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How Proper Sleep Lowers Infection

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

health benefits of sleeping

Story at-a-glance -

  • Research shows sleep enhances the efficiency of T cell responses, allowing your immune system to kill foreign invaders such as viruses with greater ease
  • Ga(s)-coupled receptor agonists such as adrenaline and prostaglandin — which decrease during sleep — prevent immune cells from activating a sticky protein called integrin that allows the T cell to attach to the viral target
  • Higher levels of molecules that inhibit integrin activation are also found in malaria and cancer, for example, which suggests this pathway may contribute to the immune suppression associated with these pathologies as well
  • People who awaken during the first sleep cycle also tend to have lower levels of natural killer cells, and deep sleep has been shown to strengthen immunological memories of previously encountered pathogens
  • Previous research has found the circadian clocks of mice control an essential immune system gene that helps their bodies sense and ward off bacteria and viruses

Previous research has shown that sleep deprivation has the same effect on your immune system as physical stress. When volunteers stayed awake for 29 hours straight, their white blood cell counts were found to increase during the sleep deprivation phase.

This is the same type of response you typically see when you're sick or stressed. In a nutshell, whether you're physically stressed, sick or sleep-deprived, your immune system becomes hyperactive and starts producing white blood cells — your body's first line of defense against foreign invaders like infectious agents.

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