About Kerrin Kuntzman

Kerrin Kuntzman

Kerrin is the office manager at Texas Spine & Wellness. She often blogs about alternative medical care and nutrition. She is an ardent supporter of chiropractic medicine and uses chiropractic treatment not only for herself, but for her pets as well!

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How Sleep Deprivation Impairs Immune System Functions

To avoid sleep deprivation, doctors recommend at least seven to eight hours of sleep every night. That’s just for adults. For teenagers, the suggestion is for nine to 10 hours, because their minds and bodies are growing fast! Younger children should be allowed more than 10 hours. Some researchers believe the deepest period of sleep is when young children’s neural networks of are produced in the brain. That’s what generates cognition and memory.

immune system functionAt one time, the need for a certain amount of sleep was viewed by most as an “old wives’ tale”, but today there are many studies that prove sleep deprivation really can have a negative impact on our health.

Specifically, when you don’t get enough shut-eye, your immune system doesn’t work effectively. Your defense against catching common viruses and infectious diseases is compromised, as is your ability to fight them off. This is true for all age groups.

How Sleep Deprivation Affect Our Immune System?

Cytokines are protein molecules that are released by your immune system. Some of these molecules promote sleep, while others send signals from cell to cell, stimulating targeted cells to move toward areas of infection, trauma, and inflammation. This cell to cell communication is all about the immune system’s response to help the body, so having active cytokines is important. When you sleep, cytokine production is increased, however lack of sleep decreases the production. Infection-fighting antibodies are also reduced when you’re sleep deprived.

Let’s consider fevers. The body generates a higher temperature in an attempt to fight infections, and the our bodies create a better fever reaction during sleep. But when you’re not asleep, the fever response isn’t optimal and it’s more difficult to fight infections. Even vaccines are less effective in an exhausted individual because the body is simply unable to generate the antibodies the vaccine is intended to spur!

According to the director of the Sleep Center of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer facility, “We live in a 24-7 society and everyone has two jobs and is bombarded with media. So sleep seems expendable. But proper sleep is a fundamental component of a healthy lifestyle.”

Sleep Deprivation and Inflammation

Sleep deprivation simply doesn’t give your immune system an opportunity to work to its highest capacity. That’s why there’s such a long list of physical and mental health problems resulting from too little sleep.

One interesting fact is that when a person is really tired, the immune system reacts with an inflammatory response. Chronic inflammation can be harmful!

Another interesting point is that after a lengthy period without enough sleep, the immune system is more active; however, this particular type of activity tends to trigger more allergies and asthma than normal.

A study in the Netherlands and United Kingdom revealed that severe sleep loss causes the immune system to react the way it does in instances of stress! Disrupted sleep affects molecular mechanisms that produce white blood cells, increasing production. Now that’s stress!

5 Tips to a Better Night’s Rest

Let’s review a few basic ways to help you get a good night’s sleep.

  • Set up a regular sleep schedule. Going to bed and getting up at the same time each day will help your mind and body prepare for sleep.
  • Eat a good enough dinner so you won’t go to bed hungry, but don’t overdo it. Being hungry and being stuffed both tend to disturb sleep. Also don’t eat too late.
  • Stay away from stimulants like nicotine, caffeine, or alcohol before bedtime.
  • A nightly ritual preparing for bed is a relaxing reminder that sleep is coming. Take a bath, enjoy some music, or read a good book just before you go to bed. But—avoid your electronic devices because that stimulates your brain at a time when you’re trying to sooth it toward sleep!
  • Make your bed and sleeping space a place to achieve deep sleep. A dark, quiet room is restful, and a cooler temperature is not only more comfortable, it slows your body down. A good mattress and a pillow with just the right amount of firmness, or softness, are a must.

Sleep deprivation does more than make you sleepy and irritable; it’s detrimental to your health. Don’t let it a lack of sleep determine the quality of your life. Take the necessary steps to add those important additional hours to your sleep. Your body will thank you!

Sleep Deprivation and Memory Loss – A Undeniable Link

“Memory is all we are. Moments and feelings, captured in amber, strung on filaments of reason. Take a man’s memories and you take all of him.” Mark Lawrence, King of Thorns

Sleep Deprivation and Memory Loss

image of a woman who is forgetful.If we are the sum of our memories, the loss of them can be devastating. Memory loss is attributed to a number of conditions such as age, Alzheimer’s, injury, and illness, but the one cause that we have some control over is our sleep.

