One of the first things people usually ask if you get sick is: “Are you getting enough sleep?”
For most of us, the link between sleep and health has been taught to us from an early age. And we have probably experienced it, too. Getting run down, stressed out, traveling often through different time zones, living with sleep disorders that keep us awake throughout the night… then it happens, we wake up one morning with a swollen throat or get hit with a sinus infection.
Why is that? Well, a lack of sleep can lead to a compromised immune system and result in us getting sick with a cold, the flu, viruses, or even more serious diseases that can be difficult to recover from.
Our immune system is made up of a network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to protect the body – it is our custom-made defense strategy against infectious organisms and other invaders, and it keeps us from getting sick. When it is in good health, it is strong and fighting off viruses and germs that can lead to illness. But when it is weakened, we need to take certain measures or else our chances of getting sick drastically increase.
Our immune system is incredibly complex, multifaceted, and impressive. It is made up of different types of cells and proteins that work both separately and as a team to keep foreign invaders at bay.
But there are different ways our immune systems can weaken. For example, studies show that our cumulative T-cells decrease when we are sleep deprived. A T-cell, or T lymphocyte, is a subtype of white blood cell that plays a central role in cell-mediated immunity. So when we have fewer of them, our chances of being able to fight off sickness goes down.
If we do come down with a cold or the flu, a lack of sleep can hinder our recovery.
Most people have the mentality to “push through” or live by the saying “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” Well the truth is that a lack of sleep can have extremely severe consequences on our health, so much so that it can prevent us from being able to fight off serious health conditions like heart disease.
Sleep might seem expendable, but it’s not. It’s really not! Proper sleep is one of the cornerstones of good health, along with diet and exercise. Without it, everything in our lives can get turned upside down, and with some very dire consequences.
So if your body is telling you to slow down and get some sleep… listen! It’s probably going to make you in the end anyway. But instead of a lack of sleep leading to an illness that lasts for days, do yourself a favour and get some sleep! If you can get ahead of the exhaustion and give your immune system a chance to charge up before you are laid out with a fever, you’ll be able to recover that much sooner, too.