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 function
At 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

Your Mind/Body Connection – How Emotions Affect your Health

Have you ever noticed a physical reaction in your body when you experience intense emotions? Maybe you’re happy about seeing an old friend, or you passed an important test, or you discovered a five-dollar bill on the dresser that you thought you’d lost—whatever the reason, such experiences generate an elation that expresses as an actual sensation in your body. That’s why we refer to a rush of excitement, a flutter of joy.

The same thing happens when you’re sad, but the sensations aren’t as pleasant. You might feel tired and apathetic, and in the case of an extreme sadness—such as grief due to a loss or a natural disaster—you might even experience tightness in your chest or develop a stomach ache.

illustration of the mind/body connection

illustration human body with energy rays

These physical reactions are real. It’s well known that certain emotions generate specific chemical reactions, and your body responds to the way you think, feel, and act. It’s a veritable “mind/body connection.”

Our Garland Chiropractic Clinic is invested in helping you find the mind/body balance you need to achieve good health. Let’s take a look at the issue.

First, an interesting history

More than a millennia ago, ancient Greeks, Romans, and East Indian physicians intuitively recognized that there was a link between illness and emotion. They embraced the theory that an imbalance in the four ‘humors’ (secretions) of blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm caused diseases, and that the imbalance was caused by emotions.

This connection is so important we even derived some of our words from it. Melancholy comes from melan, the Latin word for “black,” and choler, the Latin word for “bitter bile.” A gloomy or embittered person is melancholic. And a phlegmatic person is considered languid and lethargic. We even developed the term “feeling sick” as a collective description that includes our sensory symptoms, such as nausea, fever, and exhaustion with how we feel psychologically, such as sad or apathetic.

The Mind/Body Connection and How it works

The effects your mind has on your physical body are profound. A different chemical is released each time we experience an emotion, whether it’s happiness or sadness, joy or depression. Each chemical literally creates a different environment inside our bodies. Considering our wide array of emotions, it’s no wonder our bodies suffer such a range of reactions!

Let’s think about negative reactions. Cortisol and adrenaline levels increase in your bloodstream when you’re stressed. They’re actually called stress hormones. These hormones work to redirect the blood supply from your deep organs into areas where it’s needed to allow your instinctive “flight-or-flight response,” preparing you to run as fast as you can. Your body believes that’s your best chance to escape whatever is causing the stress. It doesn’t matter if you’re stressed because you’re in real physical danger—like being stalked by a hungry tiger!—or if it’s caused by grief, sadness, or depression. Nature developed a very efficient and cool arrangement for us, utilizing our human emotions to initiate our survival instinct.

On the other end of the spectrum, when you feel happy, the body releases dopamine, oxytocin, or serotonin. Those hormones make you feel good.

  • Dopamine is a motivator, encouraging the action and persistence you need to meet your needs and goals.
  • Oxytocin is often referred as a “cuddle neurochemical” because it’s released by skin-to-skin contact.
  • Serotonin is the “confidence molecule,” coming into play when you feel important or significant. Low levels of serotonin can result in loneliness and depression.

It’s quite fascinating how the interplay of these hormones manifests in your physical responses. It’s been noted that love and happiness are “felt strongly all over our bodies, while depression causes us to lose sensation in every limb.” Pride creates a huge increase in the body’s internal activity, but it focuses in the upper body. Shame only burns your cheeks, while fear is felt in your chest and disgust—like phlegm—fills your throat.

Physical health impacts of the Mind/Body Connection

What happens if you think negatively all the time?

  • Long term stress can cause an ulcer.
  • Anxiety can increase the heartrate and blood pressure, cause shortness of breath, and could result in chest pains.
  • Depression causes tiredness and fatigue.
  • The immune system can be weakened.
  • Physical health is impacted when stress, anxiety, and depression interfere with a person taking care of themselves.

Additional issues may include: poor appetite, dry mouth, back pain, constipation or diarrhea, insomnia, sweating, stiff neck, headaches, weight loss or gain, and just general aches and pains.

Controlling your own health

If negative thoughts can hurt you, positive thoughts can help you.

Optimism alone seems to reduce cortisol levels and inflammation that’s caused by stress. It might well decrease a person’s potential to be impacted by diseases because it suppresses activity of the sympathetic nervous system while stimulating the “rest-and-digest” response of the parasympathetic nervous system. Positive people can lower their cardiovascular responses to stress.

Good emotional health means being aware of your own thoughts, feelings, and reactions. There are always stress and problems in life and you have to learn to deal with them in a manner that helps you stay healthy.

Here are some helpful tips for taking charge of your mind/body connection:

  • Don’t keep your feelings inside if it makes you feel worse. Express yourself, and do it in a positive way. Tell people how you feel. Turn to a doctor, counselor or pastor if you need emotional support.
  • Keep your life balanced. Try not to obsess about the things in your daily life that bother you. You have to deal with them, but bring in positive feelings and activities to lessen that burden. Focus on a positive outlook.
  • Learn resilience so you can cope. Find social support, accept change, and keep the issues in perspective.
  • Work to calm yourself mentally and physically. Try yoga, meditation, music, a good book or a movie you love. If an intimate group of friends helps, invite them over for a talk fest!
  • It’s important to take care of yourself. If you’re emotionally healthy, work on body health. If your body is healthy, work on your emotional strength. Eat right, sleep enough, and exercise to throw off tension. Avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Contact Texas Spine & Wellness and let our trained professionals set up a program that will help you reach an optimal level of physical health.

Remember, the power to take on and overcome what life throws at you lies within yourself. Remember, too, these words said by Hippocrates:

“If someone wishes for good health, one must first ask oneself if he is ready to do away with the reasons for his illness. Only then is it possible to help him.”