Sleep and Immunity: 6 Ways to Boost Your Body’s Immune System While You are Sleeping
Ward off infection and avoid illness by cranking up your body’s defense system all night long.
According to the American Sleep Association, one of the best things we can do to heal from COVID, or even avoid getting it in the first place, is to get enough sleep. That’s because sleep and immunity are inextricably combined. Sleep is when our body’s immune system can counter the inflammation and stress that accumulate during the day, and it’s when we release a protein called cytokines—chemical signals that tell the body’s immune system to target infection and inflammation. Additionally, our bodies produce white blood cells called T-cells during sleep, which UC Health reports play a critical role in the immune response to infectious disease.
Getting enough sleep can help us fight off viral infections, but may even also help prevent longer-term issues such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. There are two key pillars to have with sleep. The first pillar is to get enough of it, which is 7 to 9 hours for adults. The second pillar is to make sleep as consistent as possible. According to the Cleveland Clinic, fluctuating bedtimes raising the risk of obesity, high cholesterol, and other metabolic disorders.
Once you’ve got the basics of sleep in place, there are other sneaky ways you can boost your immune system while you’re sleeping. Let’s take a look.
Use Anti-Inflammatory Essential Oils
What are the best essential oils to use before bed? Lavender always gets top billing for relaxation. But when it comes to anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, try cedarwood. Some research also strongly suggests eucalyptus oil has potential immune function enhancing properties. Try using cedarwood essential oil as a pillow spray or linen spray before slipping into bed at night, and consider eucalyptus oil in a diffuser for evening use.
Covid Vaccines: The Importance of Sleep
If you receive a vaccination—any vaccination—be sure to get at least seven hours of sleep that night. While there are not yet studies on COVID vaccines and sleep, there have been studies on vaccines for hepatitis and swine flu, which found that people who got insufficient sleep after they were vaccinated got a reduced efficacy from the vaccine. In some cases, those participants even needed a booster shot, reports the Sleep Foundation. While this study was looking specifically at insufficient sleep on one night, it’s important to enough sleep overall to enjoy the benefits of adaptive immunity. So, if you are getting a vaccine to guard against any illness, whether it’s the flu vaccine, COVID vaccine, or any other vaccine, be sure to rest up prior to and on the night of your vaccination.
Which Vitamins Are Best for Nighttime Immunity?
People pop a melatonin tablet or gummy before bed to help them sleep, but it’s important to have other levels of vitamins and supplements at the right levels, too. Magnesium, iron, calcium, and vitamin B all contribute to the body’s ability to get quality sleep, reports Care/of, and being deficient in any of these can reduce getting into that full state of rejuvenation.
And don’t forget magnesium. An antioxidant and calcium channel blocker, magnesium boosts immunity by reducing inflammation. The recommended daily intake for magnesium is 400–420 mg. per day for men and 310–320 mg. per day for women. The key points with vitamins and supplements: Make sure you take a good multivitamin every day to ensure your body has the nutrients it needs to get into a deep sleep state at night, and consider taking a magnesium supplement before bed.
If you are getting a vaccine to guard against any illness, rest up prior to and on the night of your vaccination.
Wet Socks for a Natural Remedy
Feel like you have a sore throat or are coming down with a cold? Use the wet sock treatment. This natural health remedy sounds strange, but supposedly works wonders. According to Bastyr Center for Natural Health, a wet sock treatment is ideal for use on the first day of illness associated with headache, nasal congestion, cough, upper respiratory infection, or bronchitis, and works best if it is used three nights in a row. Bastyr reports that the body reacts to the chilly, cold socks on the feet by boosting circulation of the blood, which whips up the body’s immune system. For instructions on how to use the wet sock treatment, click here.
Take a Tablespoon of Honey
Enjoy a cup of tea with honey or a tablespoon of honey mixed with turmeric. “Honey has a potential therapeutic role in the treatment of disease by phytochemical, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties,” a 2017 paper published in Pharmacognosy Research says. Honey has antimicrobial properties, is anti-inflammatory, and boosts primary and secondary immune responses. (Try this recipe for medicinal herbal honey.)
The Benefits of Alternate Nostril Breathing
Known as Nadi Shodhana, alternate nostril breathing may boost immunity and improve lung health by increasing lung capacity and strength. While you can practice alternate nostril breathing any time of day, doing a short session before bed can help reduce anxiety and prepare your body for a good night’s rest. Here’s how to do alternate nostril breathing, plus two other yoga exercises that can help build your immunity.