How sleep can fight infection

Researchers in Germany have discovered why sleep can sometimes be the best medicine. Sleep improves the potential ability of some of the body's immune cells to attach to their targets, according to a new study that will be published February 12 in the Journal of Experimental Medicine. The study, led by Stoyan Dimitrov and Luciana Besedovsky at the University of Tübingen, helps explain how sleep can fight off an infection, whereas other conditions, such as chronic stress, can make the body more susceptible to illness.

T cells are a type of white blood cell that are critical to the body’s immune response. When T cells recognize a specific target, such as a cell infected with a virus, they activate sticky proteins known as integrins that allow them to attach to their target and, in the case of a virally infected cell, kill it. While much is known about the signals that activate integrins, signals that might dampen the ability of T cells to attach to their targets are less well understood.

Sleep and immunity

Stoyan Dimitrov and colleagues at the University of Tübingen decided to investigate the effects of a diverse group of signaling molecules known as G?s-coupled receptor agonists. Many of these molecules can suppress the immune system, but whether they inhibit the ability of T cells to activate their integrins and attach to target cells was unknown.

Dimitrov and colleagues found that certain G?s-coupled receptor agonists, including the hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline, the proinflammatory molecules prostaglandin E2 and D2, and the neuromodulator adenosine, prevented T cells from activating their integrins after recognizing their target. “The levels of these molecules needed to inhibit integrin activation are observed in many pathological conditions, such as tumor growth, malaria infection, hypoxia, and stress,” says Dimitrov. “This pathway may therefore contribute to the immune suppression associated with these pathologies.”

Adrenaline and prostaglandin levels dip while the body is asleep. Dimitrov and colleagues compared T cells taken from healthy volunteers while they slept or stayed awake all night. T cells taken from sleeping volunteers showed significantly higher levels of integrin activation than T cells taken from wakeful subjects. The researchers were able to confirm that the beneficial effect of sleep on T cell integrin activation was due to the decrease in G?s-coupled receptor activation.

“Our findings show that sleep has the potential to enhance the efficiency of T cell responses, which is especially relevant in light of the high prevalence of sleep disorders and conditions characterized by impaired sleep, such as depression, chronic stress, aging, and shift work,” says last author Luciana Besedovsky.

In addition to helping explain the beneficial effects of sleep and the negative effects of conditions such as stress, Dimitrov and colleagues’ study could spur the development of new therapeutic strategies that improve the ability of T cells to attach to their targets. This could be useful, for example, for cancer immunotherapy, where T cells are prompted to attack and kill tumor cells.



Stockpile on sleep, not supermarket staples to protect from Covid-19

As panic-buyers continue to leave supermarket shelves bare, University of South Australia sleep experts are reminding people that it’s sleep that they need to stockpile if they want to ensure the best possible health during the pandemic.

UniSA sleep and fatigue researcher, Dr. Raymond Matthews says prioritizing sleep will help protect you from COVID-19 by boosting your immune system.

“As the reality of Covid-19 steps up, people are rightly more vigilant with handwashing, social distancing and working from home if they can. But what they may not realize is how important sleep is to their overall health,” Dr. Matthews says.

“Sleep plays a vital role in the function of the body’s immune system. When people suffer from a lack of sleep, they’re reducing their body’s natural killer cells—the white blood cells that hunt down virally-infected cells—which means they may be compromising their immune system and increasing their risk of getting sick.”

“This is vital information for all people—not only those who are staying up late to catch up on the latest Covid-19 updates, but most importantly for our front-line health care workers who need sufficient sleep to rest, recover and stay healthy.”

Dr. Matthews says not only does a lack of sleep make us more susceptible to infections, but it’s also essential factor for vaccines to work effectively.

“Many studies show an increase between short sleeps and increased mortality,” Dr. Matthews says.

“One study found that a lack of sleep reduced the effectiveness of the influenza vaccination by half, indicating just how important sleep is for producing the necessary antibodies requires to fight infections.”

“Looking forward to when we discover a vaccination for COVID-19, we must also ensure we have sufficient sleep for it to work well.”

For those struggling to get a good night’s sleep, Dr. Matthews says there are many things you can do.

“Having a bedtime routine to relax and wind down before bed, really helps. This could include turning the TV off earlier and settling down to read a good book in bed, but really, it’s whatever makes you feel calm and comfortable,” Dr. Matthews says.

