How Lack of Sleep Affects Your Immune System

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And the Important Role Sleep Will Play Amid the COVID-19 Outbreak

The connection between lack of sleep and illness isn't cut and dry, but there is some data that suggests being sleep deprived suppresses your immune system function and possibly leads to a greater chance of catching a cold or COVID-19. Think of it this way: after a poor night's sleep, you may be unable to perform the mental or physical demands of your job the way you can with a good night's sleep. Your immune system's job is to ward off illness and infection; without adequate sleep, it may not do its job as well either.

Sleep Helps Your Body Fight Illnesses

In an interview with Web MD, Dr. Diwakar Balachandran, director of the Sleep Center at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, said numerous studies show that lack of sleep causes a decrease in T-cells and an increase in inflammatory cytokines, potentially leading to an increased risk of catching a cold or a flu virus. Getting enough sleep also plays a role in helping your body fight illnesses once you catch one. Our bodies' way to fight infection is with fevers. Sleeping, according to Dr. Balachandran, allows a better fever response, which is why it's common for a fever to go up at night. If you're not sleeping, your body's fever reaction may not be functioning at optimal levels, meaning it's not fighting the infection to the best of its ability.

The Link Between Your Circadian Rhythm and Illnesses

Another recent study shows that there may also be a link between the body’s circadian rhythm and the immune system. Circadian rhythms are, simply put, the internal rhythms or clock that regulate various bodily processes, such as sleep and hunger. The study used mice to show that there is a link between the circadian rhythms and a gene that wards off bacteria and viruses. When proper circadian rhythms were maintained, including adequate, regular levels of sleep, the levels of the gene are higher and more capable of warding off infection.

Can Enough Sleep Keep Me From Getting Sick?

A study of 164 men and women determined that those who got less than 6 hours of sleep per night were 4 times more likely to develop a cold than those who slept for at least 7 hours per night. As shorter sleep duration increases your susceptibility to illness, striving to get a good night's sleep on a consistent basis should be a goal for maintaining proper health. If you're having trouble falling asleep or difficulty sleeping through the night, it's important to find out why and seek a sleep solution. It's generally recommended that adults get 7-8 hours of sleep per day.

Click here to find out more about how much sleep YOU should be getting.

4 Simple Ways to Stay Healthy

  1. Sleep! 7-8 hours each night (See 5 ways to fall asleep now)
  2. Reduce stress
  3. Eat a healthy diet
  4. Wash hands before eating food and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing

What to Do If You Think You Have the Coronavirus

Symptoms of COVID-19 are as follows:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Aches and pains in muscles and joints
  • Fatigue
  • Productive cough (mucus)
  • There may be some nasal congestion or runny nose, but this is actually not common for this illness.

Worsening of symptoms almost always involves feeling short of breath. According to the most recent reports in the US, the incubation period averages 5 days. Symptoms may be mild to moderate for a week. After that, many people slowly recover. Some make a turn for the worse and start to feel short of breath. When that happens, it's time to go to the hospital for oxygen. Call your doctor to let them know about your symptoms. Do not just show up. And definitely don’t just show up to the ER if you are not gravely ill. Call ahead, and ask if they want you tested and how. This will prevent medical facilities from becoming overwhelmed so they can properly treat the most life-threatening cases.

For More on the Coronavirus

The CEO of SleepPhones®, Dr. Wei-Shin Lai, has an extensive background in epidemiology and was offered a job by the CDC as an Epidemic Intelligence Officer before she saw patients for 10 years as a board-certified family doctor. Her qualifications on epidemics are extensive. To see her latest updates on the coronavirus and what you should do to prepare, see the Updates on Coronavirus Pandemic article. For Dr. Lai's suggestions on how to stop the coronavirus from spreading and mortality rate predictions, see this article: Coronavirus Predictions and Business Impact: How Fast It Will Spread, Creating a Business Continuity Plan, and What You Should Stock Up On.

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