If you needed another reason to get a good sleep, this might be it. Sleep helps the immune system.
Numerous studies have reported the benefits of a good night’s sleep, and now researchers from Germany have found that sound sleep improves immune cells known as T cells.
“T cells are a type of… immune cells that fight against intracellular pathogens, for example, virus-infected cells such as flu, HIV, herpes, and cancer cells,” Stoyan Dimitrov, PhD, a researcher at the University of Tübingen and an author of the study, told Healthline.
The importance of T cells
T cells play an important role in the body’s immune system. When cells in the body recognize a virally infected cell, they activate integrins, a sticky type of protein, that then allows them to attach to and kill infected cells.
“Stress hormones dip while the body is asleep. High levels of these substances might decrease the efficiency of T cell immune response to kill pathogens,” Dimitrov said.
The importance of sleep
Adults need a minimum of seven hours of sleep every night for improved health and well-being.
In 2016 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that more than one-third of Americans weren’t getting enough sleep.
Kimberley Hardin, MD, director of the sleep medicine fellowship program at the University of California Davis, says many people take good sleep for granted.
Less than five hours sleep per night on a regular basis is associated with higher mortality, and having less than seven hours sleep for three nights in a row has the same effect on the body as missing one full night of sleep.
And poor sleep can have both short-term and long-term health consequences.
Why people don’t get enough sleep
Despite numerous studies proving the negative health impacts of poor sleep, experts say many people still don’t prioritize getting enough sleep.
“People have to honestly reflect on the amount of sleep they’re getting because a lot of the problems are voluntarily induced, and they just need to decide to prioritize an adequate night’s sleep,” Eric Olson, MD, a pulmonologist and sleep medicine specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, told Healthline.
Having a comfortable, dark, cool bedroom environment and eliminating distractions from electronic devices, pets, or a snoring bed partner is key,” he said. “And exercise can promote better quality sleep. Watching how much alcohol and caffeine you consume is important, too.”
“Good sleep must be a priority because there’s so much going on in our worlds,” Dr. Olson said, “that unless you consciously decide you’re going to make enough time for sleep, it’s just not going to happen.”
The bottom line
Researchers say getting good sleep can strengthen your immune system.
In a recent study, scientists say they discovered that quality sleep can bolster the T cells in your body that fight off infection.
Good sleep does this by enhancing the ability of T cells to adhere to and destroy cells infected by viruses and other pathogens.
Researchers say there are short-term and long-term health problems associated with poor sleep.