We’re all having trouble sleeping right now. The stress of a major global pandemic is too much for most people on top of the other things happening in the world right now. Unfortunately not getting enough sleep is the worst possible thing we can be doing right now when it comes to our health. Sleep is when your body heals itself and fights off infections, and even a small decrease can mean a major deficiency in the immune response.
Before the pandemic hit, barely a majority of Americans were getting enough sleep – 65% of those working, 60% of those unemployed, and 51% of those unable to work for various reasons. Even these numbers show us that economic instability can lead to loss of sleep, which can lead to health problems.
Once the pandemic hit and unemployment began to skyrocket, just 11% of Americans said they would be using their extra time to get more sleep.
But even those who are trying to sleep more are finding it difficult. From the start of the pandemic, there have been news reports of people reporting strange, scary, or especially vivid dreams, often causing a disturbance.
At least six of the ten leading causes of death in the United States can be attributed at least partly to a lack of sleep. What’s more, poor or lack of sleep has a strong negative impact on your body’s natural defences.
Cytokines are produced while you sleep and they are responsible for regulating both your innate and adaptive immune systems. Also when you sleep white blood cells accumulate and work to fight off antigens that have become trapped in your lymphatic tissue. Cortisol acts as an anti-inflammatory most of the time, but when you have high-stress levels and a lack of sleep it can work in the opposite manner.
Stress is the key here. Too much stress throws your cortisol levels out of whack and interrupts your sleeping cycles. This builds up your body’s cortisol levels, and too much cortisol leads to poor immune function, memory and attention problems, and more.
In order to maintain healthy sleep and wake cycles, you need to be doing a few things:
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. It’s hard right now because our lives are lacking much of the structure we are used to, but this is a crucial step.
- Quit consuming caffeine after lunchtime and if you are sensitive to it think about avoiding it altogether.
- Turn off all devices at least an hour before bedtime. Blue light from these devices tells your brain it’s time to wake up and be alert.
- Make sure your room is comfortable, cool, and dark. Install light-blocking shades and a white noise machine if you have to, and lower the temperature.
- Avoid daytime naps, as tempting as they may be right now.
With a few adjustments, we can all take the necessary steps to bolster our immunity through better sleep. Learn more about the power of sleep from the infographic below.
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