Sleep deprivation makes you ill. Researchers at the UW Medicine Sleep Centre in the USA found a lack of sleep suppressed immunity. In a recent study, they examined the sleep patterns of 11 pairs of identical twins, and screened blood samples from the participants. The twin who got less sleep had a more depressed immune system than their sibling.
Dr. Sina Gharib, director of UW Medicine’s Computational Medicine Core at the Center for Lung Biology said that “curtailing sleep – for a limited time in the laboratory setting – can increase inflammatory markers and activate immune cells.” He went on to say “the results are consistent with studies that show when sleep deprived people are given a vaccine, there is a lower antibody response.”
Sleep, along with a healthy diet and active lifestyle are all important factors in keeping well. Whether you have private health insurance or not, your ultimate goal should be to stay healthy. If sleep deprivation is getting you down, take a look at our top tips for getting a good night’s sleep.
1 – Establish your optimum rest period
We all need slightly different amounts of sleep. Find out what is right for you. Keep a diary of how you feel in the morning to pinpoint the amount of sleep that leaves you feeling refreshed. We typically need between six and nine hours per night.
2 – Set a routine
Try to go to bed at roughly the same time each night, even at weekends. Avoid long lie-ins. Though tempting at weekends, they make it harder for you to get to sleep the following night.
3 – Avoid eating before sleeping
Don’t eat a large meal within three hours of going to bed. Your digestive system will still be working and it will disrupt your sleep. Don’t go to bed hungry. Limit eating in the evening to a small snack.
4 – Avoid caffeine and alcohol
Both caffeine and alcohol will affect the quality of your sleep. It’s a misnomer that alcohol helps you to sleep. It may get you off to sleep quickly, but usually results in a disrupted sleep pattern, leaving you feeling tired and groggy the next day. Interestingly, chocolate also contains a stimulant (theobromine), so don’t be tempted to reach for late night chocolate snacks.
5 – Avoid screens late at night
It’s sometimes hard to put down phones and tablets, even at bedtime, but it could be that it’s preventing you from drifting off to sleep. The blue light emitted by screens restrict the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep/wake cycle. Give yourself an hour away from the screen before you go to bed.
6 – Establish a calming routine
Meditate, listen to relaxing music, have a warm bath, do some gentle exercise and drink some herbal tea. These are just some of the things you can do to help yourself wind down before bedtime.
7 – Create a relaxing atmosphere
Make sure your bed and pillow are comfortable. Don’t keep the bedroom too warm. And keep your bedroom dark at night-time. Black out curtains are a great idea.
If you are at all worried about your sleeping patterns, see your GP or contact your private health insurer for advice.