Adequate sleep is a key part of a healthy lifestyle and can benefit your body and mind. Experts say that not only does prolonged sleep deprivation wear down immune protection but getting adequate rest can help boost your defenses.
"We don't know the exact mechanism by which sleep impacts immunity, but we do know that a lack of it prevents the body from repairing cells. And when we skip that important physiological step, we get sick more easily," says Tierno.
To help give your immune system an extra boost during cold and flu season, Charnetski says get seven to eight hours of sleep a night.
And if you can't sleep … try a little "immune sex therapy." Charnetski says that having sex gives immunity a healthy boost of IGA (a protein from the immune system that helps fight infections), which plays a critical role in keeping pathogens from entering your body -- and capturing those that do sneak in.
In studies of humans and other animals, scientists have discovered that sleep plays a critical role in immune function, metabolism, memory, learning, and other vital functions.
Researchers looked at how lack of sleep may affect the immune system. Chronic sleeplessness may harm the immune system, since lack of sleep is linked to an increase in cytokine molecules that control immune response.
The resulting inflammation and changes in blood chemistry may be behind a variety of diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and neurological conditions.
"The foundations of good health are good diet, good exercise and good sleep, but two out of three doesn't get you there," said Dr. Anne Calhoun, a neurology professor at the University of North Carolina.
"Sleep used to be kind of ignored, like parking our car in a garage and picking it up in the morning," says David Rapoport, MD, director of the NYU Sleep Disorders Program.
* Health benefits of sleep
* 11 surprising health benefits of sleep
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