Can Better Sleep Mean Catching Fewer Colds?
Lack of sleep affects your immune system.
Lack of Sleep and Vaccines
Studies have shown that people who are sleep deprived also get less
protection from flu vaccines than those who are getting adequate sleep,
John Park, MD, a pulmonologist who specializes in sleep medicine at the Mayo
Clinic in Rochester, Minn., agrees. “We know that our immune response is
suppressed when we are sleep deprived and that we develop less antibodies to
certain vaccines if we are sleep-deprived,” Park says. “It takes longer for our
body to respond to immunizations, so if we are exposed to a flu virus, we may
be more likely to get sick than if we are well rested when vaccinated.”
Sleep Loss: A Life and Death Issue
Sleep loss also plays a roll in our ability to fight off serious health
conditions. Research suggests that sleep-deprived people are at higher risk of
dying from heart disease, according to Balachandran. “The more sleep loss, the
higher your levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) will be,” he says. CRP is a
marker of inflammation, and inflammation may play a role in heart disease.
People who sleep less are actually more likely than their well-rested
counterparts to die from all causes. “Studies show that people who get about
seven hours of sleep a night have the best survival, and if we get less than
six hours of sleep a night, our mortality seems to increase,” Balachandran
Fighting Illness: How Much Sleep Do You Need?
It appears that some people may do better on less sleep than others. “If you
have a strong immune system, it may take longer for you to get run down if you
are not sleeping,” says Susan Zafarlotfi, PhD, clinical director of the
Institute for Sleep and Wake Disorders at Hackensack University Medical Center
in New Jersey. “Some people may be able to drink a cup of coffee from Starbucks
or Dunkin' Donuts and readjust. But if you have a weak immune system, you will
likely be more prone to infection if you are not getting enough sleep.”
But Balachandran says the bottom line is this: “We live in a 24-7 society
and everyone has two jobs and is bombarded with media. So sleep seems
expendable. But proper sleep is a fundamental component of a healthy