by Nicola Raimbert – Osteopath

Many of us are coming to acknowledge that sleep, both adequate hours and quality, is not just a pillar of good health, but truly a foundation for it. Dr Matt Walker in his book ‘Why we sleep’ detailed the numerous benefits of sleep as well as the consequences of sleep deprivation that some of society misguidedly champion as a strength. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it.

All of us are familiar with that feeling of the inescapable need to crawl into bed and sleep when we’re unwell. However, science is really just beginning to explore how sleep aids our immune system and recovery. So far, they’ve discovered four key points.

  1. Sleep increases our production and efficacy of T-cells responsible for killing virus and cancer cells.
  2. Sleep strengthens our ‘immune memories’, increasing our resiliency and our ability to recognise and react to threats.
  3. Poor sleep quality, increases cortisol levels which in turn inhibit the immune system.
  4. Sleep increases the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines that are responsible for repairing wounds and fighting off infection. Curiously, this system is self regulated by a steady circadian rhythm. Inconsistent or poor quality sleep, inhibits the bodies ability to turn off this inflammation during the day, leading to a persistent state of low grade inflammation that is beginning to be associated with many of the chronic diseases of today.

Poor sleep is truly a silent epidemic of today. It is complex and not always easily fixed. Medicinal sleep aids abound but are not always the best over the long term. There are many other natural & habitual strategies you can utilise to improve sleep. For suggestions check out other articles on the Arise Health blog where you’ll find a myriad of ideas covering strategies from nutrition, herbs, movement, hormonal, stress & sleep hygiene.