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Sleep Loss and Immune System

We are still in the early phases of understanding what “recovery” from COVID-19 looks like but we are all familiar with the last time we had the flu. Fever, runny nose, sore throat, achy muscles, along with a total lack of energy – we just wanted to sleep. According to the renowned professor of neuroscience, Dr. Matthew Walker, there is a bidirectional association between sleep and your immune system. Following an illness like the flu, your immune system is demanding more rest. Your body is actually trying to sleep itself well. Lack of energy and post-viral fatigue are the inflammatory response to infection.

The pandemic has our schedules and bodies are confused. Working from home, balancing the kids schoolwork, and this temporary “new normal” is no easy feat. It is tempting to escape it all for a bit and binge on Netflix late into the night. Your body needs seven or more solid hours of quality sleep to support your immune system armor. Sleep hygiene refers to behavioral and environmental habits that promote healthy sleep.

Training your body for healthy sleep takes a few simple steps:

  • Time — Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. 
  • Light — Bright light in the morning helps recalibrate our internal clocks and makes it easier to fall asleep at night. 
  • Physical Activity — For best results this should be done at least three hours before bedtime.
  • Dark — Calm your mind and body by dimming the lights, reading a book, or taking a bath. Darker lighting (and no gadgets) at least an hour before bed promotes melatonin release, your body’s way of letting you know the day is over.
  • Temperature — A cooler bedroom helps as your body temperature naturally drops at night to signal the need for rest. 

Getting plenty of quality sleep is beneficial to fighting off illness. Reduced sleep makes you susceptible to infection because it dampens your immune system and reduces the cells that combat infection. This “new normal” is temporary so take advantage of our beautiful weather. Get outside, take a walk, and prepare for a great night’s sleep. 

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