Why lack of sleep makes you sick
A new American study has shed light on why many of us get sick with insufficient rest.
Researchers at the University of Washington (UW) Medicine Sleep Center found that sleep deprivation cripples the immune system, diminishing the body’s resistance to infection and disease.
For their study, the scientists examined 11 pairs of identical twins with different sleep patterns, taking blood samples from each.
The results indicated overwhelmingly that the twin who got less sleep had a more depressed immune system compared with their sibling.
The UW study is one of the first to employ “real world” conditions to confirm how lack of sleep hampers white blood cells, which are essential to maintain ideal levels of immunity.
According to lead author Dr Nathaniel Watson: “What we show is that the immune system functions best when it gets enough sleep. Seven or more hours of sleep is recommended for optimal health.”
The researchers examined twins because studies show genetics accounts for up to 55 percent of sleep behaviour.
Rather than looking at the more commonly examined factors – such as inflammation – they focused specifically on immune response.
Their work builds on previous studies showing that when sleep deprived people are given a vaccine, there is a lower antibody response.
Sleep deprived people are also far more likely than their rested peers to get the rhinovirus if they are exposed to it, other reports have shown.
“This study provides further evidence of the importance of sleep to overall health and well-being particularly to immune health,” Dr Watson added.