The latest virus outbreak has left many of us in an anxious state. The stress of not knowing what is next, income uncertainty and isolation is enough to lead anyone straight into sleepless nights.
As we all grapple with our new normality it’s vital to remember the important role sleep plays in building our immune systems. Making sure we consistently get a good nights sleep is one of the best ways we can improve health, bolster our immune system and energise our minds.
Of course, we’re not saying that sleep is the cure-all remedy. As we’ve said before this is about taking small, consistent, daily actions for maximum health benefit. Sleep is a vital component of this proactive approach towards optimum health and immune strength.
Sleep bolsters your immune system by improving the efficiency of T cells in the body , white blood cells which the body releases to defend against viruses. It also relieves stress, reducing the chemical reactions to stress that impedes the function of T cells; it improves heart health and helps your body to regulate its insulin levels.
A lack of sleep seriously impacts the strength of our immune system, increasing the likelihood of us catching a cold, or developing autoimmune disorders. Many studies have explored the relationship between sleep and the strength of one’s immune system and one such study noted that those who slept less than 7 hours per night were 2.94 times more likely to develop a cold than those who got at least 8 hours or more of shut-eye.
Here are my top 5 (science backed) hacks for how to sleep better:
- No more drinking caffeinated drinks (including tea!) after 2pm!
The stimulant effects of caffeine make it highly disruptive of sleep and it has no place in a good sleep routine. In order to strike a balance between your need to stay alert and focussed during the day, but restful at night, don’t reach for that coffee mug after 2pm.
- Put your phone away at least 90 Mins before you plan to sleep
The blue light emitted from electronic devices such as mobile phones, tablets, laptops and computers can seriously impact your circadian rhythm – that is, your body’s natural clock – by making us more alert when we should be winding down to sleep. It does this by suppressing the production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for making us sleepy, which the body releases at around 9.00pm. Instead of reacting to every phone notification at night, try to stick to sleep-promoting activities for 90 Mins before you intend to sleep. Read a book, play some music, even talk to your partner, just don’t pick up the phone!
- Keep your room as dark as possible at night
As bed time approaches, try to reduce the sources of light to prepare for sleep. For example, you could switch off your main light and opt for dim lamps or softer lighting instead. The trigger for the body preparing itself for sleep is darkness, so you can facilitate that process by replicating twilight indoors. You could think about investing in black-out blinds or curtains which block out sunlight as summer approaches and the days get longer.
- Avoid exercising before bedtime
Exercise stimulates the production of adrenaline and increases your heart rate, which isn’t necessarily the best idea for inducing a sleepy state of being. If it doesn’t affect your sleepiness and ability to fall asleep at a reasonable time, then great, however, for those of you who spend a lot of time in bed tossing and turning before sleeping, exercise shortly before bedtime can worsen the problem.
- Eat at least 3 hours before bed
Before getting into bed, at least 3 hours should have passed – the length of time it takes to fully digest a meal – since eating a big meal. Not only does eating a heavy meal activate digestion which may cause you to wake up in the middle of the night, eating before bed can cause spikes and crashes in your blood sugar levels, which lead to inflammation within the body, trigger the release of stress hormones and wreak havoc on the body’s immune system response.
Stick to these 5 rules and you should start seeing an improvement in your ability to get to sleep and stay asleep, leading to a much stronger immune system. But if you want to go one step further you can consider meditation just before bedtime. Check out our next blog to find out how meditation can help induce a calm sleepy state as well as support you during these stressful and anxious times.