Studies show that sleep deprivation diminishes cognitive abilities because the brain minimizes clutter and maximizes memory when you’re sleeping. Without sleep, the brain just can’t function properly, and the longer you go without enough sleep the worse it gets. Exhaustion interferes with coordination, balance, and decision-making capacity.

How it Works

If you’re going to compare the central nervous system to anything, it would be a highway…a very busy highway. Every waking moment requires brain activity, and at the end of the day your brain is simply exhausted from that non-stop, hour after hour business of processing information. A major component of your brain activity is the synapses that serve as the lanes of communication that help retain all that information collected during the day.

New research that studies brain fatigue works around a theory called “synaptic homeostasis.” The theory’s basis is that sleep acts like a filter that weeds out and discards excess information and allows those busy synapses to relax. While some neurons rest, new communication lanes are created and long-term memories are stored. By the next morning the brain is refreshed and ready to start a new day. It makes sense–the only decent time for repairs to a highway or a nervous system is during a time when traffic is at its lowest.

Consequences

Lack of sleep means no rest for the old synapses and no new synapses to pick up and help carry the load. That impairs overall cognitive function, including concentration, the ability to learn new things, and short-term and long-term memory. Decision-making suffers and creativity is stifled. Even emotions are affected, which can cause mood swings and a short temper.

If you go long enough without sleep, you can start having hallucinations! For people who have narcolepsy or a condition called systemic lupus erythematosus, the potential for hallucinations from sleep deprivation doubles. People diagnosed with manic depression can end up with mania if they go sleepless too long. Additionally, sleep deprivation increases the risk of depression, suicidal thoughts, impulsive behavior and paranoia.

Let’s face it–without adequate sleep, your thought processes become muddled, your reasoning is reduced, and even your fine motor skills are mired because of inability to focus.

Making Memories while Avoiding Sleep Deprivation and Memory Loss

scattered photographs with pictures of family

Memories come in different forms. Fact-based memories deal with things like remembering the names of former presidents and all the states. Episodic memories come from life events, such as a marriage proposal or when you attended the prom. Instructional or procedural memories are attached to things such as how to do math problems, play a guitar, or how to swim.

Memories develop from three steps that must occur:

  • When you learn or experience something new it is “acquisition.”
  • When a memory is stabilized in the brain it is “consolidation.”
  • Finally, when you’re able to access the memory later, it is “recall.”

Only when you’re awake can acquisition and recall occur. Studies indicate that consolidation only occurs during sleep, no matter which memory type it is. When you’re really tired and don’t get enough sleep, it’s difficult for your brain to absorb and recall anything new.

It isn’t known, yet, exactly how sleep augments memory, but it seems to revolve around the brain’s neocortex and hippocampus, which are where the brain stores long-term memories. It’s believed that when you’re asleep, the hippocampus repeats the day’s events for the neocortex, where the memories are reviewed and processed. That helps the memories to become long-term.

Another interesting area of research is the study of how the various stages of sleep affect the generation of certain memory types. Some memories are stabilized when you dream during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Other memories are secured during the period of slow-wave, very deep sleep. There are a good many questions still to be answered.

Save Your Memories!

The point is we know that sleep is an important factor in terms of both short-term and long-term memory. No matter what your age, those memories are a basic part of who you are. Children need memory to learn and progress. Adults need memory to function and have a good quality of life. Seniors need memory to hold close what life has been for them. You don’t want to squander those memories!

Strive for decent sleep by following steps recommended by the experts. We’ve covered these before, but let’s reiterate:

  • Set up a sleep schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same time, as that sets your body’s internal clock.
  • Be selective with food. If you’re hungry or stuffed when you go to bed, it will fool with your sleep, so be cautious with amounts and don’t eat too late. Limit beverages to avoid bathroom trips.
  • Develop a bedtime ritual. Pick what works for you—a book, a bath, or calming music. However, no electronic devices!
  • Make your room right for sleep. The best conditions are cool, dark, and quiet. A good mattress and pillow help.
  • Love your pets, but if they disrupt your sleep, make them stay in their own beds!

