Lack of sleep

and its impact on our immune system

At what time do you go to sleep? Do you watch TV in your bedroom? Do you use your IPad or laptop in bed? Do you have lighting on in your bedroom? Do you sleep in a relaxed environment?

If your sleep time is reduced and your bedroom is exposed to light, noise and other distractions when you go to bed or during the night, your circadian rhythm will become disrupted (day/night alignment). The consequences of this imbalance will negatively impact the messages delivered by our nervous and hormonal systems to our brain and other principal organs and their communication with each other.

Lack of sleep and its impact on our immune system

The importance of sleep
Numerous and essential physiological processes occur during sleep, notably toxin elimination, recuperation of the nervous system, hormonal transformation, cellular regeneration, notwithstanding the brain, memory especially, which benefit greatly from this period of rest.

Only one sleepless night triggers the alarm to your immune system
This statement appeared in Sleep Magazine in July 2012. Researchers from both England and the Netherlands studied white blood cell counts in 15 healthy young men following one week of regular 8 hour sleeps and compared them following 29 hours of sleep deprivation.

The most evident result was that white blood cells had lost their circadian rhythm and were now being produced in larger quantities at night. Sleep deprivation had the same impact that physical stress has on the immune system.

Lack of sleep also affects weight management
The NHANES study has revealed that sleeping 5 hours or less nightly increases risks of obesity by 2.5 times vs sleeping for more than 7 hours a night. Insufficient sleep raises our levels of ghrelin in the bloodstream, a hormone which increases hunger and lowers our body’s energy consumption, two factors known for promoting obesity. Furthermore, it has determined that insufficient sleep weakens the immune system, and makes us more vulnerable to illnesses; it also affects the nervous system’s capacity to manage stress, hence impacting mood, anxiety levels and depression.

Getting to the root cause for improved sleeping habits

  • For many of us, insomnia is linked to poor digestion. If you suffer from slow and difficult digestion, use bitter plants (artichoke, milk thistle, boldo and black radish) with your evening meal. Avoid fried or ‘’stimulating’’ foods such as coffee, tea, alcohol, spices, chocolate and sodas. Avoid snacking after dinner.
  • Sleep in a relaxed and dark environment
  • If you have difficulty in falling asleep, melatonin and/or other calming herbs, notably passiflora, lemon balm, valerian, hops, lavender can be consumed a half an hour before going to sleep and can help regulate the sleep cycle.

Too much daily stress causes insomnia:

  • It is important to note that the stimulating effect of cortisol (stress hormone), when secreted too often and too long by the body to manage stressful situations can damage our quality of sleep. For many of us, it is essential to reduce its negative impact during the day so as to improve our sleep at night.
  • Excessive daily stress: Help your body better adapt to daily stress with adaptogen herbs like Ashwagandha, Rhodiola and Siberian ginseng.
  • Nourish your nervous system: B vitamins and magnesium are essential for an efficient Nervous system and proper energy production.
  • Stress and anxiety: Select GABA or Kava instead.
  • You wake up at 3-4 AM and can’t go back to sleep! Do not skip meals! If your glycemic levels fluctuate all day because of irregular eating habits or skipping meals, your glycemic levels will also be affected during the night and affect the quality of your sleep.

    Solution: Regular meals all containing protein and fibre.
  • Get some air and exercise during the day, at least for 20 minutes to half an hour daily!
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