“Bedtime basics for good sleep generally include:

  • avoiding cigarettes, caffeine and alcohol
  • choosing light, rather than heavy meals in the evening
  • keeping your bedroom dark, cool and quiet
  • avoiding bright light in the evening and making sure you get enough sunlight in the morning
  • exercising during the day.

“And, if you find you just can’t sleep, sometimes it’s best to get up and do something relaxing until you start to feel tired.”

“These times are no doubt challenging, but sound sleep is something we should all strive to maximise our health.”

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Cortisol and its effects on your sleep

It’s a hot topic in sleep research: the relationship between cortisol and the quality and patterns of sleep. I’ve been talking about cortisol for a while, but I’ve never devoted a stand-alone article to this important topic. It’s time to correct that. Today, I’ll talk about the role that cortisol plays in the sleep-wake cycle, how disruptions to healthy cortisol levels interfere with sleep and contribute to sleep disorders—and how poor sleep, in turn, negatively affects cortisol. I’ll also discuss ways to encourage healthy cortisol levels, for the benefit of your sleep and broader health. 

What does cortisol do?

Cortisol is a stimulating, alerting hormone. It’s the body’s primary stress hormone—that’s the role that gets cortisol most of its attention. Urged on by a complex network that incorporates elements of the central nervous system and the adrenal system, cortisol drives the body’s fight-or-flight response, in the presence of a threat or stressor. But cortisol does more than spur fight-or-flight. This hormone has a number of other functions, including:

  • Regulating blood pressure
  • Balancing blood sugar
  • Influencing inflammation
  • Regulating energy levels
  • Contributing to cardiac system function
  • Helping to control the sleep-wake cycle

Cortisol gets a pretty bad rap these days—and there’s no question that chronically elevated cortisol contributes to sleep disruptions and other health problems (more on those in a moment). But it’s important to be clear: cortisol is an essential component of human physiology. The challenge for many of us is to keep cortisol levels from veering too high. (As you’ll see, sleep can help with that).When cortisol is elevated too frequently and over long periods of time, it can cause a number of health problems. They include:

  • Chronic illnesses, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease
  • Weight gain (both by stimulating appetite and by encouraging the body to store fat more aggressively)
  • Fatigue
  • “Foggy brain”, and difficulty with memory and focus
  • Compromises to the immune system, increased inflammation and greater vulnerability to illness, disease, and other effects of aging
  • Problems with digestion
  • Mood disorders, including depression and anxiety
  • Sleep problems

Cortisol doesn’t operate in isolation. It’s part of a complex system known as the HPA axis (that’s short for hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which combines parts of the central nervous and endocrine systems. Cortisol is produced in the adrenal glands, and the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, located in the brain, monitor cortisol levels and send messages to the adrenal system to adjust its production, depending on the body’s needs and circumstances. It’s the complex, dynamic communication of the HPA axis that produces cortisol and helps to regulate body functions ranging from sleep-wake cycles to stress and mood to digestion and immune function.

Cortisol is a major—but not the only—hormone that functions within this system, with direct effects on sleep. The sleep-facilitating hormone melatonin  is another. Together, melatonin and cortisol work within the HPA axis to regulate sleep and wakefulness.

When it comes under prolonged or chronic stress, this network can become constantly activated, the hypothalamus and pituitary gland constantly signaling the adrenal system to produce more cortisol. It is cortisol’s role as part of this axis that’s attracted a lot of attention from sleep scientists in recent years. That’s because chronic stress is such a widespread problem with such deep effects on sleep. It’s also because cortisol and the HPA axis it operates within interact with sleep in several different and important ways. 

What to remember: Cortisol is more than a stress hormone—it also plays a major role in regulating sleep and other important physiological functions, all from within a network known as the HPA axis.

The cortisol rhythm and sleep

Like nearly all hormones in the human body, cortisol has a daily, 24-hour rhythm.For most bio types, cortisol levels are at their highest in the morning, usually around 9 a.m. Cortisol begins to rise gradually in the second half of a night’s sleep. The hormone begins a more rapid rise around the time you’re waking up before peaking at about 9. From that point on, cortisol makes a gradual decline throughout the day, reaching its lowest levels around midnight. The activity of the HPA axis, which produces cortisol, reduces to its lowest levels in the evenings, right around your bedtime. In this way, cortisol plays a critical role in sleep-wake cycles: stimulating wakefulness in the morning, continuing to support alertness throughout the day while gradually dropping to allow the body’s own internal sleep drive and other hormones—including adenosine and melatonin—to rise, and help bring about sleep.

