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Is Your Lack of Sleep Making You Sick?

"Am I getting enough sleep?" You wonder as you yawn for the 42nd time since lunch. 

Over a third of Australians sleep less than 7 hours per night, which is the recommended amount of sleep for an adult. Lack of sleep can negatively affect you in a number of ways. The most obvious ones are feeling tired and affecting your ability to concentrate.

But did you know that not getting enough sleep can also mean you get sick more often? Sleep deprivation can negatively affect the function of the immune system.

Let's take a closer look.

Sleep and the Immune System

While you are sleeping your body is producing and releasing proteins called cytokines. Cytokines are a big part of your body's response to the presence of infection or inflammation. 

If you're not getting enough sleep, not only is your body not producing enough of these cytokines, but also the ones you have aren't being released into your system where they are needed. This inhibits your body's ability to fight off infections from viruses or bacteria. This includes the common cold, the flu, or even the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.  

You can be exposed to any number of pathogens throughout the day, but if you have enough cytokines on hand to fight them off, you don't get sick. However, if you're not sleeping enough, your body may not have the required cytokines available, leaving you more vulnerable to becoming ill.

Are You Getting Enough Sleep?

How much sleep does the average person need for optimal immune system health? Sleep experts recommend between 7 and 9 hours of sleep for an adult, 10 hours for teenagers, and possibly even more for younger children. Every person's body is different, however, and your personal sleep needs may be more or less. 

How do you find out much sleep you need? 

The average person needs 7 1/2 hours of sleep per night, so start there. If you need to be up at 6:30, go to bed at 11 every night for a week. If you start waking up a few minutes before your alarm goes off, 7 1/2 hours is a good amount for you. If you're still being jostled awake by your alarm, start going to sleep at 10:30 and so on until you start waking up before your alarm.

Keep in mind that if your schedule is off from your body's natural rhythm, this method won't work well. For example, if you're naturally a night owl you won't find it easy to go to bed earlier and vice versa if you're a morning person.

Those who have a definite sleep window will need to build their lifestyle around when their bodies can sleep best. To find it, don't use an alarm. Go to sleep when you feel tired and sleep until you wake up naturally. Count the number of hours and then try to stick to the same schedule each day.

Working from Home and Getting Enough Sleep

COVID-19 has many of us working from home right now. For some, not having to commute is a godsend and they're saving x-number of hours each week they would normally be sitting in traffic. Maybe you even get to ditch the alarm altogether. This could be a great time to perform the exercise we just mentioned and find out when your body naturally wants to sleep and wake up. 

For others, working from home is hectic. They may have kids in the house that are normally in school and find themselves up until all hours of the night trying to work when there is a little peace and quiet. 

Exposure to light can also disrupt sleep as light is a natural indicator to your body that it's time to be awake. Using electronic devices, particularly at night, can make it more difficult for you to fall asleep — even when you're exhausted. 

However, with the pandemic crisis, keeping your immune system going strong is more important than ever. A strong immune response can help prevent you from getting sick even if you are exposed to the virus. 

How to Get More Sleep

Thus, you need to be getting enough sleep every night to boost your immune system as much as possible. Try to avoid using devices for at least an hour or so before bed and don't work in your bedroom if at all possible. Let your body associate your bedroom, and particularly your bed, with sleep and not work. 

Create a calming evening routine. Take a shower, have a cup of non-caffeinated tea, read a book, do a few light stretches — whatever helps you relax. If you're struggling with anxiety, whether in general or due to current circumstances, a supplement such as Mg Optima Relax can help calm mild anxiety, support relaxation, and promote better sleep.  

Keep in mind that oversleeping can be a problem as well. It is not recommended for most adults to sleep more than 10 hours per day. Sleeping during the day can also lead to sleep disruption at night, causing you to not get enough deep sleep. Sleep has the greatest positive effect on the body when you fall asleep and stay asleep for full sleep cycles. 

To that end, add some exercise to your routine. If you can go outside, go for a 30-minute walk each day. The fresh air and exercise will also boost your immune system and make it easier for you to sleep at night. Even if you can't go outside, clear a spot in your living room and get moving. You can find plenty of exercise videos online for inspiration or even just turn up the music and dance!

Still Wondering "Am I Getting Enough Sleep?"

Stop asking yourself "am I getting enough sleep?" and know that you are! Stay strong, stay healthy and follow these tips for boosting your immune system. After all, it's not a marathon, you don't have to run 5 miles every day (although that would definitely help). All you have to do is get enough sleep.

If you're looking for other simple ways to boost your immune system, check out these great supplements as well! We offer a variety of products that can help you keep your body healthy and strong — your best defence against the coronavirus and other diseases. 

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