which can quiet your mind before bed. Plus, burning more energy during the day can make you naturally feel more tired at night.
  • Avoid alcohol at night. Drinking alcohol before bed can disrupt your sleep cycle and make you feel more tired and sluggish.

The VEBA Resource Center offers Yoga Nidra (Yoga for Sleep) Classes. Enjoy a session of guided meditation and mind-body therapy done in a comfortable lying down position to systemically reduce stress, increase circulation and promote better sleep. Check out our calendar to sign up for an upcoming class.