Did you know sleep has a huge impact on your immune system?
Oftentimes, we write off sleep as expendable. But, according to current estimates, anywhere from half of the US population to two-thirds of all adults in developed nations aren’t getting enough sleep. And one of the many consequences of losing out on sleep is a weakened immune system.
Research shows that individuals sleeping 6 hours or less a night were more than 4 times more likely to catch a cold compared to those who were logging 7+ hours of sleep. With every hour of sleep lost, the risk of catching a cold continued to rise.
As sleep and immunity research continues to grow, it has become clear that sleep deprivation puts your body at a disadvantage. When you get quality sleep, you empower your body to use every part of your immune system to battle any incoming or present threat.
The optimal amount of sleep for most adults is seven to eight hours of good sleep each night. Teenagers need nine to 10 hours of sleep. School-aged children may need 10 or more hours of sleep.
Along with regulating your sleep, your body’s network of internal clocks helps manage your immune system and signals for it to kick into high gear while you’re asleep.
Although your immune system functions throughout the day, nighttime represents a unique opportunity for it to act while you aren’t interrupting it with meals, movement, or tasks. Your immune system requires a lot of energy to power its activities, so it takes advantage of reduced demands from the rest of your body during sleep.
“A night of sleep is as much preparation for the subsequent day’s activity as it is recovery from that of the previous day.” J. Allan Hobson
Here is what is happens at night while a complex team of cells and proteins go on the offensive and work together to raise your defenses:
- Turning Up the Heat: Your body can create a fever to help fight infection by deliberately raising your body temperature to an inhospitable level for pathogens (invaders) to reproduce. However, this comes at a high energy cost. Even a 1°C rise in body temperature requires a 10–12.5% increase in metabolic rate. This makes nighttime the perfect opportunity to use fever tactics because your body has more energy resources available when you’re powered down for sleep.
- Prioritizing Body Repair: Many illnesses cause your body to rearrange sleep stages to increase the amount of time spent in NREM (deep) sleep while deprioritizing REM. The benefits are two-fold. First, NREM sleep is primarily focused on body repairs, while REM is centered around cognitive benefits. A body at war needs more frequent repairs to recover. Second, temperature regulation is turned off during REM sleep and your body needs to remain in NREM longer to sustain a fever.
- Releasing the Messengers: Cytokines are a type of protein that act as the primary messengers of the immune system. They send signals throughout your body to orchestrate immune responses, turn on and off certain defense systems, and promote different phases of sleep. Cytokines are both produced and released during sleep, making it crucial for you to get shut eye when you’re sick. Without sufficient sleep, your body makes fewer cytokines.
- Supercharging the Attack: Specialized cells, known as T-cells, primarily work on the front lines, where they recognize and kill infected cells. Like some animals, certain cells hunt best at night. Research has shown that sleep helps increase T-cell’s ability to ‘stick’ to target cells—making them more effective and lethal.
While you are fast asleep, these systems are hard at work fighting a battle on a cellular level. Understanding how hard your body is working is a great motivator to help you WANT to make sleep a priority.
Unfortunately, a good night’s sleep can be so elusive. In the United States, approximately 30 percent of adults have difficulty falling asleep, and nearly 40 percent report accidentally falling asleep during the day. Depriving your body of sleep rakes havoc on our immune system, as well as our ability to lose or maintain weight, emotions, motivation and decision-making abilities.
Luckily, there are natural ways to help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Here are a few tips to help you get the sleep your mind and body needs.
- Stop Looking at Screens at Least One Hour Before Bed
You have a busy life, and phones, tablets, computers, and TVs were designed to constantly grab your attention. Learn to set them aside before bedtime and you’ll be more rested in the morning. By tuning out earlier, you can make sure your circadian rhythm isn’t disrupted by the blue light emitted from screens.
- Stick to Your Bedtime, Even on Weekends
Improving sleep requires consistency, so start becoming a creature of habit. Set a bedtime window and stick to it, even on weekends. This will help you respect your natural circadian rhythm and make sure you’re ready to wake up when the alarm goes off.
- Find Your Ideal Temperature
Some like it hot. Some like it cold. Regardless, physiology and science both agree that the right temperature for sleep is around 67 degrees Fahrenheit (19.5 degrees Celsius). Your body temperature decreases to initiate sleep, so a cool room gives it a head start.
- Avoid Large Meals and Exercise Before Falling Asleep
Big meals or intense exercise close to bedtime can decrease the amount of deep sleep you get. If an elevated metabolism or heart rate disrupts your sleep, it’s best to avoid exercise and heavy meals in the 3 hours prior to bedtime.
- Limit Alcohol, Especially Before Bed
Alcohol may help you feel relaxed before bed, but too much can rob you of highly valuable REM sleep. Once the alcohol’s effects wear off, you may also continuously wake up throughout the remainder of the night.
- Cut Caffeine After 2 p.m.
The effects of a late afternoon cup of coffee or a large Coke can last much longer than you think. Caffeine raises your heart rate, making it difficult to fall asleep. It also disrupts a key signal in your brain, adenosine, that helps your body regulate your internal clocks. Keep in mind that soda, tea, and even chocolate can contain enough caffeine to disrupt sleep.
- Exercise Regularly
Stay active. Go for a run, walk around the block, and avoid sitting for long periods of time. Thirty minutes of daily activity can set you up for a good night’s sleep.
- Reserve Your Bedroom for Rest and Romance
Your sleep will improve if you refrain from watching TV, talking on the phone, or working in your room. Creating an environment reserved for sleeping helps inform your body that it’s time for sleep. Your internal clocks respond to sleep cues.