This evening-low, morning-high daily cortisol rhythm is true for most chronotypes: Lions, Bears and Wolves. In Dolphins, however, the cortisol rhythm is inverted. Dolphins have cortisol on the rise at night and reaching its lowest levels in the morning. This inverted cortisol rhythm contributes to the difficulty falling asleep, restless and light sleep, groggy mornings and daytime fatigue that is so common among Dolphin chronotypes.

Don’t know your chronotype yet? Take my quiz at To learn more about how your chronotype affects your health, your relationships, and about the very best times for you to do just about everything in your daily life, check out my book, The Power of When.

That’s cortisol and its rhythm in balance, or homeostasis. Too often, the cortisol rhythm is thrown out of sync, leading to problems with sleep and health. Cortisol levels can be too low, but much more often, it’s elevated cortisol that’s the problem.

Chronic stress is a major contributor to elevated cortisol, an excessively active HPA axis, and an ongoing state of arousal that’s exhausting, anxiety-producing and sleep-depriving. As I’ve said, elevated cortisol also contributes to a compromised immune system, chronic inflammation, weight gain, and, eventually, to chronic disease.

Poor sleep itself also can increase cortisol production and dysfunction of activity along the HPA axis. Research shows that cortisol can be elevated by:

  • Poor quality sleep
  • Lack of sufficient sleep
  • Inconsistent sleep schedules (including rotating schedules adhered to by shift workers)

Research shows a complex two-way street between the HPA axis (which produces cortisol and regulates its levels) and sleep. Poor, insufficient, irregular sleep increases the activity of that system, leading to more stress, greater arousal, and over time to the health complications I’ve mentioned above. And a more active HPA axis can interfere with the ability to maintain consistent sleep routines and to get enough sound, high-quality sleep. It can be a vicious cycle.

What to remember: Cortisol production follows a daily, 24-hour bio rhythm, lowest overnight and highest first thing in the morning. When that rhythm gets disrupted, sleep does too.

Cortisol and sleep disorders

One big question is this: does too-high cortisol cause sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea, or is high cortisol a result of those sleep disorders? The answer is complex, and one that scientists are still reaching for; we don’t yet fully understand the directionality of the relationship between sleep disorders, cortisol, and the HPA axis. The short answer is, it’s likely some of both. That’s the two-way relationship in action.

Research shows that heightened HPA-axis activity is linked to more restless, fragmented sleep, less slow wave sleep, and lower overall sleep amounts. This strongly suggests a role for cortisol as a sleep disruptor. Research including this 2014 study, show that sleep deprivation is linked to higher cortisol levels and to a more extreme cortisol response in the presence of stress—that’s the HPA axis going into action urging the body into a state of fight-or-flight. This strongly suggests a role for sleep problems as aggravators of cortisol. And other research shows links between compromised sleep quality and heightened HPA axis activity.

What about specific sleep disorders, such as insomnia? High cortisol levels frequently appear with insomnia. But it’s not clear whether elevated cortisol is a cause or consequence of insomnia. And it’s entirely possible that depending on an individual’s circumstances, cortisol could be both a cause and a consequence.

Obstructive sleep apnea is another sleep disorder with links to cortisol. Elevated cortisol levels are often present in people with sleep apnea, but it’s not clear that cortisol contributes directly to sleep apnea. Research does indicate that elevated cortisol, and heightened activity of the HPA axis, can result from the sleep loss, arousal, and compromised breathing that characterizes sleep apnea. There’s also evidence that high cortisol and over-active HPA-axis activity may contribute to the metabolic complications that accompany sleep apnea, including diabetes. It’s still unclear if it’s the sleep deprivation from the undiagnosed apnea, that’s raising your cortisol levels or it’s the apnea itself.

High cortisol is associated with obesity, as well as depression, anxiety and other stress-related mood disorders. These are conditions that are often contribute to and occur alongside insomnia and sleep apnea. They’re also conditions that are strongly associated with poor sleep even in the absence of clinically formal sleep disorders.

We’ve got more work to do to better understand the mechanisms by which cortisol affects sleep. It is already clear, however, that disordered sleep and out-of-balance cortisol frequently go hand-in-hand. Tending to sleep problems is one important way to help bring cortisol levels back into line while improving your nightly rest and lowering your risk for illness, both physical and psychological.

