THE EFFECT OF LACK OF SLEEP ON YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM

Lack of Sleep and your Immune System

Whilst most of us require around 8 hours of rest per night to function properly, one in three Britons suffer from a lack of sleep; with stress, computers and working from home often blamed. Furthermore, with many people still confined to their homes, many are finding  the quality of their sleep has dropped due to the mental impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. But what impact does a lack of sleep have on your health, and does it affect your immune system? The answer is somewhat unsurprising... 

How is your Immune System Affected?

There is growing evidence to suggest that a lack a of sleep negatively affects your immune system. According to the Sleep and Performance Research Center, when resting, the immune system creates and releases certain proteins known as cytokines. The production of these proteins increases with infection or inflammation, or during periods of stress, to combat illness. However, when the body is deprived of sleep, it may decrease the production of these proteins and other infection-fighting antibodies. Researchers have also found that a good night’s sleep improves the immune cells known as T cells, which fight intracellular pathogens such as flu, HIV, herpes, and cancer cells. 
 
When fighting viruses and eliminating pathogens, the body consumes a greater amount of energy by kicking the immune system into high gear. As a result, getting more sleep when sick is paramount to fighting diseases, and hence, a lack of sleep may put your immune system under more pressure or cause it to perform more poorly. 
 
Moreover, the NHS has found that a lack sleep not only actively reduces how effective the immune system is when battling diseases, but that it may also make you more susceptible to catching them. If you seem to catch every cold and flu that's going around, your bedtime could ultimately be to blame. This is because prolonged lack of sleep can disrupt your immune system, so you're less able to fend off bugs. Thus, getting adequate rest is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic, where a strong immune system is arguably essential.  

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How to ensure a good night's rest 

In line with NHS recommendations, there are a variety of different steps you can take to help ensure a good night's rest: 
 

  • Sleep at regular times:  
    Keeping to a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at similar times daily helps program the brain and internal body clock to get used to a set routine. Over time, this will help you keep to a health sleep schedule.  
     
  • Avoid screen time before bed: 
    Avoiding the use of smartphones, tablets or other electronic devices for an hour or so before you go to bed may be useful to you, as the light from the screen on these devices has been shown to negatively impact your sleep quality and tiredness before bed. 
     
  • Make sure to wind down: 
    Whether it be by reading a book, having a warm bath, or doing some light exercise or stretches, winding down is essential to combat any struggles you may have with getting a good night’s sleep.  
     
  • Make sure your bedroom is ‘sleep-friendly’: 
    There is growing evidence to suggest the right environment in your bedroom may help with the quality of your sleep. Try to keep your room clean and tidy, dark, and at an adequate temperature (of around 18c and 24c). 
     
  • Keep a sleep diary: 
    It can be difficult to pinpoint what is affecting your sleep. By keeping a sleep diary, you can better understand your sleep habits and possible causes of your sleep problems. Our Sleep Screens can help you track this automatically.  

 

  • Food and drink:
    Smoking, caffeine, alcohol, and sugary foods can all disturb your sleep patterns. Try to cut down on alcohol and avoid caffeine close to bedtime. 


If you are consistently struggling to sleep, you may be suffering from a sleeping disorder. Read more about the symptoms here. Alternatively, you can book an appointment with a GP at any of our 18 clinic locations

 

Screening & Keeping Track of your Sleep 

At London Doctors Clinic, we offer sleep screenings which can provide an in-depth insight into the quantity, quality, and efficiency of your sleep, as well as important sleep contributors such as your resting heart rate. 
  
The sleep screen is measured via a state-of-the-art biometric tracking ring called ‘OURA’, which provides an in-depth look at how you sleep in addition to ongoing 12-month support from our private GP’S. Our medical experts will provide a report and recommendations on how to improve your sleep. With Oura, we’re able to track multiple data touchpoints whilst you sleep, showing a cohesive view of your physical and mental health all in one place.  
 
But that’s not all! There are a growing number of OURA users who are now arguing that the ring has also helped them identify whether or not they have had COVID-19. Read more about our state-of-the-art sleep screen here.  

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