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.
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!