What to remember: High cortisol may be a consequence of common sleep disorders, including insomnia and sleep apnea. It also may be a contributor to sleep disorders. And it’s a contributor to other health problems (weight gain, stress) that undermine healthy sleep.

How to improve cortisol levels, naturally

Keeping cortisol levels in check—and HPA axis activity from ramping up too high—can contribute to healthier sleep. Of course, sleeping better—making enough time for nightly sleep, adhering to a consistent sleep routine, practicing other fundamentals of sleep hygiene—is one way to lower cortisol. Here are others:

Practice regular, light-to-moderate exercise

Research shows light to moderate exercise doesn’t create a short-term spike in cortisol like intense exercise can—and it also can reduce cortisol levels overallYoga and tai chi, two fantastic and gentle mind-body exercises for sleep, have been shown in scientific studies to lower cortisol.

Manage stress with mindfulness and breath

Deep breathing exercises can reduce cortisol, studies show. Developing mindful awareness about our own stress and its triggers helps to relieve that stress, and reduce cortisol. Research shows that mindfulness-based stress reduction lowers cortisol in the body. Changing patterns of negative thinking can also reduce cortisol. Negative, angry, self-critical thoughts can lead to cortisol spikes—but studies show when we address these thinking patterns, and employ positive thinking in their place, cortisol levels go down. A positive outlook is also linked to better sleep, as I’ve talked about before. And mindfulness is a powerful contributor to healthy sleep, as you’ve heard me talk about frequently.

Consider supplements

Several supplements that may help sleep also may help lower cortisol. Elevated cortisol is associated with deficiencies in omega-3 fatty acids, and research suggests omega-3 fatty acids may improve cortisol levelsL-theanine and magnesium, two natural supplements that have demonstrated benefits for sleep, may also help to keep HPA-axis functioning at healthful levels, and thereby keep cortisol levels in check.

Don’t stress about cortisol. Take steps to manage it. Sleep is both a tool and a beneficiary of attention to keeping stress in check, and cortisol levels healthy.

Sweet Dreams,

Michael J. Breus, PhD, DABSM

The Sleep Doctor™

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Lack of sleep affects our ability to fight Covid-19

Singapore, 20 March 2020 – As nations across the world battle against the spread of Covid-19, one behavior that jeopardizes immunity is the lack of sleep. Singaporeans, in particular, should take note. A survey performed in late 2018 confirmed that Singaporeans are not getting enough sleep.

The survey1 performed by international market research agency YouGov found that 44 per cent of Singaporeans are getting less than seven hours of sleep a night. Its head, Mr Jake Gammon noted that “demanding work” could be the cause of sleepless nights. He said, “In a fast-paced metropolis like Singapore, only about half its citizens are getting enough rest. What’s particularly worrying is lower-income Singaporeans are twice as likely to get less than four hours of sleep a night.”

Sleep and immunity

There is a science behind the relationship between sleep and immunity. We have probably heard this from our parents numerous times before: to avoid getting sick, be sure to get enough shut-eye – at least 7-8 hours daily if you are an adult. A research2 led by Dr. Aric Prather, a UC San Francisco (UCSF) sleep researcher confirms this. The study showed that “people who sleep six hours a night or less are four times more likely to catch a cold when exposed to the virus, compared to those who spend more than seven hours a night in slumber land.”

A lot happens in our bodies while we sleep. Sleep is essential for repairing and restoring vital systems that help keep our bodies alive. These include muscle repair, memory consolidation, skeletal protection and regulation of hormones responsible for growth and appetite. If we are not getting adequate and good quality sleep, our bodies will not recover and we will be more susceptible to illness. In regards to the relationship between sleep and the response to cold virus exposure, Dr Aric Prather explains that partial sleep deprivation reduces immune parameters critical to fighting infections.

In a study3 published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine last year by Stoyan Dimitrov, demonstrated that a good night’s sleep can boost the effectiveness of T Cells, a specialized white blood cell responsible for activating the immune system to fight infection. Together with a special immune system protein called integrins, T Cells bind to the pathogens and destroy them. Study participants who slept a full 7 to 8 hours had a greater T Cell activation, while those who lost 2 hours of sleep had a significant reduction in T Cell function. Sleep loss slowed down T Cell response time, thus making it possible for infections to get past the defensive barriers.

