Sleep and Your Immune System
A good night’s slumber is “beauty sleep” for your immune system, too. Research has shown that most of us need 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night to be at our best. That’s the optimum amount of time to repair, recharge and rejuvenate your mind, body and spirit. Here are some tips how to get more sleep while supporting your immune system.
While You Are Sleeping
Like all armies, your immune system needs regular rest so it’s ready to attack at a moment’s notice. During sleep, your body releases cytokines, protective proteins that stimulate and coordinate white blood cell activity such as fighting infection and inflammation. Sleep deprivation and long periods of poor sleep are associated with lower immune system function and reduced numbers of antibodies and killer cells.
Helpful Ways to Nod Off
Sleep experts stress the importance of establishing good nighttime habits. Try these tips to help you get more zzzz’s:
• Keep your bedroom cool and dark. Try blackout shades or a sleep mask.
• Establish a routine. Start winding down an hour before bedtime and write down anything you need to do the next day so it’s off your mind when you hit the sack.
• Go to bed at the same time. Even on weekends, it’s best to stay on schedule to keep your circadian rhythm (body clock) consistent.
• Switch off your computer and cell phone. Bright screens interfere with melatonin production—the sleep hormone that signals your body to shut down.
• Avoid alcohol. Even two drinks late at night can inhibit melatonin production.
• Eat a light bedtime snack. A combo of protein and complex carbs can help you drift off without weighing you down. Try turkey, tuna or peanut butter on a slice of whole-wheat toast.
• Relax, relax, relax. If you have trouble falling asleep, take deep, slow breaths, concentrating on the gentle rhythm of your chest rising and falling. Count backwards from 100. Or focus on relaxing every inch of your body starting by uncurling your toes, loosening your legs and so on.