Why Sleep Prevents Sickness
Sleep loss impacts your immune response and, in turn, your immune system alters your sleep. Sleep will be one of your primary defenses, if not the primary defense, against getting sick, as it helps ensure that your immune response is optimal and effective.
The relationship between sleep and the immune system are molecules called cytokines. Cytokines act as signaling molecules in the immune system and the brain. Sleep loss decreases your body’s production of protective cytokines.
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 and recover quicker from your illness.
What Types of Sickness Does Sleep Prevent
Sleep prevents illness, primarily colds and flu. These are common illnesses that peak around the winter time and can make many households miserable for a couple of weeks. They are passed quickly through schools and workplaces and can cause severe illness, especially in those with already weakened immune systems. HIV/AIDs positive, diabetic, and elder patients, as well as those with autoimmune diseases are all at increased risk for very severe illness from the common cold and flu.
How Much Sleep Should You Get
Here is a graphic of the below information, showing how much sleep you should get
Below are minimum, maximum, and recommended amount of sleep, which will help prevent sickness [Sleep Foundation]. If you are sick, you will likely need more sleep to recover.
- 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 12-16 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 10-13 hours
- Not less than 8 hours
- Not more than 14 hours
- Age 6-13 years
- Recommended 9-12 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
How to Make Up Sleep Debt
The word debt is misleading because repaying your sleep debt doesn’t work like money. 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, like extra sleep on the weekends AND a couple of hours of extra sleep each day the following week. In other words, getting over sleep deprivation involves consistent, restful sleep.
Here’s an example of how this DOESN’T work:
- Monday through Friday you get 6 hours of sleep per night, for an effective “debt” of 5 hours
- On Friday night and Saturday night, you sleep an extra few hours
Sleep studies show that getting one or two long nights of sleep do not remove the effects of sleep deprivation.
Sleep Disorders That Contribute to Sickness
There are many disorders that cause chronic sleep deprivation, including:
- Sleep apnea
- Restless leg syndrome
- Circadian rhythm disorders
The primary symptom of sleep disorder is simply 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 their causing sleep deprivation also makes you much more likely to get sick more often, and take longer to recover from sickness.
Sleep disorders are especially insidious if you are dealing with chronic or long term illness that already leaves you with a weak or compromised immune system, and it is imperative in such cases that you get lots of sleep to maintain energy and quality of life.
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.