Sleep science has progressed tremendously in recent decades, demonstrating the critical role of sleep in practically every bodily system. As research into the links between sleep and physical health has progressed, it has become obvious that sleep and the immune system are intimately connected.
If you needed another reason to sleep soundly, this could be it!
What Is A T Cell?
A peaceful night’s sleep has been associated with numerous health benefits, and now German researchers have discovered that sound sleep enhances immune cells known as T cells.
T lymphocyte or T cell is a type of leukocyte (white blood cell) that plays an important role in the immune system. B cells and T cells are two kinds of lymphocytes that regulate the body’s immune response to antigens (foreign substances). The other sort of cell is the B cell.
T cells develop in the thymus after starting in the bone marrow. T cells grow and differentiate into helper, regulatory, or cytotoxic T cells, as well as memory T cells in the thymus. They are subsequently transported to peripheral tissues or circulated in the bloodstream or lymphatic system.
Cytokines are chemical messengers secreted by helper T cells after being triggered by the right antigen, which stimulates the development of B cells into plasma cells (antibody-producing cells).
The Role of T Cell
T cells play an integral role in the immune system.
When cells in the body detect a virally infected cell, integrins, a sticky protein, are activated, allowing them to attach to and kill infected cells.
T lymphocytes from healthy volunteers who either slept or stayed awake all night were compared.
They discovered that T cells from study participants who slept had higher levels of integrin activation than T cells from study participants who were awake.
Sleep can increase T cell activity, according to the research. Stress hormones may impair T cells’ ability to function properly in those who don’t get enough sleep.
While the body is sleeping, stress chemicals decrease. High amounts of these chemicals may reduce the effectiveness of T cells’ immunological responses against infections.
Ideal Sleep Duration
According to the National Sleep Foundation, the following sleep ranges are recommended:
14-17 hours for newborns (0-3 months).
12-15 hours for infants (4-11 months).
11-14 hours for toddlers (ages 1-2).
10 to 13 hours for Pre-schoolers (ages 3 to 5)
9-11 hours for School-age children (ages 6-13)
8-10 hours for Teenagers (ages 14-17)
7-9 hours for younger adults (ages18 -25)
7-9 hours for Adults (ages 26 to 64
7-8 hours for older adults (ages 65 and up).
In typical conditions, the above statistics reflect the ideal amount of sleep; nevertheless, there are times when people require extra sleep, such as while recovering from illness, jet lag, or a drastic time zone shift.
The Importance of a Good Night’s Sleep
Most people are required at least seven hours of sleep each night to function well cognitively and behaviorally. An insufficient amount of sleep might have catastrophic consequences. Some studies have linked sleep deprivation to attention lapses, impaired cognition, delayed reactions, and mood swings.
It’s also been proposed that continuous sleep deprivation can cause people to build a tolerance for it. Even if their brains and bodies suffer due to their lack of sleep, they may be unaware of their shortcomings because less sleep appears normal to them.
Sleep deprivation has also been related to an increased risk of certain diseases and medical disorders. Obesity, high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, poor mental health, and early death are only a few of them.
Adults who do not get sufficient sleep each night might improve their lifestyle and sleep patterns to get the seven to nine hours they require. The following are some of them:
- Set a reasonable bedtime for yourself and stick to it every night, especially on weekends.
- Maintain a moderate temperature in your bedroom and use dim lighting.
- Make sure your sleeping environment is pleasant, including your mattress, pillows, and bedding.
- Consider putting a “screen ban” in your bedroom for televisions, laptops and tablets, cell phones, and other electronic gadgets.
- In the hours preceding up to bedtime, avoid coffee, alcohol, and large meals.
- Avoid tobacco at any hour of the day or night.
- Exercise during the day can help you relax and prepare for sleep in the evening.
How Does the Immune System Influences Sleep?
While sleep is important for immune function, the immune system has a variety of impacts on sleep too!
Infections can cause the immune system to respond in various ways, including fatigue and sleepiness—one of the reasons why sick people tend to spend more time in bed and sleeping.
During an infection, the nature of sleep changes, affecting how much time is spent in various stages of sleep. More time is spent in stage 3 non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, often known as deep sleep, due to the immunological response. Deep sleep causes body functions to slow down, allowing the immune system to focus more energy on fighting infection.
Another crucial immunological response is fever. Increased body temperature can activate new immune defenses and make the body more hostile to numerous infections. Some experts believe that fever and the body’s fight against invading pathogens are facilitated by sleep changes brought on by infection.
Deep sleep (N3) is heightened when we are fighting an infection since it is the stage of sleep when our metabolism is at its lowest, freeing up resources to mount a high fever response.
Shivering also aids in the release of heat and the maintenance of a fever. Because our bodies can’t shiver during REM sleep due to muscular atonia, REM sleep is practically non-existent during an active infection. The fragmentation of REM sleep caused by fevers has resulted in “fever dreams,” or an increase in nightmares.
While researchers continue to investigate the links between sleep and the immune system, these findings show how closely they are linked and how the immune system can use sleep to increase its ability to fight illness.
Sleep deprivation can negatively impact a person’s mental and physical health, school or work performance, and overall quality of life.
In addition, chronic sleep deprivation can lead to difficulties or signal an underlying health concern, such as sleep apnea or anxiety.
Anyone concerned about their sleep deprivation should seek medical advice.
Consistent sleep habits, as well as a good diet and exercise, can help your immune system stay strong and keep you healthy. Habits are formed through a routine. Building a consistent night-time routine can signal to your body that it’s time to start calming down and producing the hormones that promote peaceful quality sleep.