Sleep - Why Bother?
Part Three - Sleep, Physical Well Being and Our Immune System.
Especially during the winter months we are encouraged by health professionals and companies providing supplements to take tablets and potions to ward off colds and flu. We take our daily doses of vitamin C, vitamin D perhaps, zinc and Echinacea all of which may be of some help. However, perhaps the best thing we can do to maintain a healthy immune system is to get good quality sleep.
In an experiment at the University of California, 150 volunteers were subjected to having the common cold virus sprayed up their nostrils. What was interesting in the experiment was that the volunteers were split into four groups, which were related to the amount of sleep they had had per day during the previous week - less than 5 hours, 5 to 6 hours, 6 to 7 hours, more than 7 hours. There was a clear relationship between how much sleep the participants had had and the rate of infection. In those sleeping just 5 hours, the infection rate was 50%.
The participants who had slept more than 7 hours had an infection rate of just 18%.
It is during sleep that not only antibodies, of our immune response, are produced but also what are known as NK or Natural Killer cells. One of the jobs of NK cells is to seek out and destroy cancerous cells. Studies have shown that after having one night of only four hours sleep, healthy individuals have a reduction of up to 70% of their NK cells circulating the following day compared to when they had 8 hours sleep. That is only after one night. After many years of poor sleep the cancer fighting immune response is seriously depleted. Cancerous cells also thrive when we don't sleep enough due to changes in inflammation in the body which creates an environment suitable for cancers to grow or spread to other areas.
So from the common cold and flu to the link to cancer, a real good night's rest should not be considered a luxury but a necessity for a long and healthy life.