Immune system – what is important, what do you need to know?
We are living in uncertain times right now, and while this phase will pass we need to get through it. As always, we are here for you. The Goodnight Co. are committed to sharing what we know best to help you establish your personal sleep routine and boost your overall health and wellbeing.
With the world’s current health crisis, as well as the beginning of the general cold and flu season, there’s no better time to start establishing healthy routines that work towards boosting and protecting our immune system.
Sleep and immunity – how can we help you?
To strengthen your immune system naturally, your first line of defence is to choose a healthy lifestyle. Every part of your body, including your immune system, functions better when protected from environmental havoc, and boosted by healthy-living strategies like eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, washing your hands frequently, minimising stress and getting adequate sleep.
Studies on the relationship between sleep and our immune systems have actually been going on for several years. Although researchers have much more to learn, they have come to some definitive conclusions. Importantly, we know there is a complex relationship between our sleep-wake cycles and our immune systems, and specifically that parts of our immune system help to control our sleep and the sleep we get directly impacts how well our immune system functions.
Numerous studies have reported the benefits of a good night’s sleep, and now researchers from Germany have found that quality sleep improves immune cells known as T cells. To break it down for you, T cells are a type of immune cell that fight against intracellular pathogens, for example virus-infected cells such as flu, HIV, herpes, and cancer cells.
This particular study found a new mechanism through which sleep can assist the immune system, showing that stress hormones and pro-inflammatory molecules prostaglandins inhibit the stickiness of a class of adhesion molecules called integrins. Because the levels of adrenaline, noradrenaline, and prostaglandins are low during sleep time, the stickiness of the integrins is stronger. This stickiness is important because in order for T cells to kill virus-infected cells or cancer cells, they need to get in direct contact with them, and the integrin stickiness is known to promote this contact. In other words? Sleep is your immune system's time to shine - the better and more regular sleep you have, the better your body gets at fighting away the nasties.
Sleep is a natural immune booster. When your body is well rested, it gives you an opportunity to build a stronger immune system. By having a quality night’s sleep, your body is able to better assess, manage and fight unhealthy cells.
Age and immunity – what do we need to know?
As we age, our immune response capability becomes reduced, which in turn contributes to more infections. While some people age healthily, the conclusion of many studies is that, compared with younger people, the elderly are more likely to contract infections diseases and, even more importantly, more likely to die from them. Respiratory infections, influenza and particularly pneumonia are a leading cause of death in people aged over 65 worldwide. While we don’t know why this happens, some scientists observe that this increased risk correlates with a decrease in T cells, possibly from the thymus atrophying with age and producing fewer T cells to fight off infection. Whether this decrease in thymus function explains the drop in T cells, or whether other changes play a role is not fully understood. Others are interested in whether the bone marrow becomes less efficient at producing the stem cells that give rise to the cells of the immune system.
In addition, there appears to be a connection between nutrition and immunity in the elderly. A form of malnutrition that is surprisingly common even in affluent countries is known as micronutrient malnutrition. Micronutrient malnutrition is when a person is deficient in some essential vitamins and trace minerals that are obtained from or supplemented by diet.
Stress and immunity
Stress and anxiety have complicated relationships with the immune system, and there is evidence that too much anxiety can weaken the immune system dramatically. Your mental health can put a stress on the body which in turn releases a stress hormone called cortisol. Anxiety can trigger your flight-or-fight stress response and release a flood of chemicals and hormones, like adrenaline, into your system. All of these factors can weaken your immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to viral infections and frequent illnesses. To reduce your stress, you can start by implementing breathing techniques in your routine, some gentle movement or these tips.
The bottom line?
Researchers say getting good sleep can strengthen your immune system - that quality sleep can bolster the T-cells in your body that fight off infection. There's so much going on in our world right now - but good sleep must be a priority. Honestly reflect on the amount of sleep you're getting - a lot of our sleep problems are lifestyle induced.
Consider ways you can reduce your stress and improve your sleep today. Think about some of the below and how they can be a part of your daily routine:
Create a sleep routine
Create a morning routine
Take more frequent but shorter breaks in your day
Get your quality sleep
Of course, there’s more to boosting your immunity and guarding against illness than getting ample sleep. It’s also important to practice smart stay-healthy strategies such as washing your hands with soap regularly, avoiding close contact with people who are obviously under the weather, and talking with your doctor about getting an annual flu shot. And remember: Even if you do come down with a case of seasonal sniffles, you’ll be able to bounce back faster if your body is well rested!