Days can pile up with stress and lead to nights of little sleep. We’re all too familiar with how frustrating this can be. Did you know that it can also cause our immune system to take a hit? Our stress and sleep have direct correlations with how our immune system functions. Prioritizing sleep and stress management is an integral part of staying healthy.
How Does Sleep Affect Your Immune System?
Sleep is necessary for your body to ward off sickness and infection. It can also help to reduce recovery time whenever you’re fighting sickness. While sleeping, the body ramps up the production of cytokines. According to the American Cancer Society, “Cytokines are small proteins that are crucial in controlling the growth and activity of other immune system cells and blood cells. When released, they signal the immune system to do its job. Cytokines affect the growth of all blood cells and other cells that help the body’s immune and inflammation responses.” If there is a lack of sleep, the body has difficulty keeping up with adequate production of antibodies and cells needed for strong immunity.
Is Stress Keeping You Up at Night?
Chances are, you have experienced at least one night where stress disrupted your sleep. The tossing and turning can make it hard to fall asleep. Or frequent waking can cause very interrupted rest. After a night of broken and limited sleep, you feel more stressed, and the cycle continues. While we would love to eliminate stress, that is a nearly impossible task. Instead, we need to focus on our responses and reactions to stress, allowing us to manage it better. When it is better managed, we can improve the quality of our sleep.
5 Tips for Better Sleep
Make Physical Activity a Part of Your Day.
Regular exercise is one of the best ways to manage stress. According to the Sleep Foundation, it can also improve the quality of your sleep and decrease the amount of time it takes to fall asleep. Some have found that exercising too close to bedtime can keep them awake though. One way to avoid this and get the most benefits is to wrap up activity about one to two hours before sleep. This will allow the mind and body more time to relax and prepare for rest.
Create a Bedtime Routine.
Allow your mind and body to prepare for sleep by establishing a bedtime routine. Use this as a time to power down with relaxing activities like stretching, reading, listening to calming music, or meditating. Turn off the TV, computer, and phone screens at least 30 minutes before sleeping. Screen time can keep the mind activated and make it harder to fall asleep.
Stick to a Bedtime.
Aim for the same bedtime each day. Making a routine can help your body create a sleep-wake cycle that is more consistent.
Prepare Your Environment.
Prepare an environment that is conducive to quality sleep. Choose a temperature that is comfortable for sleeping. Limit noise and light as much as possible.
Keep a Journal by Your Bed.
Sometimes our thoughts and ideas can keep us awake at night. Try keeping a journal or notepad by your bed so you can quickly jot things down instead of getting anxious over remembering them the next day. It allows you to acknowledge the thought while saving it for another time so you can get back to sleep.
Written by BWS Lead Health Coach- Kelly Schlather, BS, ASCM – CEP
Continue reading September 2022 Newsletter: Building your Immune System with Healthy Habits