One of the most effective ways to help you prevent from getting sick is to apply strategic recovery to ensure you have a strong immune system.
Let me give you an executive summary of how our immune system works, and share a few quick wins for what we can do to strengthen it – especially with SLEEP.
A bullet proof immune system is essential for staying healthy and performing at your highest level over the long term, especially in high-stress environments. When it’s weakened, we become more vulnerable to all kinds of viruses, bacteria, and toxins.
Our Immune System at a Glance
Our immune system is what protects our body against germs and infections to keep us from becoming ill. When foreign substances like antigens attack our body, our immune system kicks in.
White blood cells – the leukocytes – are the most critical parts of our immune system. And there are two main types of white blood cells to fight off invaders:
These are the cells that break down or “kill” invading cells.
These cells allow our body to remember those antigens that have previously attacked and recognize them in case they return in the future.
How to Strengthen Our Immune System with Sleep
Getting sufficient DEEP SLEEP (the most restorative sleep stage) is one of the best things if not THE VERY BEST THING we can do to boost our immune system. During deep sleep, our immune function kicks into its highest gear and works to repair its vital systems that help keep us alive including muscular, skeletal, and cellular repair.
But if you shortcut your sleep and deep sleep, your body cannot perform these vital recovery processes and you multiple the likelihood to get sick.
Studies have shown that people who sleep 6 hours a night or less are significantly more likely to catch a common virus than those who sleep 7 hours or more (see picture below).
While the Covid-19 disease and the novel coronavirus that causes it are new and therefore relatively poorly understood and understudied, research by Dr. Aric Prather out of UC San Francisco on another type of Coronavirus – the common cold – found out:
“People who sleep six hours a night or less are four times more likely to catch a cold when exposed to the virus, compared to those who spend more than seven hours a night in slumber land.”
Although you may assume that this kind of relationship exists between sleep and immunity, the study was able to show HOW STRONG this relationship is. Way higher than the relationship between the risk of getting a cold and alcohol, smoking, or other markers of health including BMI and stress.
Other research has shown that lower energy demand during sleep allow our body to allocate more resources during that time towards the immune system and the associated recovery processes.
There’s also data indicating that T cells are more effective during sleep.
The study, published last year in the Journal of Experimental Medicine and led by Stoyan Dimitrov, showed that a good night’s sleep can boost the effectiveness of T cells, a specialized white blood cell responsible for activating the immune system to fight infection. T cells do their job with the help of a special immune system protein called integrins, which allow the T cells to bind to their targets. Dimitrov and his team showed that integrin activation happened at a higher rate during sleep than during wake, suggesting that the immune system is better at identifying threats while you’re asleep than while you’re awake.
More Tips to Strengthen Our Immune System
Beyond getting sufficient deep sleep we have a lot more tools at hand to make our immune system stronger. Here’s a selection:
- Reduce your alcohol intake and drink as early as possible during the day
- Keep your body hydrated all day long
- Stick to a protein-dense diet
- Supplement zinc, Vitamins B6, C, and E
- Train your stress-rest elasticity (your ability to switch OFF fast
- Don’t exercise too hard and too late (but do it regularly!)
- Take a 26 minute nap (before 4 PM)
- And of course… wash your hands regularly
- And stay 1.5m away from other people
Bringing it All Together
For the time being a strong immune system is the only weapon we have to fight off Covid-19. So please may I ask you to prioritize your sleep hygiene and do anything you can to keep your immune system at the highest possible level. It can literally save your life! Thank you.
How do you boost your immune system? Please comment below…
I wish you all the best and STAY HEALTHY!
Thank you for reading 🙂
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