A good night’s sleep makes one happy and feel rejuvenated. It also has innumerable benefits on the body and keeps us healthy. Without sleep, one’s body becomes stressed and this can constrain the body’s ability to relax, restore, detoxify, heal, reduce weight, gain weight, and fight disease. An unstable sleep cycle – especially when it’s chronic – alters the hormonal balance of the body and the production of cortisol and melatonin which may in turn influence the behaviour of healthy cells.
Here’s how each hormone works:
Cortisol helps synchronise the immune system tasks which include the release of natural killer cells that help the body combat cancer and other diseases. Cortisol levels typically increase at night after hours of sleep and reduce throughout the day. However, stress increases the cortisol levels abruptly which makes it harmful for the body.
Melatonin is processed by the brain during sleep and exhibits antioxidant properties that help avert damage to the body’s cells. Sleep deprivation and excess screen time at night lead to a fall in the production of melatonin, thereby decreasing one’s immunity. Sound sleep maintains sufficient melatonin levels in the body, while less sleep leads to too little production of melatonin. It’s suggested that adults get at least seven to eight hours of undisturbed sleep every night.
Side-effects of less sleep
Sleeping for fewer hours or getting disturbed sleep during the night leads to a host of problems such as:
Obesity: As the body is not able to go through the detoxification and recovery phase it causes a decrease in levels of leptin (appetite-suppressing hormone) and an increase in the levels of ghrelin (the hunger-stimulating hormone). One feels hungry more often and ends up consuming excess food that causes fat accumulation in the body.
Increased risk of diabetes: Sleeplessness has also been shown to increase the risk of diabetes due to hormonal imbalance (insulin is a hormone as well) and impaired glucose tolerance.
Increased risk of cardiac issues: As the body doesn’t go through the result and recovery phase, the functioning of blood vessels may get hampered causing hypertension and increased risk of cardiac issues or diseases.
Other issues: Increased levels of inflammation and cortisol as the body is not able to detoxify the same. Chronic sleep deprivation also alters brain function and affects the ability to think and process things. Immunity is compromised. Lack of sleep post a vaccination also reduces the effect of the vaccine.
There is a very close relationship between the circadian rhythm and immunity. Just like sleep patterns, each and every function of the body as well as immunity has a rhythm. Certain chemical mediators released by the body increase during the day whereas others increase during the night. Chronic sleep deprivation decreases the production of cytokines as well as infection-fighting antibodies in the body. White blood cells react immediately to sleep loss which damages the immune system’s response towards any bacterial, fungal or microbial infection or disease.
Sleep is, thus, important in building a stronger immune system. The immune system is designed to protect us from cold, flu and other ailments but when immunity is compromised it leads to sickness.
The immune system is made up of several types of cells and proteins that are responsible for keeping diseases away from the body. Studies indicate that the number of T cells decreases if we are sleep deprived and inflammation of cytokines increases this makes the body prone to cold, flu and
Sleep deprivation suppresses the immune system’s functioning and makes one feel weaker and fatigued. Sleep loss can result in high levels of C-reactive protein-CRP, which causes inflammation and other illnesses.
To be healthy it’s important for one to improve his/her sleep quality. Deep breathing before sleeping will reduce cortisol levels and help one sleep well.