Good quality and restorative sleep is essential for day-to-day functioning and is intrinsically linked to our health. In addition, studies suggest that sleep quality has vital connections with our immune system.
The two parts of this relationship are:
Activation: When our immune system is stimulated, such as exposure to a virus or following a vaccination, triggers can enhance sleep, thought to increase our immune potential.1
Healthy immune system: The normal functioning of our immune system relies on adequate sleep to reduce inflammation.1
Therefore this means that sleep (both duration and quality) is a fantastic area to focus on improving your way to better health. If you are struggling with your night-time rest, look to establish why your sleeping patterns are disturbed (nutrient deficiencies, stress or worrisome thoughts, hormonal imbalances, environmental disturbances) and address the underlying issue.
Here’s what you can do to support disrupted sleep patterns:
- Make sure you are not hyper-stimulated before bed. For example, cut out any coffee or caffeine products after lunch and any sugar stimulatory products in the evening (chocolate, desserts, sugar, sweets).
- Reduce brain overstimulation in the evening. For example, avoid watching TV in the bedroom, working or playing computer games until just before bed, charging your mobile phone next to your bed, having pets or children sleeping with you.
- Relax the brain before bed. Have a wind-down routine, consider stretching, meditation, or enjoy a face cleansing ritual before bed, write down any concerns or tasks for the next day on a piece of paper, and leave it next to your bed.
- Practice good sleep hygiene by going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time, and ensuring the proper temperature (between 18-21° Celsius).
- Eat whole natural foods as part of your daily diet. For example, turkey and chicken contain high levels of tryptophan, which may help make melatonin the sleep hormone. Foods rich in potassium and magnesium can also help to relax the muscles. Magnesium sources include whole grains, nuts, and dark green leafy vegetables, whilst foods include bananas, potatoes, and milk contain potassium.
- Always seek help from a healthcare professional if sleep remains disrupted.
- Besedovsky, L., Lange, T. and Haack, M. (2019) ‘The Sleep-Immune Crosstalk in Health and Disease’, Physiological reviews. American Physiological Society, 99(3), pp. 1325–1380. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00010.2018.