How Sleep Heals Illness and Boosts Immunity

5 min read

Last Modified 25 May 2023 First Added 15 June 2020

By Anna Ashbarry

Getting quality sleep each night is important for your overall health and well-being, mentally and physically, especially when you’re feeling under the weather. Sleep often acts as a cure for many acute illnesses. This is because sleeping enables your body to relax and have a break from the pressure of sickness. A lack of sleep can have a substantial impact on your immune system, especially when it comes to recovering from illness.

Does sleep cure illness?

Sleep can’t cure everything, but sleeping is a big part of recovering from illnesses such as a cold, the flu, migraines and headaches. Giving your body time to rest and sleep is essential for healing and getting better. Sleep can also help you recover from a cold and flu much quicker.

Those who suffer from migraines and regular headaches have found that sleep can be a therapeutic way of recovering from a migraine attack. However, too much sleep and a lack of sleep have also been linked to the occurrence of migraines. Maintaining a well-balanced sleep-wake cycle can make headaches and migraines less likely.

What is a sleep-wake cycle?

Also known as circadian rhythm, a sleep-wake cycle is a 24-hour internal clock which cycles in a continuous loop. Your sleep-wake cycle is why you will feel alert at some parts of the day and sleepy in others. Your circadian rhythm works best when you have a good sleeping routine which involves going to sleep at the same time each night and waking at the same time each morning.

Read more: Everything You Need to Know About Sleep Cycles

Sleep and anxiety

A recent study found a strong correlation that deep sleep and quality sleep were linked to relieving the effects of anxiety. The study also explored how sleepless nights can raise anxiety levels by up to 30%. Getting to sleep at night when you have anxiety can be quite difficult and if your sleep problems persist, you should reach out to your local doctor or GP for guidance and advice.

Is it OK to sleep all day during sickness?

If you haven’t slept enough during the night as your illness has kept you awake, this may be why you feel the need to sleep in the daytime. Not getting the recommended 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night may mean you are lacking sleep. Getting more sleep is the only way to get rid of your sleep debt but it won’t happen overnight; it can take several weeks to recover.

How sleeping boosts your immune system

In a recent study, researchers found that sleep allows the body’s immune cells, a type of white blood cell, to attach to their targets and activate their proteins, which are known as integrins. This process helps the body to fight off infections and illnesses. The study also demonstrated how certain conditions, such as chronic stress, can make the body more likely to get sick. If you’re struggling to sleep, a quick way to improve your ability to nod off is to exercise more. Check out our podcast for more information.

How to boost your immune system

Sleeping isn’t the only way to boost your body’s immune system. Here are six other ways to help improve your well-being:

1. Eat immune-boosting foods

Herbs, fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy and balanced diet which is essential for keeping your body’s system full of vital nutrients. Here are some examples of foods and substances you can include in your diet to boost your immune system:

  • Vitamin C – Found in citrus fruits, vitamin C can increase the production of immune cells which are vital for fighting off infection.
  • Ginger – This can help decrease inflammation as well as improving digestion and relieving nausea.
  • Green tea – Full of antioxidants and amino acids which aid the production of germ-fighting compounds.

2. Exercise regularly

Exercise promotes good circulation in the body and improves cardiovascular health. This allows cells and substances to move around the body freely in order to do their job effectively.

Try to reduce stress
When you’re stressed, your immune system loses the ability to fight off antigens, therefore, making you more susceptible to illness and infection.

3. Maintain your hygiene

Washing your hands regularly as well as washing fruit, vegetables, and meat will help to eradicate germs picked up from surfaces and foods.

4. Improve your gut health

Probiotic products contain good bacteria that can improve gut health. Gut bacteria can influence the immune system and that’s why it’s important to maintain a healthy interaction between the immune system and your gut microbiota.

5. Try supplements to boost your immune system

Vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin B6 are known as the biggest immune system boosters. As these vitamins are naturally found in foods, having a balanced and healthy diet is the best way to make sure you’re not deficient of any vital vitamins. However, if you notice gaps in your diet, supplements can help you to load up on essential nutrients. If you are unsure about taking the correct supplements, reach out to a healthcare professional for advice.

Read More: What Happens to Your Body During 8 Hours of Sleep

Have you found an immune system boosting technique to improve your well-being that we’ve not included in our top six? We’d love to see it in the comments section below.

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