Remember, your memories are too important to ignore how sleep deprivation can affect them.

“God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.” J.M. Barrie

Sleep Deprivation and Heart Health – A Serious Link

Our busy lifestyles often leave us little time for rest, which has resulted in a major change in sleep patterns. Now people sleep an hour to two hours less than they did just 50 years ago. While some people might consider this great for productivity, it’s not a good situation for our health. Recent research indicates there’s a link between those shorter hours of sleep and an increased potential to develop heart disease.

Man with sleep deprivationIn the United States, heart disease is reported to be the leading cause of death and disability, with strokes being the number 4 cause. A major threat factor in both cases is high blood pressure.

The lack of sleep—or prolonged sleep—isn’t necessarily the cause of heart disease, but it definitely affects the heart disease risk factors in terms of arrhythmia, stroke and heart failure.

These are the kinds of statistics that research has revealed about sleep deprivation:

  • A 48% increase in the risk of getting or dying from coronary heart disease (CHD);
  • A 15% risk increase in developing or dying from stroke;
  • Interestingly, there is also a 38% risk increase of CHD in people who sleep too much, such as nine or more hours a night!

Just like the rest of your body, your heart needs rest. It never stops beating, so resting that reduces the heart rate and blood pressure is essential to its health.

Sleep Regulates Your Health!

While you sleep, your body regulates insulin levels, hormone levels,including stress hormones, and blood pressure. When you don’t get enough sleep it throws all of those things out of sync.

It’s those hormone levels, in particular, which affect your appetite and energy. When those decrease because you’re tired, you have a greater chance for weight gain, the development of insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a collection of physiological and biochemical abnormalities associated with initiating cardiovascular disease. This is because it triggers inflammation, and studies have shown that inflammation causes high blood pressure. This explains why the risk of stroke or heart attack shoots up when you don’t get enough sleep.

If you already have a heart problem, even short-term sleep deficit is shown to be harmful. The effect of daylight saving time, which strips away that extra hour of additional sleep in spring, is known to increase the risk for heart attacks by a surprising 4%!

The depth of your sleep is also important. Along with shorter sleep, shallow sleep can result in hypertension. Without long periods of deep rest, the important chemicals needed to keep the heart rate and blood pressure lowered, aren’t activated. So, the longer you sleep deeply, the better rested you are and the better your heart feels.

Sleep Apnea

Not everyone suffers from sleep apnea, but the manner in which the condition affects heart health is one of the reasons the “sleep and hearth health” link has been identified.

Sleep apnea causes snoring and gasping for breath while a person sleeps. That condition results in the heart rate increasing, a rise in blood pressure, and frequently disrupted sleep. All of the bodily functions that normally slow down at night are forced to continue operating at a higher rate of activity. Over time, the higher blood pressure carries over into the day. Some researchers believe at least one-third of identified cases of high blood pressure among adults are due to sleep apnea. As mentioned above, high blood pressure during the day increases the chance for cardiovascular issues.

Sleep Deprivation Catches Up with You

No one intentionally decides they just aren’t going to get enough sleep. Even night owls require down time to rejuvenate, and people who thrive on activity and long hours are forced to sleep whether they want to or not. But in many cases it’s simply difficult to fall asleep, or to stay asleep when you finally manage to drift off. That can be due to external factors, such as work, children, emergencies, a middle-of-the-night phone call, a restless partner or pet, an uncomfortable bed, or to internal factors such as worry, anxiety, bad dreams, depression, excitement, or sundry other mental intrusions.

A lack of sleep causes “sleep debt,” which isn’t unlike being overdrawn at your bank. It catches up with your body, and your body won’t let you go without repaying the debt. People don’t adapt to getting less sleep. Eventually all of your functions are impaired and you have to react.

Here are a few tips to help with sleep issues:

  • Get a little exercise during the day
  • Keep regular bedtime hours
  • Refrain from late night snacks; especially caffeine and alcohol
  • Keep your bedroom dark and quiet
  • Limit your use electronics such as a tablet or a cell phone

If you need extra help, a cup of soothing herbal tea, accompanied by a a small dose (1 to 3 mg.) of melatonin may help you fall asleep.

There is an Irish proverb that says “A good laugh and good sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.” An excellent perspective to embrace in order to keep your heart healthy!