In line with World Sleep Day4 celebrated in March, with the theme Better Sleep, Better Life, Better Planet, Rilax wishes to emphasize the importance of sleep in boosting immune system in defense against illnesses. “Getting enough sleep is important more so now than ever before because it can help protect us against all kinds of common infections and viruses”, said Aileen Chan, Chief Executive Officer of LiveLife International (2002) Pte Ltd, the company that distributes Rilax, a natural supplement that improves sleep quality an promotes calmness, with efficacy claims supported by clinical studies.


  1. Four in ten Singaporeans not getting enough sleep
  2. Short Sleepers Are Four Times More Likely to Catch a Cold
  3. Gαs-coupled receptor signaling and sleep regulate integrin activation of human antigen-specific T cells
  4. World Sleep Day

Making Sleep Your No. 1 Priority Can Help Prevent & Overcome Illness

Strengthen and Boost Your Immune System with Sleep

As world-wide anxiety builds around the spread of coronavirus, one behavior that has been proven time and time again to reduce the incidence and intensity of disease is getting sufficient sleep.

In honor of World Sleep Day, and because sleep may be particularly important during a potential pandemic, we’ll dive into the science behind the relationship between sleep and immunity.

Sleep and immunity

How Sleep Affects Your Immune System

While the COVID-19 disease and the novel coronavirus that causes it are new and therefore relatively poorly understood and understudied, research by Dr. Aric Prather out of UC San Francisco on another type of Coronavirus – the common cold – demonstrated that “people who sleep six hours a night or less are four times more likely to catch a cold when exposed to the virus, compared to those who spend more than seven hours a night in slumber land.”

Although people may naturally assume that a relationship exists between sleep and immunity, the study was able to show just how strong this relationship is–much greater than the relationship between the risk of developing a cold and alcohol consumption, smoking, or other markers of health including BMI and self-reported stress.

Why Lack of Sleep Weakens the Immune System

When we sleep, our bodies repair and restore vital systems that help keep us alive. This includes muscular, skeletal, and cellular repair during our REM stages of sleep. If we are not getting adequate REM sleep, our bodies will not recover and we will be more susceptible to illness.

While examining the relationship between sleep and response to cold virus exposure, the lead author of the UC San Francisco study explains that partial sleep deprivation reduces immune parameters critical to fighting infections. Other studies have also demonstrated that the active immune system is extremely energy-dependent, and the reduced energy demands during sleep allow us allocate additional energy resources towards the immune system.

Sleep as a Natural Immune System Booster

Another study, published last year in the Journal of Experimental Medicine and led by Stoyan Dimitrov, showed that a good night’s sleep can boost the effectiveness of T cells, a specialized white blood cell responsible for activating the immune system to fight infection. T cells do their job with the help of a special immune system protein called integrins, which allow the T cells to bind to their targets.

Dimitrov and his team showed that integrin activation happened at a higher rate during sleep than during wake, suggesting that the immune system is better at identifying threats while you’re asleep than while you’re awake.

Most people who come down with COVID-19 experience mild symptoms, but in severe cases it causes pneumonia. While there are many kinds of pneumonias, a Harvard study led by Dr. Sanjay Patel found that in a sample of almost 57,000 women, getting fewer than 5 hours of sleep vs more than 8 hours explained a 70% difference in the incidence of pneumonia. It is important to note that they were not specifically looking at pneumonia associated with COVID-19, however the reduced immune system functioning that made these short-sleeping women vulnerable might be a valuable cautionary tale.

Other Ways to Strengthen Immune System

Additional things you can do to boost your immune system beyond getting more sleep include:
  • Eliminating alcohol
  • Increasing your intake of zinc and Vitamins B6, C, and E
  • Exercising regularly
  • Managing stress and anxiety
  • Eating a healthy, whole-foods diet
  • Hydrating well

Adequate Sleep Can Help Fight Covid-19

KUALA LUMPUR: Adequate sleep is the best way to enhance and improve the immune system, and subsequently help to reduce the risk from contracting Covid-19.

Dr Nurul Yaqeen Mohd Esa, who is a respiratory specialist and general physician at Sunway Medical Centre Velocity (SMCV), said research has proven that an adult needed at least seven hours of sleep to sustain health.

On the other hand, lack of sleep will make our immune system weak, she said.

“Many doctors and healthcare providers in China have died because of the infection, partly from overwork and lack of sleep,” she added.

