If you are currently in a self-quarantine or social distancing mode, you might find yourself working from home or with more time on your hands than usual. You might also be looking at ways to protect yourself the best you can from COVID-19. Strengthening our immune systems is important to do, especially during this time. One thing you might not realize that impacts your immune system is your sleep. But how is your immunity affected by your sleep and how much should you be getting?
Why is a good night’s sleep important for the immune system?
Eric J. Olson, M.D, says, “During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep. Certain cytokines need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation, or when you’re under stress. Sleep deprivation may decrease production of these protective cytokines. In addition, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you don’t get enough sleep.” Long-term lack of sleep can increase your risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
How much sleep do we need to strengthen our immune systems?
Dr. Olson recommends seven to eight hours of good sleep for adults, nine to 10 hours for teenagers, and 10 or more for school-aged children.
Tips on getting a good night’s sleep:
- Stick to a routine. Philip Cheng, Ph.D., says that waking up at the same time every morning helps to stabilize your circadian rhythm.
- Schedule in some time to wind-down before bed. Try reading a book or engaging in a non-stimulating activity.
- Stay away from electronics. There’s evidence that blue light from electronics can impact your circadian rhythm and can keep you wide awake when you’re supposed to be feeling tired according to Dr. Cheng.
- Create an ideal sleeping environment. Dr. Cheng suggests a dark room and a temperature between 65 and 70 degrees for perfect sleeping conditions.
- Don’t have a large meal right before bed.
- Limit your caffeine and alcohol intake before bed. Dr. Cheng says, “While alcohol can make you initially sleepy, it can wake you up as it becomes metabolized in the middle of the night. Avoid it within three hours of bedtime.”