When’s the last time you got a good night’s sleep? Unfortunately, for many of us, life gets in the way of having a truly restful, undisturbed snooze. Whether it’s work stress, children or poor sleep hygiene, almost a half of UK adults believe they don’t get enough sleep.

We’ve all felt the grogginess and fatigue after a sleepless night – but can poor sleep make you sick? Research suggests that not getting enough undisturbed sleep may harm the immune system.

The danger of sleep deprivation

Evidence shows that a lack of sleep can affect multiple immunity functions.

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For example, losing just four hours of sleep for one night can substantially impact the ability of ‘natural killer’ cells responsible for warding off tumour cells. Studies suggest that reducing the power of these natural killer cells (naturally cytotoxic lymphocytes) can increase the risk of dying of all cancers.

Furthermore, sleep deprivation may increase the risk of inflammation-related disorders such as diabetes and arthritis. This is because, when getting just four hours of sleep per night, the body may overproduce molecules known as inflammatory cytokines.

While the onset of inflammatory disorders may develop over many years, infections such as the flu are more immediate consequences of sleep deprivation. 

For example, one study monitored participants who slept for four hours a night for six days, then twelve hours a night for one week. Compared to subjects with more regular sleep patterns, participants experienced a 50% drop in their antibody production in response to the flu jab. 

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Research is ongoing to see if there is a similar connection between sleep deprivation and vaccine efficacy after having the COVID-19 vaccination.

In another study, people who slept less than five hours per night were four times more likely to develop the common cold than people who slept more than seven hours per night.

The role of T cells

T cells are crucial white blood cells that can attack cells infected by a virus. They, therefore, have an essential role in keeping us safe from foreign bodies that can cause illness.

Read more: Cancer and Immunity: Is There A Link?

Significantly, research has shown that a lack of sleep can harm the ability of T cells to function correctly.

The importance of sleep

It is generally thought that adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night, although this can vary between individuals.

Not only does getting enough sleep help us feel refreshed and ready for the day ahead, but it can also improve our overall wellness in unexpected ways. These include helping us maintain a healthy weight and reducing the risk of heart disease.

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Conversely, continually not getting enough sleep has several scary consequences. For example, research suggests that sleep deprivation can increase our pain sensitivity. Furthermore, the impact sleep loss has on the brain’s cognitive functions may be comparable to being drunk – a scary concept for people who drive and operate machinery.

Read more: 7 Top Tips To Naturally Boost Your Brain Health

Getting enough sleep

Over half of UK adults say they don’t take any measures to help them sleep better. Despite knowing the mental and physical health benefits, it can still be challenging to prioritise sleep. 

Practising good sleep hygiene, however, may be easier than you think.

Avoiding caffeine in the afternoon and evening and cutting down on alcohol may help improve your ability to get to sleep and sleep quality.

Ensuring your sleep environment is kept dark, comfortable and temperature-controlled can also have a huge impact. Regular exercise has also been shown to help you get a more restful sleep.

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However, having enough sleep alone is likely not enough to build a robust immune system. Proper nutrition, hygiene, exercise, and even minimising stress all have a role in boosting immunity.

Read more: The Difference Between Good And Bad Stress

Supplementing your diet with a high-quality multivitamin such as Organic Immunity Goals could also help give your body the best defence against diseases and contribute to general wellbeing.

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Our vegan capsules contain premium-quality Ashwagandha, Vitamin C and Zinc derived for their nutritional properties from 100% natural plant sources. Synergistically, these ingredients can deliver an energy boost and may enhance your overall immune function – without an unpleasant aftertaste.

Read more: Why do I need supplements if I have a healthy diet?

Zinc may also act as a sleep regulator, and deficiency is associated with reduced sleep quality. 

The takeaway

Getting a good night’s sleep may significantly affect your immunity and other aspects of health, such as cognitive function. While most of us are aware of the importance of diet and exercise in improving our health, we should consider giving our sleep a little more attention.

Medical disclaimer

You must not rely on the information on this blog as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or therapist. If you have any specific concerns about your mental or physical health, you should consult your doctor and you should not delay seeking medical advice, or treatment for your mental health, because of the information on this blog.