We have all likely heard by now how important sleep is, yet a whopping 35.2% of Americans are considered to be sleep-deprived, according to the Sleep Foundation. And while many of us may brush it off as no big deal, a recent study has come out that might make you think twice about skipping out on those zzz’s.
Our immune system is the body’s greatest line of defense against sickness and disease and helps our body to heal when it is wounded and sick. When we are under immense stress, our immune system suffers, which is something the mass majority of people have grown to accept. However, in an interesting study carried out by a team of scientists from the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, scientists found an interesting link between sleep deprivation and immunity.
The researchers took 15 healthy men, and first regulated their sleep, and then intentionally deprived them of sleep. In their findings, they discovered that significant disruption to sleep was also linked to a significant disruption in our immunity response. In the findings, they explain that the effect of sleep deprivation “directly mirrored the body’s stress response.”
The healthy participants were all healthy and under the age of 30. The researchers first placed them on a highly regulated sleep schedule, providing them with eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. Additionally, they took them off of medications, caffeine, and alcohol, to ensure their circadian clocks were in tune.
Then, after a week of the regimented sleep schedule, they analyzed their white blood cells. After that, they subjected the men to extreme sleep deprivation, pushing them to stay awake for 29 hours without rest. Then, the white blood cells were measured again. After the sleep deprivation, the white blood cell activity rose significantly, showing a massive immune response.
According to the researchers, this response is the same response that is noted during a fight or flight stress response. And since stress weakens the immune system, it’s pretty obvious that sleep deprivation would also weaken immunity, based on these findings.
To conclude, the lead author wrote, “Future research will reveal the molecular mechanisms behind this immediate stress response and elucidate its role in the development of diseases associated with chronic sleep loss.
If confirmed with more data, this will have implications for clinical practice and for professions associated with long-term sleep loss, such as rotating shift work.”