Sleep and your immune health – what’s the link?

It has long since been noted that a lack of sleep can cause many more medical conditions than just a sleepy day at work and poor brain function. However, it has only been recently that those that suffer with poor sleeping patterns have been shown to be more susceptible to many chronic and everyday conditions, in a bid by Scientists to link those with an inability to sleep with poor immune health.

Sleep has been the question of many studies over many years, with its actual function and evolutionary status not becoming clear until studies performed in recent years. When you think back to the days of cavemen; sleeping put them in an incredibly risky position – while they were sleeping, not only were they at a high risk of becoming prey, but also stopped hunting for food to feed themselves and their families, were unable to take care of themselves, unable to reproduce and much more. However, despite the feelings that sleep was an evolutionary anomaly that didn’t really have any answers to back the questions of “why?” every animal sleeps, from humans to tigers, and even the simplest and smallest of creatures.

Sleep was once thought of as a way to conserve energy and to recharge the batteries, so to speak, but studies performed by Scientists have shown that sleep was actually more of a way for us to heighten the strength of the immune system. Studies were performed on people that regularly had trouble sleeping, and from these studies, it was shown that their inability to get a good night’s sleep actually made them more susceptible to infections, such as the common cold and cough, flu, and even more chronic conditions such as coronary heart disease.

Blood tests showed that those that didn’t get the recommended eight hours of uninterrupted sleep per night had abnormalities within their immune system. These abnormalities varied from person to person, of course, but it was shown that many problems were present, including a lack of white blood cells – the cells used to fight off infection and exterior bodies that were not normally found in the body naturally, interleukins, (chemicals that helped to reduce inflammation) were in lower numbers, as well as many chemicals just like it, and even certain compounds that actively promoted inflammation were found in increased amounts. It is not yet clearly understood why all of these things put together, (or in some cases and patients, not) cause certain diseases and conditions, or at least make them worse, but one thing rings true – your immune system, and therefore your overall health and well being is reduced, giving you a poorer quality of life.

Other scientific studies have noted that when animals, (humans and otherwise) become sick, they sleep more in a bid to fight off the illness. It has also been shown that those that do not get enough, or at least have good quality sleep, do not respond well to vaccinations when compared with people that do get enough good quality sleep, and on top of this, animals that were studied in laboratories that were sleep deprived died fairly quickly from many conditions, including various bacterial infections. In short, sleep deprivation causes a massive impact on your immune system, and completely alters your daily well being.