The Relationship Between Your Immune System and Sleep
Your immune system and sleep are intimately connected. Sleep loss impacts your immune response and, in turn, your immune system alters your sleep. If you are trying to avoid getting sick, consistently getting the recommended hours of quality sleep will be one of your primary methods of preventing illness and ensuring optimal recovery.
Your immune system uses cytokines which are signaling molecules in the immune system and the brain for proper immune function. Sleep deprivation decreases your body’s production of cytokines and inhibits your immune response to illness such as the flu, common cold, and chronic illness.
Specifically, lack of sleep prevents your immune system from building up its forces, meaning that your immune system will be overloaded by illness and you will likely take longer to recover.
During illness, increased levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines correspond with increased fatigue, which is why you feel tired when you are sick – it’s your body’s way of telling you to sleep more to recover more quickly from your illness.
How Much Sleep Should You Get
Getting enough sleep is extremely important for preventing illness. Of course, this involves knowing how much sleep you should be getting.
The amount of sleep you should be getting varies based on age. Below are minimum, maximum, and recommended amount of sleep, which will help prevent sickness. [Sleep Foundation]
- Age 0-4 months
- Recommended 14-17 hours per day
- Not less than 11 hours
- Not more than 19 hours
- Age 4-12 months
- Recommended 12-15 hours
- Not less than 10 hours
- Not more than 18 hours
- Age 1-3 years
- Recommended 11-14 hours
- Not less than 9 hours
- Not more than 16 hours
- Age 3-5 years
- Recommended 10-12 hours
- Not less than 8 hours
- Not more than 14 hours
- Age 6-13 years
- Recommended 9-11 hours
- Not less than 7 hours
- Not more than 12 hours
- Age 13-18 years
- Recommended 8-10 hours
- Not less than 7 hours
- Not more than 11 hours
- Age 18+
- Recommended 7-9 hours
- Not less than 6 hours
- Not more than 10 hours
It important to ensure that you and your children are getting at least the recommended amount of sleep, and even more if possible.
Common Causes of Sleep Deprivation
Sleep disorders are a common cause of chronic sleep deprivation, including:
The primary symptom of sleep disorders is sleep deprivation – beyond this each sleep disorder has its own set of unique symptoms. Sleep disorders are not only bad for your health for many reasons, but they cause sleep deprivation, increasing your susceptibility to sickness and recovery time.
Sleep disorders are especially insidious if you are dealing with chronic or long-term illnesses that already leave you with a weak or compromised immune system, and it is imperative in such cases that you get a lot of sleep to maintain energy and quality of life.
The Real Way to Make Up Sleep
We all go through periods of time where we are not getting enough sleep – stress, children, age related sleep changes, and travel are all prime examples of this. It’s important in these circumstances to ensure that you are making up sleep, or repaying your sleep debt.
There is a very problematic misconception about the sleep debt, mainly that it works like a monetary debt that you can simply pay off in lump sums. For example, if you only get 5 or 6 hours of sleep during the week, surviving off naps and caffeine, and then sleep in a lot during the weekend.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like this. Sleep studies show that getting one or two long nights of sleep do not remove the effects of sleep deprivation.
You can’t just pay it all back like paying back a loan in one or two lump sums. You repay your sleep debt by establishing a healthy pattern of sleep over a period of time, such as a week or more. This looks like getting extra sleep on the weekend and getting enough, or a little extra sleep every day during the following week.
Getting over sleep deprivation involves consistent, restful sleep. If you are getting less sleep at night, you can supplement your sleep by taking naps.
If you live in Alaska and are dealing with chronic sleep deprivation or chronic sickness that may be sleep related, please take with free online sleep test and get started on your road to recover.