Although the amount of sleep is important, Dr Nurul said other aspects of sleep also contribute to one’s health and wellbeing.

“One should pay close attention to their sleep habits. Establish a regular sleep schedule. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day, including during weekends.

“Exercise routinely and completing it well before bedtime may enhance the quality of your sleep and offer additional immune system benefits.

“Avoid looking at your smartphone, computer or television screens at least two hours before bedtime, since the blue light from the screens will delay your ability to sleep on the intended time,” she said, adding that people who experience trouble sleeping for more than a few weeks to an extent that it interferes with their daily performance, should discuss with their respective doctors for available treatments.

Dr Nurul said maintaining a comfortable temperature in the bedroom and observing a good diet, including avoiding caffeinated beverages in the late afternoon or evening will improve sleeping patterns.

“If you consume alcohol, do so in moderation. Excessive alcohol consumption has been proven to be linked to adverse immune-related health effects such as susceptibility to pneumonia.

“Abstinence or moderate alcohol consumption is advisable to protect one from the Covid-19 infection.

“Adopting a good and balance diet high in fruits and vegetables can boost our immune systems since they are sources of vitamins and minerals,” she added.

Other tips shared by Dr Nurul in the wake of growing public concern over Covid-19 include maintaining a healthy lifestyle by not smoking.

Smoking, she said, harms nearly every organ of the body, causing many diseases and reduces the quality of health of among smokers in general.

“The Covid-19 virus will mainly attack our respiratory tract and lungs. Being a smoker will further weaken the lungs, hence, increasing the risk of getting severed Covid-19 infection,” she said.

She also cautioned the people when taking over-the-counter medications to treat cold or flu symptoms, since some of these products contain ingredients that can cause sleeplessness at night or sleepiness during the day.

“Proper hand and overall hygiene is important as well. Medical masks may seem like the most common response to preventing respiratory disease, but always remember to wash your hands frequently with an alcohol-based rub or soap and water – this kills the virus if it is on your hands. If you have any symptoms, seek help at your nearest clinic or hospital.”

“Studies have also shown that between 30 and 40 per cent adults do not get enough sleep, nor do they have knowledge on how much sleep they should be getting.Source:


How You Can Use Sleep to Fight Back Against Coronavirus

The coronavirus outbreak that has devastated China and left the world scrambling for answers has also reinforced the important role sleep plays in building our immune systems.

In a nutshell: Making sure we consistently get a good night’s sleep is one of the best ways we can improve our immunity and defend against viruses and disease. Sleep is a natural immune booster.

Sleep and immunity

To be clear, I’m not suggesting sleep is a cure-all for the coronavirus. That isn’t the case; currently, there is no vaccine for the infection. The coronavirus has, by Feb. 20, killed more than 2,100 people globally. Altogether, nearly 75,000 cases have been confirmed, mostly in China, where the country has ground to a halt as it looks to safeguard against a further outbreak.

The coronavirus has also become a major concern here in the U.S, as several hundred Americans have been quarantined for up to 14 days in the last few weeks.

The signs of the virus are typical of less severe illnesses. Coronavirus symptoms, according to the CDC, include headaches, coughing, runny nose, sore throat, and a fever.

Here’s what we know about the immune system and sleep:

How the Immune System Works

The immune system is your built-in defense system against harmful germs that can make you ill. The system has three primary jobs:
  • To identify pathogens, or disease-causing germs, and remove them from the body. These include viruses, parasites, bacteria, or fungi.
  • To spot and neutralize harmful substances that come from outside the body.
  • To combat major changes within the body, like cancer cells.
Your immune system is activated when it recognizes antigens or toxins and other foreign substances to your body. This triggers a response in which the immune system develops antibodies, or cells specifically developed to fight the invader. Once these are produced, the immune system will keep a file and use it again if it ever runs into the same issue; this is why you typically only fight the chickenpox once in your life.

How Sleep Affects Your Immune System

Sleep is necessary for your immune system to run as efficiently as possible. You can think of your immune system as your body’s football coach and sleep as its halftime break.

Good coaches make adjustments at halftime, after recognizing what their opponents are doing effectively. Sleep plays the same role for your immune system, giving it a chance to fully assess any threats. The immune system can then deliberately tackle antigens, directing its cells—or players in this analogy—as they mount a counterattack. Without enough sleep, though, your body will have a hard time implementing the best game plan to fight back against illness.

