A: Today we focus on the importance of sleep health as an evidence-based strategy for improving your immune system during the COVID-19 pandemic.
** Long-term sleep deficiency is associated with a range of co-morbidities (type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, dementia) that put you at higher susceptibility and more severe outcomes of COVID-19. You can reduce your risk factors for these comorbidities by practicing good health behaviors, such as prioritizing sleep, exercise, and a diet rich in fruits and vegetables) Even little changes in lifestyle can add up over time.
** Sleep affects how your body responds to exposure to a viral exposure. In a fascinating study, participants were exposed to the rhinovirus and quarantined in a hotel for 5 days. Those with insufficient sleep (< 6 hours per night) were more than 4 times more likely to develop cold symptoms. This is particularly interesting because both short and sufficient sleepers showed evidence of viral replication in the body. While this study hasn’t been done with exposure to the novel coronavirus, it may indicate that sufficient sleepers are more likely to have asymptomatic or mild cases of COVID-19.
** Vaccines work better among those with sufficient sleep. Even one night of sleep deprivation can reduce your body’s antibody response. If you haven’t already gotten your flu shot, now’s a good time to make that happen. To maximize the benefit of your vaccine, be sure that you are getting enough sleep.
** Finally, acute sleep deprivation impairs decision making. By now, we all know the guidelines on wearing masks and social distancing, but these guidelines may be harder to implement if you’re suffering from a sleepless night. (Same thing goes for adhering to other health practices. For example, it’s harder to resist that ice cream sandwich and opt for fruit when you are sleep deprived.)
So, rest up!
Here are some other resources for improving your immune function through sleep and maintaining a healthy lifestyle:
Harvard Health Publishing: How to boost your immune system