Researchers have recently found scientific evidence for what our mothers and grandmothers have been telling us for years: that the most important thing we can do when we get sick is to get as much sleep as possible, as it is absolutely crucial to a speedy and thorough recovery.
While scientists have been aware for years that inadequate sleep can lead to illness, a study performed at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania linked getting enough ‘recovery sleep’ after an infection to improved immune system function, hastened recovery and improved survival rate.
This study was performed on fruit flies, due to the fact that they have relatively simple systems that are easily observable. Research associate, Julie A. Williams, PhD, explains, “investigators have been working on questions about sleep and immunity for more than 40 years, but by narrowing down the questions in the fly we’re now in a good position to identify potentially novel genes and mechanisms that may be involved in this process that are difficult to see in higher animals.”
One of the experiments involved sleep-depriving a group of fruit flies before they were infected with one of two types of common bacteria (Pseudomonas aeruginosa or Serratia marcescens). A control group was allowed to sleep as normal before infection. Somewhat surprisingly, the flies that were sleep deprived before being infected actually had a higher survival rate because they slept for longer than the control group flies post-infection.
In yet another experiment, where flies were induced to sleep for longer periods of time before an infection, these flies survived much better than control groups, and rid their bodies of the bacteria more efficiently. Williams summarizes, “increased sleep somehow helps to facilitate the immune response by increasing resistance to infection and survival after infection.”
Past research has connected lack of sleep and system-wide inflammation, as well as chronic conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. A 2013 study, performed at the University of Helsinki in Finland, sought to take a closer look at the genes involved in the connection of these processes.
To do this, researchers took blood samples of a group of healthy young men before and after restricting them to four hours of sleep a night for a span of five days. They then analyzed the genes expressed in the white blood cells of the samples utilizing microarrays. The results from these samples were compared with a control group from healthy young men who had slept for eight hours a night for five nights.
Researcher Vilma Aho summarizes, “the expression of many genes and gene pathways related to the functions of the immune system was increased during the sleep deprivation. There was an increase in activity of B cells which are responsible for producing antigens that contribute to the body’s defensive reactions, but also to allergic reactions and asthma. This may explain the previous observations of increased asthmatic symptoms in a state of sleep deprivation.”
These studies underscore the fact that to stay as healthy as possible, and to fight off any illness that may come your way, a good night’s sleep is absolutely essential. Eating a nutritious diet, exercising every day, and avoiding caffeine in the afternoon is all most people need to enjoy restful sleep. If you are having trouble, give nighttime meditation a try. The essential oils of lavender, ylang ylang and cedarwood can boost a pre-sleep meditation session greatly.
If you’re still finding yourself tossing and turning, try supplementing your diet with a high-quality, pure kava kava root extract. To determine the right amount for your individual needs, talk to a natural health professional. This herb can have you deep in dreamland in no time.
-The Alternative Daily