The immune system is the part of the body responsible for fighting infections and diseases. However, in some cases, the immune system may be weakened and cause an individual to become immunocompromised, making him/her more susceptible to infections. As such, it is essential to maintain the strength of the immune system. And proper sleep has been considered to be one of the best natural immune system boosters around.
What are the signs of a weak immune system?
Before understanding the importance of proper sleep and the need to buy a proper mattress online for the same purpose, let us know a few things or factors that would affect the immune system in general. Common signs of a weak immune system include:
- Increasing stress levels: Immunocompromised individuals tend to experience high levels of stress triggered by even normal situations.
- Increased vulnerability to cold: Individuals with weak immune systems tend to catch a cold very often, with the cold lasting for weeks on end without running its course.
- Increased vulnerability of stomach infections: Immunocompromised individuals tend to have lower levels of beneficial bacteria in the gut, thus making them more susceptible to stomach related issues like diarrhea, constipation, bloating, chronic inflammation, etc.
- The prolonged recovery period from wounds: A weak immune system would make it harder for the skin to heal/regenerate from a wound like a scrape, cut or burn.
- Increased vulnerability of infections: Studies have indicated that a weakened immune system can increase a person’s susceptibility to a variety of infections, including ear infections, asthma, pneumonia, and bacterial/chronic sinusitis.
- Prolonged periods of exhaustion: While exhaustion can be attributed to improper sleep or rest, there is a cause for concern if the body feels exhausted even after getting proper rest and sleep. This may be due to a weakened immune system.
- Increased susceptibility to life-threatening conditions: Immunocompromised individuals are more at risk of contracting life-threatening conditions like HIV, viral hepatitis and even cancer.
How does the immune system work?
Before moving onto how sleep would boost immune system function, let’s also take a look at how the immune system works in general.
Foreign substances that can cause harm to the body are generally classified as antigens. When the human body senses the presence of these antigens, it starts the process of recognizing and getting rid of them.
The immune system does this by triggering the B lymphocytes in the body to produce antibodies that would fight these antigens. These antibodies are specialized proteins that lock onto the specific antigens and destroy them. The antibodies, thus produced, remain in the body long after the antigens are destroyed. Hence, if the same antigens were to enter the body again, the antibodies would be ready to tackle them.
This explains the scenario where individuals who get infections like chickenpox are less likely to get it again, as the antibodies produced by the body during the first infection remain in the body and fight the disease-causing antigens, should they enter the body again. It also explains the purpose of vaccinations, which introduce select antigens into the body (non-harmful though) to let the latter produce antibodies for them. This, in turn, allows the body to fight the antigens if they attack the body in the future.
Role of T Cells in destroying antigens
While antibodies do a great job in recognizing harmful antigens and locking onto them, they cannot destroy them on their own. This is where T cells come into the picture. Also called killer cells, these T cells play the role of killing the antigens that have been tagged or locked by the antibodies. In addition to this, T cells trigger other cells like phagocytes to do their jobs properly.
How does sleep affect immunity?
Let us now take a look at how proper sleep can affect the body’s immunity positively, giving you more reason to hunt for a quality mattress from a professional mattress manufacturer or supplier.
Scientific studies have indicated that proper sleep can increase the activeness of T cells and stimulate their proper functioning.
These studies aim at identifying the differences in T cell functioning in sleeping individuals as opposed to those who are awake. The experiment involved collecting T cell samples from volunteers who were awake and those who were asleep.
Analysis of these samples revealed that the T cells of volunteers who were asleep were more active when compared to the T cells which were taken from individuals who were awake. This is probably attributed to the decreased prostaglandin and adrenaline levels during sleep, which may be linked to the increased activity of the T cells during this period. It was thus determined that the T cells played a better role in strengthening the immune system during sleep.