Strengthen Your Immune System: How Does Sleep Affect The Immune System?

Last updated: September 10th, 2023

How Does The Immune System Work?

The immune system is an intricate network of structures, cells, and molecules that protects the body from foreign pathogens and disease. Cells that make up the immune system, such as T cells, B cells, and antibodies, are produced in the thymus and bone marrow. called macrophages, ingest and digest any foreign materials that are entering the body. Meanwhile, other cells called natural killer cells attack and clear out any suspicious cells, such as cancerous cells. Certain hormones, such as cortisol, also help regulate the immune system’s activity.

How Does Sleep Affect The Immune System?

Sleep plays an essential role in the functioning and effectiveness of the immune system. Sleep deprivation has been associated with detrimental effects on immunity and is linked to increased susceptibility to infections and illnesses.

Sleep is essential for proper hormone regulation, which is an important part of the immune system. During sleep, the body releases proteins called cytokines. Cytokines help with cell signaling processes and have an important role in the immune response.

The amount of sleep needed to maintain healthy immune system varies person to person. A good rule of thumb is to aim for between 7 and 8 hours of sleep per night. Getting less than the recommended amount of sleep can cause the immune system to become compromised, making you more susceptible to colds and other illnesses.

Can Sleep Deprivation Make You Sick?

Studies have shown that there is an association between sleep deprivation and weakened immunity, making sleep-deprived individuals more prone to sickness and infections. When you are sleep deprived, the body’s production of natural killer cells decreases, as does its ability to produce antibodies in response to a virus or infection.

Sleep deprivation can also lead to an increase in stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline. An excess of these hormones can suppress the immune system and make the body more vulnerable to sickness and disease.

How The Immune System Affects Sleep

Immune responses can also disrupt sleep. Those who have a cold, a fever, or even allergies may find it harder to stay asleep or get quality rest. Inflammation can also affect sleep. Those with long-term inflammation, like autoimmune diseases or chronic conditions, are more likely to experience sleep disruptions.

Certain medications, such as those used to treat some immune system illnesses, can also affect sleep and can lead to insomnia, further impacting immune system health.

How Can You Improve Sleep and Strengthen Your Immune System?

There are several things you can do to optimize your sleep and strengthen your immune system.

  • Stick to a consistent sleep and wake time
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine too close to bedtime
  • Practice calming activities before bed, such as yoga, meditation, reading, etc.
  • Allow yourself enough time for a full 7-8 hours of sleep
  • Create a comfortable, restful sleep environment
  • Exercise regularly, but avoid strenuous activity close to bedtime
  • Eat a balanced diet, with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables

Maintaining good sleep hygiene and a healthy lifestyle, can help strengthen the immune system and protect you from infections and other illnesses.


The relationship between the immune system and sleep is bidirectional. Adequate sleep strengthens the immune system, while lack of sleep can leave the body vulnerable to sickness and infections. Taking the time to prioritize healthy sleep habits, such as sticking to a consistent sleep and wake time and creating a restful sleep environment, can help to maintain a strong and balanced immune system.

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