lack of sleep effect on immune system
Lack of sleep can impair your immune system and make you more prone to getting sick. Learn why sleep is essential to your health

Sleeping less than 6-7 hours a day has been linked to several health problems, including a compromised immune system. Studies show that sleep-deprived people are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus. In fact, lack of sleep can even ruin the protective effect of flu vaccinations

Sleep deprivation affects the immune system by:

  • Lowering white blood cells: Lack of sleep decreases the amount of infection-fighting antibodies in your system.
  • Decreased production of cytokines: Studies have linked sleep deprivation to the production of cytokines, which are chemical messengers essential for suppressing infection and inflammation.
  • Suppression of melatonin: Melatonin is a sleep-promoting hormone that is produced at night to combat stress. Lower melatonin levels are associated with a higher risk of cancer.

Sleep deprivation can also increase C-reactive protein (CRP) in the body. CRP is an indicator of inflammation, and inflammation may pave the way for heart disease.

What happens to your body when you sleep?

When you sleep, your immune system releases cytokines which help suppress infection and reduce stress in the body. Getting good sleep is therefore essential for the body to heal itself from the wear and tear of the daily grind. When you are sleep-deprived, your body doesn’t produce enough of the things it needs to fight infection and repair cells. 

Sleep is also known to bolster immune memory. While you sleep, the components of your immune system interact with each other to strengthen the immune system’s memory to identify and react to harmful antigens.

What are the effects of sleep deprivation on your health?

Getting quality sleep is crucial for physical and mental health. Without it, you may experience detrimental short-term and long-term problems. 

Short-term effects of sleep deprivation:

  • Increased stress
  • Reduced quality of life
  • Emotional distress
  • Mood disorders
  • Cognitive, memory, and performance deficits

Long-term effects of chronic sleep deprivation:

How can you build better sleep habits?

Creating a sleep routine can reduce sleep disturbances and gradually improve your sleep quality. You can start by following these tips:

  • Stick to a fixed sleeping schedule
  • Make sure your bedroom is comfortable and free of disruptions
  • Follow relaxing bedtime routine
  • Build healthy eating and exercise habits during the day

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Medically Reviewed on 8/11/2021
References
Mann D. Can Better Sleep Mean Catching Fewer Colds? WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/immune-system-lack-of-sleep

Suni E. How Sleep Affects Immunity. Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/physical-health/how-sleep-affects-immunity

Olson EJ. Lack of Sleep: Can It Make You Sick? Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/expert-answers/lack-of-sleep/faq-20057757