Sleep Boosts T Cell Production

One way sleep helps the immune system is in how it fosters T Cell production. T Cells are white blood cells that play a critical part in the immune system’s response to viruses. Their activation is an important step in how the body handles invaders, with T Cells attacking and destroying virus-carrying cells.

Sleep Improves the Immune System’s Response to Threats

The immune system’s response time is also improved by getting a good night’s sleep. By completing the four sleep cycles, you’re supporting the release and production of cytokine, a multifaceted protein that helps the immune system quickly respond to antigens.

Cytokines have two priorities:

  • Promoting cell-to-cell communication.
  • Directing cells to head toward infections to counteract the issue.

These proteins are essentially the quarterback for your immune system, taking the orders on how to best fight back against a virus and directing immune cells to follow the game plan.

A lack of sleep makes this tougher. Your body relies on a full night of rest to replenish the cells and proteins it needs to fight diseases. Sleep loss stymies cytokine production, and in the process, makes it harder for your body to battle back against viruses.

How to Best Avoid Coronavirus Infection

With no vaccine available for the coronavirus, the CDC has issued a number of rudimentary steps that should be taken to best prevent infection. These include:
  • Wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Work from home when you’re sick.
  • Clean and disinfect objects you frequently use.
  • Use tissues when you cough or sneeze, and make sure to throw them away immediately.

Following these instructions, while at the same time getting at least seven hours of sleep each night, would be the best defense I can recommend. When considering how sleep helps the body ward off the common cold, that becomes especially clear.

Quality Sleep Fights Back Against Colds

When you’re suffering from a cold, one of the first things your doctor—or your mom—would tell you is to get plenty of sleep.

There’s plenty of research that backs it up. Sleep is perhaps the single best measure you can take to deal with, or prevent, colds.

Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, highlighted this last year. Their findings indicated poor sleep was the number-one factor in determining whether someone would get sick after being exposed to the cold virus.

The UCSF study had 164 participants track their sleep habits for a week. Afterward, they were all put in a hotel and given nasal drops, exposing them to the cold.

Volunteers who had reported good sleep during the week—averaging at least seven hours of sleep each night—were much less likely to get sick. But participants who got 6 hours of sleep or less each night were 4.2 times more likely to catch a cold.

The researchers indicated that poor sleep was the main determinant of whether someone got sick, overriding age, race, income, stress level, and habits like smoking. The results drove home just how important sleep is in combating everyday illnesses.

How to Get the Best Sleep Possible

We’ve gone over how important sleep is to building your immunity. That knowledge puts an extra emphasis on making sure you get the best sleep possible now.

Still, simply finding the time for a good night’s sleep can be tough. I get it: Between work, family, and day-to-day tasks, sometimes we can put sleep on the back burner.

The coronavirus outbreak has understandably become a worldwide story. It’s certainly concerning, and I’m thankful we have so many dedicated people working toward a solution.



How to Boost Your Immune System to Help Avoid Coronavirus Covid-19

Just about anyone could catch the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) that is spreading around the world, but it is especially affecting those who have compromised immune systems.

The City of Alexandria, the Alexandria Health Department, Inova Health System, and Alexandria City Public Schools officials will host an online virtual information session on Thursday, March 12, from 8 to 9 p.m., to provide information and answer questions about the COVID-19 coronavirus. The session will be accessible at and residents may submit questions in advance through that website.

The virtual info session will provide useful details about how to protect yourself, plus information about how government and the health care sector are preparing for additional impacts from the virus; and how businesses and nonprofit organizations can protect themselves and help.

At this point, national health officials have said it is very likely that the novel coronavirus COVID-19 will reach people in all 50 states. There are cases in 16 states right now, although there are no diagnosed cases in Virginia yet.

For individuals, prevention is key. Even people who are normally healthy may consider doing a few things to boost their immune system for additional protection against this virus. While there are no guarantees that taking these steps will help, they are very unlikely to hurt.

The most important tip from all health professionals: Wash. Your. Hands. (And do it correctly.)

If soap and clean running water are not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. There are organic hand sanitizers available.

With all of the advice below, it’s important to remember to check in with your personal doctor or health professional before any change in your habits, whether it’s taking vitamin supplements or starting an exercise program.

It Starts with Sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep will help you keep your immune system healthy. The reason: Sleep helps your T cells stick to and attack infections. With less sleep, your T cells are less “sticky” and aren’t as strong in fighting off viruses.

