COVID-19 Update : Sleep Necessary for Optimal Immune Function

Hello again everyone:­­

As I began to unpack this topic, I found an enormous amount of information about sleep and how it is related to inflammation anywhere in the body. The amount of information is so voluminous that for practical purposes I will distill it down to the basic known facts:

·       Sleep disturbance causes an immune activation that is inflammatory.

·       Inflammation fundamentally alters brain processes, including sleep.

·       Primary causes of immune activation and inflammation are enormous and include things like: foods; stress; infection; chronic conditions; gut issues; sleep problems; bereavement; digestive issues; apnea; depression; kidney disease; CVD; insulin resistance; overweight; obesity; exercise; menopause; anxiety; diabetes; autoimmune conditions; TBI; stroke; sub-concussive events; stress; post-partum; pregnancy; dementia; pre-dementia; thyroid issues; blue light after dark; just about any chronic condition that may even include a lack of exercise!

·       All of the above are participants in your overall level of inflammation that bathes the brain, results in poor sleep quality, which creates more inflammation, which creates more health issues (aggravates, causes, perpetuates) = more inflammation etc.

·       If the body is inflamed, the brain is inflamed.

·       Brain inflammation leads to alterations in sleep, immune function, and more inflammation.

·       Body inflammation leads to alterations in brain function, including sleep.

This above information should allow you to see the activation loop that chronic sleep disturbance can be involved in as a component of immune health and resiliency. In other words, lack of sleep can be a cause or result of immune dysfunction and/or dysregulation. The authors of the link below state:

“Sleep and immunity are bidirectionally linked. Immune system activation alters sleep, and sleep in turn affects the innate and adaptive arm of our body’s defense system. Stimulation of the immune system by microbial challenges triggers an inflammatory response, which, depending on its magnitude and time course, can induce an increase in sleep duration and intensity, but also a disruption of sleep. Enhancement of sleep during an infection is assumed to feedback to the immune system to promote host defense. Indeed, sleep affects various immune parameters, is associated with a reduced infection risk, and can improve infection outcome and vaccination responses.

·       Sleep is a biological need, and adequate sleep duration and quality help maintain immune health.

·       Adequate sleep duration can improve infection outcomes and is associated with reduced infectious disease risk.  

·       Sleep appears to promote inflammatory homeostasis through effects on several inflammatory mediators, such as cytokines.

·       This notion is supported by findings that prolonged sleep deficiency (e.g., short sleep duration, sleep disturbance) can lead to chronic, systemic low-grade inflammation and is associated with various diseases that have an inflammatory component, like diabetes, atherosclerosis, and neurodegeneration.”

Bottom Line: During this pandemic and beyond, make sure you get adequate sleep, which for adults it is 7.5 to 9 hours per night. If you have sleep problems, review your health and see where you might be having a chronic condition that supplies your body and brain with chronic low-level inflammation that may be part of the root cause of your sleep issues. This is often especially true in those that sleep 8 or 9 hours but waken feeling non-restored. As I often say, the rule for sleep is that there is no rule except to fix whatever you find as sleep problems can arise from many sources. For tips to help improve sleep quality, there are MANY informative web sources such as:

It can be, and often is, pretty difficult to tease out all of the imbalances that affect sleep, so if your own efforts are not fully helpful, you may consider giving us a call to help dig deeper together.

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