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Why Is Sleep So Important For Our Immune Systems?

Why is sleep so important for our immune systems?

My family’s health and safety are always on the forefront of my mind, and even more so now. These are unprecedented times during the COVID-19 pandemic, with still so many unknowns. We are dealing with physical risks, as well as a huge loss of socialization and stimulation, all while trying to establish new routines and structures. 

If you are anything like me, these changes have caused some feelings of stress and anxiety. We are in uncharted territory, but there ARE still things within our control that we can be doing to protect our families and support our immune systems!

SO WHAT CAN WE CONTROL? 

Washing hands properly, eating well, staying hydrated, getting outside for fresh air and sunshine are some good habits that come to mind. But there’s one aspect of wellness that is often overlooked…can you guess what it is?  

HINT: What is your first instinct when you feel yourself coming down with a cold or flu? 

Yep, you got it…SLEEP! Sleep and immunity go hand-in-hand. In fact, in his book, “Why We Sleep”, neuroscientist Dr. Matthew Walker says, “Routinely sleeping less than six or seven hours demolishes your immune system.” 

Sleep is one of the best things we can do to strengthen our immune systems and protect our bodies from illnesses!

SLEEP FIGHTS INFECTION AND AIDS IN QUICKER RECOVERY

When we become sick, our body immediately sends signals to activate our sleep system. We begin to feel weak and lethargic for a good reason — our bodies are literally forcing us to rest so that the immune system can use all the energy that it needs. 

While we sleep, cytokines are produced and released. These proteins target infections and jumpstart the natural healing process. 

So if your little one is sick, let them sleep! There’s a good chance they will wake up feeling much better. 

LACK OF SLEEP MAKES YOU MORE SUSCEPTIBLE TO ILLNESS 

On the flip side, our immune system is suppressed when we are not getting adequate sleep, making us more likely to catch any virus we are exposed to. 

In fact, after even just one night of partial sleep loss (<5 hours), the white blood cells that protect against infectious diseases and foreign invaders are reduced by up to 70 percent. Woah!

And this is from a single night of poor sleep. Just imagine how chronic sleep deprivation (anything less than 7 hours at night) can affect our overall health and vitality! 

HOW MUCH SLEEP DO WE NEED?

Children have much higher sleep needs than we oftentime think! Babies and toddlers need anywhere between 10-12 hours of consolidated sleep at night, plus daytime naps. Young children who no longer nap during the day still need about 11-12 hours of sleep at night. 

Here’s a sleep needs guide by age: 

ensuring children get the sleep they need to have a healthy immune system

Don’t forget about yourself, Moms and Dads! Adults need at least 7-9 hours of sleep each and every night. 

It’s so easy to focus on our kiddos and forget about ourselves. As parents, sleep is so important for our immune systems too! We need and deserve quality sleep as much as our children. Happy, healthy, well-rested parents = happy, healthy, well-rested kids!

FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL

Whether it’s back-to-school, cold & flu season or a worldwide pandemic, we want to support our immune systems as much as possible by focusing on what’s within our control. Choosing to prioritize and work on healthy sleep habits is always a worthy cause and has so many benefits. And your immune system will thank you! 

Have your family’s sleep habits gone downhill these last few months? Don’t worry. You are not alone and it’s never too late to reprioritize healthy sleep for your family! If you need help getting back on track, let’s talk about how we can work together:

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