How Sleeping Affects the Immune System

Lack of sleep affects the immune system. People who slept 6 hours or less were 4 times more likely to catch a cold compared to those who have an average of 7 hours or more of sleep.

Major benefits your immune system gets with enough sleep


1. It increases the immune function

Researcher Luciana Besedovsky, authored a study on how the immune system functions during sleep. According to her, even one night without sleep affects the adaptive immune system as evidenced by the rapid drop in circulating T-cells during sleep. T-cells are a type of white blood cell that is the heart of the immune function. 

Moreover, the body’s 24-hour circadian clock is also aligned with the body’s immune function. Enough sleep strengthens this and does not disrupt the sleeping pattern.


2. It reduces the risk of developing colds or flu

Since sleep boosts the immune system, it also increases the body’s ability to avoid the risks of developing colds or bacterial infections. Experimental studies have shown that when sleep-deprived, the body’s natural killer cell activity is reduced and white blood cell activities are regulated as well.


3. Enough sleep generates proteins that target infection

Our immune system releases proteins called cytokines during sleep. When sleep-deprived, production of a certain type of this protein is reduced, therefore lessening the body’s warrior proteins that fight infection, or inflammation.


4. It fights illnesses and also helps recover from them

Enough sleep not only fights illnesses but also helps the body recover from them. Do you wonder why fevers tend to rise at night? When our body tries to fight infection, we get fevers. By sleeping, we get a better fever response then. Remember, when you’re sick, your body does everything it can to heal and recover.

Flu vaccines will also work better if a person is well-rested because the immune response is not suppressed. According to a pulmonologist in Mayo Clinic Rochester, when someone lacks enough sleep, it takes longer for the body to respond to immunizations. So when that person is exposed to a flu virus, he/she is more likely to get sick than if the person is well-rested when vaccinated.


5. Good sleep beats stress, anxiety, and depression

There’s a complex relationship between mental health and sleep. It has been a battle as to which comes first, anxiety disorder or sleep disorder. New research suggests that people with sleeping disorders are prone to developing a mental disorder. Sleep deprivation affects neurotransmitters and stress hormones that impair thinking and emotional regulation. Good night’s sleep promotes REM sleep which enhances learning and memory and even contributes to emotional health.


Get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep so you give your immune system a fighting chance against flu and infections. Staying at home during quarantine amidst COVID-19 may not necessarily translate to getting enough sleep. If you’re having difficulty managing enough sleep due to work schedule, find out here how you can make lifestyle changes.

Boosting the immune system is a combination of proper sleep, a balanced diet, appropriate physical activity, and good hygiene practices. These not only prevent the flu but also enables the body to bounce back a little bit faster from sickness. We can only do so much in taking care and being responsible for our bodies. You can start by having sweet dreams.


Besedovsky,L. Lange, T. and Born, J. 2012.Sleep and Immune function.US National Library of Medicine NIH.

Asif, N. Iqbal, R. and Nazir, CF. 2017.Human Immune System during Sleep.American Journal of Clinical and Experimental Immunology.

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