So winter is here and you want a strong immune system : make sure you get some good sleep first thing (quantity, quality, regularity..).
Severe sleep loss jolts the immune system into action, reflecting the same type of immediate response shown during exposure to stress, a new study reports. Researchers compared the white blood cell counts of 15 healthy young men under normal and severely sleep-deprived conditions. The greatest changes were seen in the white blood cells known as granulocytes, which showed a loss of day-night rhythmicity, along with increased numbers, particularly at night.
>> Sleep and Immune Function, (Critical Care Nurse)
Scientists are only beginning to fully understand the purpose of sleep and its underlying mechanisms. Lack of sleep is associated with many diseases, including infection, and with increased mortality. Lack of proper sleep is an important problem in the intensive care unit, and interventions have been designed to improve it. Sleep is associated with immune function, and this relationship is partially based on the physiological basis of sleep, sleep architecture, the sleep-wake cycle, cytokines and the hypothalamic-pituitary axis.
Sleep is one of the biggest riddles known. The knowledge that all animals sleep implies that sleep fulfills some basic physiological need. Yet, scientists are only beginning to fully understand the purpose of sleep1 and the underlying mechanisms.2 Lack of sleep is associated with many diseases and with increased mortality1,3 and is an important problem in the intensive care unit (ICU).4–8
In this review, I describe the relationship between sleep and immune function. Understanding this complicated association requires knowledge of the physiological basis of sleep and the basic elements of immune function as applied to sleep. Therefore, I briefly review sleep architecture and the sleep-wake cycle. I also discuss immune function and cytokines and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.
Although evidence linking sleep and immune function has come from studies of the sleep-wake cycle, cytokines, and the HPA axis, most investigators have relied on 2 basic approaches. In the first approach, laboratory animals and human volunteers are deprived of sleep and the consequences of the deprivation on immune responses, bodily systems associated with the immune system, and/or immune products are measured. In the other approach, laboratory animals or human volunteers are infected with pathogens or given substances that challenge the immune system, and the effects of these interventions on sleep are determined.9 I present evidence provided by using both of these research strategies. Finally, I describe how sleep in the ICU affects patients’ immune function and suggest interventions to improve patients’ sleep.