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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.


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

The Causes of Osteoporosis and Natural Prevention Tips

More than 54 million people suffer low bone mass and osteoporosis in the United States. To some extent it’s a preventable condition, but if someone is affected and the condition is allowed to progress, it can lead to a bent posture, which means a loss of height, sometimes a humpback, and often acute pain.

What is osteoporosis?

image of osteoporosis
If you aren’t familiar with osteoporosis, let’s define it. It’s a disease that results in the loss of bone strength to the extent that broken bones become a real risk! Although anyone can be susceptible, for the elderly, osteoporosis has become the main cause for broken bones. Weight-bearing bones in the hip, back, and forearm are most susceptible. Breaks in these important bones wreak havoc on a person’s mobility.

Unfortunately, symptoms often don’t appear until a bone actually breaks. A bone can become so weak, it may snap with very minor stress, or even spontaneously. Obviously, when that occurs, the person who has such a break experiences prolonged pain and difficulty performing their daily activities.

Causes of osteoporosis

Here are some of the conditions that create weakened bones:

  • Inactivity
  • Aging
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Long-term use of certain medications
  • Steroid use
  • Low vitamin D levels
  • Emotional stress
  • Nutritional deficiencies

There are additional risk factors, including but not limited to:

  • Gender – More women are at risk of contraction osteoporosis than men
  • Age – Older people are more susceptible than younger people
  • Body size – Smaller and thinner people are at greater risk
  • Ethnicity and family history – If relatives historically had a low bone mass, a person has an increased potential for developing osteoporosis.
  • Lifestyle and food choices – Lifestyle can affect bone mass. Bad habits such as smoking, an immoderate intake of caffeine or alcohol, and too little exercise can also affect bone strength.
  • Medical conditions – Some medical conditions contribute to bone loss, including Cushing’s syndrome, hyperthyroidism, and hyperparathyroidism.

Foods for Osteoporosis

woman receiving treatment for osteoporosis
Eating right plays a big part in avoiding bone loss. If certain important minerals and vitamins are missing from your diet, that could result in osteoporosis. Important nutrients that keep bones strong and healthy include calcium, magnesium, zinc and copper, manganese, and vitamins D, C, and K.

Below you’ll find a breakdown of nutrients that are essential to fighting osteoporosis and the foods that contain them. Adding these minerals to your diet will help to strengthen your bones.

  • Calcium is the body’s most plentiful mineral, with the greatest percentage of it it going to our bones. Ingesting enough calcium aids in reducing bone loss between 30% to 50%. Calcium-rich foods include: broccoli, kelp, kale, turnips, collard greens, sardines, almonds, soy beans, sesame seeds, chia seeds, beans, oranges, milk, Greek yogurt, cheese, Bok Choy, oatmeal, Cheerios, tofu, and eggs.
  • Magnesium helps increase bone density. Magnesium has been mostly removed from processed foods, so if you eat many processed foods you aren’t getting enough magnesium. Interestingly, since magnesium works with calcium, it’s necessary to eat an appropriate ratio of the two minerals. A 2:1 ratio of calcium-to-magnesium is a good approach. Magnesium-rich foods include: brown rice, corn, buckwheat, dark green vegetables, Dandelion greens, legumes, nuts (cashew, Brazil, almonds), rye, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, wheat germ/bran, and whole grain cereals.
  • Zinc deficiency can cause bone loss, and copper is involved in the skeletal systems growth and development. These minerals need to be balanced in your diet. The recommendation is that 30mg of zinc should be balanced with 2mg of copper. Zinc-rich foods include: peanuts, pecans, Brazil nuts, oats, pumpkin seeds, rye, split peas, and oysters. Copper-rich foods include: crab, liver, buckwheat, peanut butter, mushrooms, split peas, seeds and nuts, and vegetable oils (olive and sunflower).
  •  Manganese benefits healthy bone structure, and one symptom of a deficiency is bone malformation. It’s found naturally in the body, and is concentrated in the liver, pancreas, kidneys, and bones. Manganese-rich foods include: almonds, bananas, beetroot, blackberries, brown rice, carrots, cloves, coconuts, cucumbers, figs, garlic, green beans, green vegetables, grapes, hazelnuts, kiwis, leeks, lettuce, molasses, mustard greens, nuts, oats, peppermint, pineapples, raspberries, rice, spinach, strawberries, tofu, tropical fruits, turmeric, watercress, and whole wheat. The five bolded foods are extra good because they maximize manganese absorption.
  • Vitamin D is required to draw calcium into the bones. The body synthesizes vitamin D from sunlight, but not everyone gets enough sunlight to generate the amount of vitamin D needed. Vitamin D deficiency can result in bone deformities. Vitamin D-rich foods include: tuna, mackerel, herring, catfish, salmon, mushrooms, some orange juices, milk, egg yolk, cod liver oil, pork, tofu, caviar, fortified cereals, beef liver, and ricotta cheese.
  • Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps increase bone density because it promotes higher calcium absorption. Vitamin C-rich foods include: oranges, limes, grapefruit, lemons, papaya, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cantaloupe, kiwis, strawberries, pineapple, red chili peppers, Guavas, red cabbage, raspberries, apples, pears, chard, leafy greens (turnips, collard, mustard, and beet), tomatoes, spinach, asparagus, green beans, peas, watermelon, summer squash, sweet potato, carrots, and more.
  • Vitamin K binds calcium and other minerals to bones, promoting bone strength. A daily dosage of 150 mcg is recommended; too high a dose can result in sweating. Also, avoid vitamin K if you take warfarin as a blood thinner. Vitamin K-rich foods include: eggs, kale, chick peas, broccoli, seeds, Brussels sprouts, dairy products, cauliflower, and vegetable oils (canola and olive).

Supplements for osteoporosis

How important are supplements for folks who don’t like many of the nutrient-rich foods identified, or—even for those who do like them—don’t always have enough time to eat a good meal? High-risk groups, including the elderly, should definitely take supplements to be certain they’re getting the needed nutrients for healthy bones. Anyone else, who knows they’re not sticking to a good diet, should consider supplements to take up the nutritional slack. You can add extra minerals to your diet with this supplement, or pick up the necessary nutrients in one fell swoop with a good multivitamin .

At our Garland Chiropractic Clinic, we have the expertise and desire to help our patients, old and new, achieve optimal fitness. And, because we’re a chiropractic clinic, we have an investment in—and a special fondness for—bone and skeletal health. Allow us to aid you in achieving that skeletal health by creating a regimen of nutrition and exercise that will enable you to develop and maintain strong bones free of osteoporosis. You can contact us at (972) 840-2520.