Why catching your ZZZs not only feels good, it’s good for you!
Sleep as medicine – Putting Out the Fire, part 5
By Kumara Sidhartha, MD, MPH, Medical Director, HCI-PO and PHO
How many days in the past year did you not recharge your phone? Or computer? Let me guess. Close to zero.
What if I ask the same question but this time about recharging your body with adequate, restful sleep.
For many, the answer would be quite different.
I see this commonly among patients.
Sleep is an essential, daily biological need that is ought to be respected. It is during that restful time that your body’s systems get recharged. And, as we’ve seen with nutrition, exercise and stress reduction in this Putting Out the Fire series, sleep also plays an important role in reducing inflammation in our bodies.
Now let us look at the benefits of getting enough sleep and some tips on how to get there.
Sleep and inflammation
Adequate sleep duration and quality help maintain normal balance of inflammation (“inflammatory homeostasis”). It works the other way as well. Inflammation in the body can disturb the brain’s regulation of our sleep.
In the Cleveland Family study, 614 participants age 16 years or older kept sleep logs and had sleep recorded by polysomnography (PSG). Investigators found that for each hour of reduced sleep, samples measured 12% more circulating hsCRP and TNF-alpha (inflammatory markers in blood), and 9% more IL-6 (another inflammatory marker).
Sleep restriction leads to an increase of the concentration of inflammatory mediators in the body.
Sleep and immunity
Adequate sleep duration and quality help maintain immune health. Sleep and immunity are bidirectionally linked. Immune system activation alters sleep, and sleep in turn affects the body’s defense system.
Adequate sleep duration can improve infection outcomes and is associated with reduced infectious disease risk.
Regular sleep deficiency disturbs immune balance, thereby presumably increasing the risk for the development and worsening of several diseases (e.g., cardiovascular, metabolic, autoimmune, and neurodegenerative diseases).
Tips to improve your sleep
- Avoid caffeine for at least six (6) hours before sleep (found in coffee, tea, chocolate, cola and some pain relievers)
- Take up regular physical activity and plan to do this at least three (3) hours before bedtime
- If napping in the day, keep it short (under 45 minutes)
- Have a routine of winding down during the hour before bedtime. Relaxing activities such as a relaxing read or music are some ways to wind down
- During the hour before bedtime, minimize the brightness of the monitors you are looking at. Letting bright light enter our eyes before sleep can delay the release of melatonin from the brain to induce sleep
- Be consistent to train the biological clock. Go to sleep at the same time every night. Use the same bed for sleep. Create the same calm environment around the bed and keep it consistent
- Consider listening to calming, meditative music, narration or sounds
- Talk to your physician about your medications to minimize their negative impact on sleep
So next time you turn in, know that you are recharging your battery, renewing your immunity and reducing inflammation.