A “good” night of sleep varies from person to person, but general guidelines are for 7 to 9 hours of solid sleep each night. If you have restless sleep, wake up every night or snore, you may want to talk to a doctor.

Sleep and immunity

“One really good thing to do is to not panic, because anxiety weakens the immune system,” said Joanie Stewart, an acupuncturist and health professional in Alexandria. Being stressed can cause your body to release extra cortisol, which over time can negatively affect sleep quality and your immune system.

Add a Healthy Diet

Put away the candy and soda.

A well-balanced diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables can help increased your immune function. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the three most important vitamins for your immune system are Vitamin C, B6 and E.

Healthy diet

It’s best to get these from whole foods, as your body absorbs the nutrients more efficiently than with processed supplements. In addition, taking too much of certain vitamins can actually be harmful. If you do take supplements, try to take them early in the day and with food. Always check with a doctor before taking any supplements, even multivitamins.

Jade Screen may be a supplement that can help, as it was used during the SARS epidemic, Stewart noted. (She recommends Mayway Plum Flower brand.) But, again, check with your health professional.


A number of studies have shown that a strong immune system goes hand-in-hand with being fit. This doesn’t mean to go out and run a marathon — in fact, exercising too much and too vigorously can actually suppress your immune system for a few days while your body recovers. Moderate  exercise can be good for your immune system.


Other Treatments

Several studies have shown that acupuncture can have anti-inflammatory effects and can help boost your immune system. The ancient Chinese treatment uses tiny needles to stimulate certain parts of the body. “The point of acupuncture is to strengthen the immune system by balancing and fortifying certain organic systems,” Stewart explained. “One of the things acupuncture does is fortify the lungs and the kidneys, which also are very important in boosting immunity.” Source:
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This Exact Sleep Routine May Help You Stave Off Coronavirus

During this time of heightened awareness about public health, it’s important to take stock of your own to make sure you’re checking all the boxes.

In order to avoid contracting the novel Coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention emphasizes the importance of washing your hands for 20 seconds with soap and warm water.  Extra precautions past washing your hands are, of course, recommended.

One way to make your immune system as strong as it can be is to make sure you are getting a solid night’s sleep. Dr. Patrick McNamara, of Psychology Today, emphasizes that getting quality sleep should be added to your list of preventative measures.

Sleep and immunity

How can a good sleep routine protect you against coronavirus?

“Getting enough sleep can help protect you against all kinds of common infections and viruses,” McNamara wrote. “Sleep strengthens your body’s capacity to fight off pathogens of all kinds. We need all the help we can get in fighting this Coronovirus outbreak.”

The strength of your immune system is directly tied to the quality and amount of sleep you receive, according to the Mayo Clinic

Studies show that adults who don’t get enough quality sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus. Additionally, a lack of sleep also affects how fast you recover when you are sick.

Sleep aids restoring your immune system because as you sleep your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, which need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation. Sleep deprivation is likely to decrease the production of these rotective cytokines. When you don’t receive enough sleep, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced.

How to have the best night sleep

Here are tips for getting the right amount of quality sleep:
  • Aim to get the right amount of sleep each night. The Sleep Foundation recommends that adults between the ages of 18 and 64 receive seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Adults who are 65 and older should receive seven to eight hours of sleep per night.
  • Make your bedroom cool and dark.  For most people, the Do not consume caffeine after lunch. Caffeine has a six-hour half-life, so it actually takes a full 24 hours to get out of your system. Even if you drink your cup of coffee at 8 a.m., you will still have 25% of the caffeine in your body at 8 p.m. Any caffeine you drink in the afternoon will still be at 50% strength by the time you are ready to go to sleep.
  • Avoid screens for at least an hour before you plan on turning in. Blue light, which is emitted by screens on your cell phone, computer, and tablet, and television, is known to hinder the production of melatonin. As melatonin is the hormone that controls your circadian rhythm, reducing melatonin by using your screens will make it harder to fall or stay asleep.
  • Don’t fall asleep with the television on. The light from your television screen penetrates through your eyelids, which means that your brain still processes that it is being exposed to light. The confusion it causes the brain staves off achieving more refreshing stages of deep sleep.
  • Sleep tracking can help you get into a healthier sleep routine. In a study, 60% of respondents said that tracking their sleep was beneficial to some degree.