Sleep has tons of benefits, and if you’ve been here before you know I am a HUGE fan. (obviously 😉 )
During cold and flu season, getting adequate sleep is even more beneficial because sleep helps boost our immune system.
Right now, we currently have an even bigger threat with the unknown coronavirus, COVID-19 impacting all areas of our lives. We are almost constantly thinking about and working to protect our health. In addition to protecting the health of our community. And doing this in ways we probably couldn’t have imagined in our wildest dreams a few months ago.
While we are focusing heavily on our health and well-being, we should be taking a look at our sleep. Especially our sleep patterns and the prioritization of sleep in our lives. Prioritizing sleep and getting the sleep you need is going to be hugely beneficial for getting through this unprecedented time.
Let’s look at how and why sleep is so important for our health and immune systems.
Cytokines, sleep and our health
Cytokines are proteins and other substances released by cells of the immune system. They act as messengers to help regulate the immune system and help it work optimally. These cytokines help our bodies fight infection and inflammation. Cytokines are released in large part while we are sleeping. If we don’t get enough sleep, the production of cytokines decreases.
Then when we get exposed to a virus, the cytokines we have are used up more quickly when trying to fight off the virus. This can negatively impact your body’s immune response. Adequate quality and duration of sleep help our bodies better adapt our immune response and fight off an invading virus. [i]
Sleep deprivation and our immune systems
Studies have shown that chronic sleep deprivation can lead to a stress response in our body. That stress response is seen in the body as sustained low-grade inflammation. One of the consequences of this persistent low-grade inflammation is an increased risk for getting sick when exposed to a virus or disease.
The cytokines released during sleep can be used to combat that low-grade inflammation. Then there are not as many available for when we get exposed to an illness.
If you aren’t getting enough sleep and then you are exposed to a virus, you are more likely to get sick from that virus. So that sleep deprivation compromises your body’s immune response and ability to fight that invading virus. Research shows that people who sleep 6 hours or less per night are 4.2 times more likely to catch the common cold than people who sleep 8 hours per night.[ii]
Chronic sleep deprivation can also increase the amount of time it takes you to recover from that illness.
Additionally, sticking to a consistent sleep schedule that allows us to get adequate sleep decreases your risk of other major health concerns such as hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. [ii]
Other ways adequate sleep benefits us
As you can see, getting adequate sleep — adequate in quality and duration – is important, especially in this uncertain time. Then couple that with the way adequate sleep benefits our moods with increased patience, being better able to regulate our emotions and increased ability to effectively navigate challenging social situations. I think as parents we can all agree those are all important things. Even more so when we are cooped up in the house without our normal activities outside of the house, such as school, the zoo, playgrounds and the library.
adequate sleep and better health for you and your family
For many families, their children’s sleep habits are causing the whole family’s sleep quality and duration to be negatively impacted. In turn, it can negatively impact the family’s health as well.
But, I’ve got some good news for you!
In this unprecedented time of social distancing, we don’t have the interruptions and constant go-go-go of life. This can make it a great time to start working on sleep. You can more easily stick to routines and sleep schedules when we don’t have a ton else going on. Plus, getting into these habits now will set us up well for the future.
And, let’s be honest, many of us are eagerly waiting until our kids go down for their nap(s) and bedtime. So, making that nap time and bedtime a smooth, enjoyable process for all would be a game-changer!
Healthy, happy sleeping families
Helping your children learn new sleep habits can enable your whole family to more easily get the sleep you need and deserve – to be healthy, happy and thriving!
If you aren’t sure how to go about making changes to the sleep habits that aren’t working well for your family, that is what working one-on-one with me can help with. Using personalized, step-by-step sleep plans that incorporate a holistic view of your child and their entire day, personality, and temperament–and your parenting style is how I help families achieve their sleep goals every day. You can schedule your free evaluation call here to learn more and get you the information you need to decide the best route for you and your precious little ones.
Cheers to healthy, happy sleep!