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Often when we’re sick typically what we want to do is just curl up in bed and go to sleep. And in part what we’re trying to do is sleep ourselves well, because there’s a very intimate association between our sleep health and our immune health.
We know that individuals reporting less than seven hours of sleep a night are almost three times more likely to become infected by the rhinovirus, otherwise known as the common cold. We also know that women sleeping five hours or less a night are almost 70 percent more likely to develop pneumonia. Well we’ve also discovered that sleep can play a role in your successful immunization.
So in one study, they took a group of individuals and they limited them to four hours of sleep a night for six nights. And in the other group, they gave them a full night of sleep each and every one of those nights. And then during that time period, they gave them a flu shot and they measured the response to that flu shot. What they discovered is that in those individuals who were sleeping just four hours a night, they went on to produce less than 50 percent of the normal antibody response. So in other words, if you’re not getting sufficient sleep in the week or the days before you get your flu shot, it may render that vaccination far less effective as a consequence.
What this tells us, and now what we’re starting to learn, is that it’s during sleep at night, including deep non-REM sleep, when we actually restock the weaponry within our immune arsenal. We actually stimulate the production of numerous different immune factors.
And furthermore, the body actually increases its sensitivity to those immune factors. So you wake up the next day as a more robust immune individual.
So when it comes to your immune system, you should perhaps think of sleep as one of the best health insurance policies that you could ever wish for.
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