Essential Sleep (Part 8). Sleep and the immune system

Sleep, like most other processes in our body, is mediated by the interaction of cytokines and chemokines with neurotransmitters (Dilger & Johnson, 2008). During infection our sleep patterns change and interactions of cytokines, especially IL‑1 and IL‑1 2 and the neurotransmitter serotonin amplify (Dantzer et al. 2008; Lange et at. 2006). During sleep, it has been suggested that, the synapses not used during the day's activities are given an opportunity to prime and regenerate, cognitive function also rejuvenates, memories are consolidated and on a cellular level glycogen stores can re‑fuel. However, sleep deprivation has been associated with inflammatory based diseases including obesity, Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetes (lmeri & Opp, 2009).


Sleep deprivation has been shown to further enhance end stage renal disease, decrease vaccine efficacy as attested with both Influenza and Hepatits A vaccines, prolong wound healing, lengthen critical care stays and enhance depression or other psychiatric disorders (Lange et al. 2003; Miller et al. 2004; Koch et al. 2009).

Several recent studies report that reducing sleep to 6.5 or fewer hours for successive nights causes potentially harmful metabolic, hormonal and immune changes.  All of the changes are similar to those detected in the normal aging process (Cobb, 2002) and so sleep deprivation could be the biggest indicator of how long you live (Sateia, et al., 2004).  There is a strong link between sleep deprivation and low immune system function (Redwine, et al., 2003).  A reduction of sleep makes people more prone to infection and potentially more prone to cancer; one study found that poor sleep was associated with a 60 percent increase in breast cancer. 

In one study of 153 volunteers who spent less time in bed, or who spent their time in bed tossing and turning instead of snoozing, were much more likely to catch a cold when viruses were dripped into their noses, while those who slept longer and more soundly resisted infection better. The study showed that even relatively minor sleep disturbances can influence the body's reaction to cold viruses ( Cohen et al  Archives of Internal Medicine). The men and women who reported fewer than seven hours of sleep on average were 2.94 times more likely to develop sneezing, sore throat and other cold symptoms than those who reported getting eight or more hours of sleep each night. Volunteers who spent less than 92 percent of their time in bed asleep were 5 1/2 times more likely to become ill than better sleepers, they found.