- Time Your Naps
Napping is a great form of rest and works wonders for your overall recovery. That being said, there are good and bad times to take a nap. Try to take naps before 3 p.m., as naps too close to bedtime may make it difficult to fall asleep at night.
- Take Time to Unwind
Easier said than done. However, as you unwind and reduce your stress–with the help of practices like mindfulness, yin yoga, a relaxing bath, meditation, reading a novel, a massage, diffusing calming essential oils, or even using natural supplements–you train your body to enter a relaxed state.
doTERRA has put together essential oil blends specifically to help with quality sleep. You can use them topically, internally or aromatically, depending on your needs.
Serenity Restful Blend has a calming and relaxing aroma that is perfectly balanced to promote a restful sleeping environment. This blend can be diffused or applied topically to promote healthy sleep.
Lavender has been extensively researched for its relaxing properties and its effect on sleep. Lavender essential oil is high in linalool and linalyl acetate, which are known to be relaxing and calming. Inhale or diffuse Lavender prior to bedtime each night to help re-balance your sleep cycle. Another essential oil that is beneficial for encouraging sleep is Petitgrain, which has a deeper and more masculine scent than the more flowery-scented Lavender. Like Lavender, Petitgrain is rich in linalool and linalyl acetate.
Sometimes falling asleep is made difficult because of restless thoughts. When this happens, try using doTERRA Balance, Vetiver, Wild Orange or Cedarwood. These are powerfully grounding aromas and can help you to unwind before bedtime. If you often wake from stressful dreams, try diffusing these throughout the night to keep your mind at ease.
Night terrors are a real thing with symptoms and triggers. If you or a loved one struggles with episodes of screaming, fear and/or flailing while still asleep, they may be experiencing night terrors and most people with this will do everything in their power to try to prevent and soothe in the moment if one occurs. Combining these two powerhouse essential oils of Lavender and Juniper Berry you get one amazing night terror blend. Juniper Berry helps ease emotional and physical problems PLUS has a calming and grounding effect while purifying the air.
To calm the uncontrollable urge to move your restless legs at night, many have found applying 3 drops each of Balance, Lavender, Vetiver and Marjoram with some fractionated coconut oil directly on the legs to provide great relief. Also, taking the Lifelong Vitality pack is a powerful supplement to aid in calming restless legs in conjunction with the essential oils.
Liquid Sleep– A roller bottle recipe that helps calm your mind to prepare for sleep. In a 10ml roller bottle, add 15 drops Lavender, 10 drops Vetiver, 5 drops Frankincense, 5 drops Ylang Ylang, 5 drops Wild Orange and fill to the top with Fractionated Coconut Oil. Shake well. Apply to feet and neck before bedtime.
Snoring– If you or someone you sleep with snores than it can be difficult to get a good night’s sleep. Try diffusing 2-3 drops each of Breathe, Vetiver and Lavender or apply them to the chest and bridge of the nose right before bedtime.
Relaxing Bath Salts: Combine the following ingredients, trying to distribute the essential oil somewhat evenly. Once mixed well, store the bath salts in a glass container. 1 cup Epsom Salt, ¼ cup Sea Salt, ¼ cup baking soda, 8-10 drops of essential oil. Depending on the size of your tub, use about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of this salt blend per bath. Here are some essential oils that blend well together for the bath:
- 2 drops lavender, 3 drops wild orange, and 4 drops cedarwood
- 4 drops Roman chamomile, 2 drops cedarwood, and 3 drops lavender
- 3 drops patchouli, 3 drops wild orange, and 3 drops frankincense
Diffusing Blends. Essential oils can help people relax and prepare for a restful sleep. For example, aromatherapy with Lavender, Vetiver, Cedarwood, Petitgrain, and Serenity essential oils can create an environment that encourages restorative sleep. Here are some other essential oil favorites:
- 3 drops lavender essential oil and 3 drops cedarwood essential oil
- 3 drops Serenity essential oil and 3 drops Adaptiv essential oil
- 3 drops lavender essential oil and 3 drops wild orange essential oil
Taking supplements to promote a good night’s sleep might be necessary to relieve occasional sleeplessness. doTERRA Serenity Softgels contain a combination of Lavender, L-theanine and plant extracts where studies show the benefits of all the ingredients on improving sleep.
L-theanine specifically has been shown to improve sleep efficiency which by helping you fall asleep faster plus improving the amount of time you are actually asleep.
My personal bedtime favorite is to take 1 doTERRA Serenity Restful Complex Softgel PLUS 1 doTERRA Adaptiv Calming Blend Capsule and 1 Copaiba Softgel. Adaptiv Capsules calm the mind chatter before bed and are one of the best tools available to help manage the effects of everyday tension, anxious feelings, uneasiness, and worry. When I take this combination of supplements, I sleep like a baby. If I know I will be getting less than 8 hours of sleep then I apply Vetiver on the bottoms of my feet.
Of course, sleep is unique for every person. But, if you’ve been resorting to counting sheep, it’s time to give some of these tips a try and see how they impact your nights. Stick with a new technique for at least a week to give your body time to adapt to the changes and reveal any effects.
Discover what works for you.
The anxiety in the world today is over the roof because of worry about getting sick. There are many viruses and bacteria that affect our immune systems. Getting sufficient sleep is a remedy to not only reducing the intensity and incidence of disease but also strengthening the immune system. The presence of a new illness may be out of your control but by prioritizing your sleep, getting those 7+ hours can make all the difference in the battles your immune system fights for you.
Good night. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs Bite!:)
*If you want to purchase any of the products talked about in this post, you can get them HERE.