The Importance of Sleep Health to fighting the Coronavirus & More
Many of us are stressed, fearful, and adjusting to new changes and routines in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Oftentimes when we are stressed or anxious, we look for ways we can exert control in our daily lives to help us better cope with so much uncertainty. One thing we have a great deal of control over during COVID-19 is our sleep. If you’ve noticed that you’re sleeping less or that your sleep quality is suffering during the coronavirus pandemic, you are not alone. In fact, choosing to focus on how we can improve our sleep can not only help us feel less stressed and anxious, but it can boost our immune systems, too. That’s right – you can sleep your way to COVID-19 protection!
Sleep and Your Immune System
Sleep is a hugely important piece of our overall wellness. Sleep helps promote physical health, but it is also tied to mental health as well. In fact, a vicious cycle occurs because poor sleep affects our mental health negatively, and poor mental health also affects our sleep negatively. It can seem like a chicken or the egg situation. The good news is that when we focus on improving our sleep, gains in our mental and physical health follow, including boosting our immune system.
While it may seem like our bodies are mostly dormant while we sleep and systems are taking a rest, our immune system goes to work as we snooze. Once we are in restorative sleep our bodies begin the restoration process, which includes scanning the body for threats or antigens in our system. Command cells go on the hunt for the illness-causing antigens and exterminates them. Additionally, a healthy amount of sleep boosts our body’s T-cell count. These cells are warriors in our immune systems, further destroying and protecting the body from antigens and even cancer cells. Research has confirmed that sleep is vital to a healthy immune system, and the less sleep we get, the slower and less effectively our body responds to the flu and viruses. Many of us can’t afford to not be getting enough sleep right now as COVID-19 seems to lurk everywhere we turn.
Enhance Your Wellness with Healthy Sleep Habits
You may be thinking, “ok, that’s great, but how do I boost my sleep to help improve my immune system and overall health?” Getting more zzz’s can certainly be more easily said than done, but the good news is that there are many small steps you can take to change your sleep quality over time so that you are sleeping more and sleeping better. Check out these easy and helpful tips to get you sleeping better and fighting off infections in no time:
- Get in a routine – Remember how we just talked about how many of our routines and schedules have been turned upside down due to the coronavirus? Keeping yourself in a routine throughout the day and including at bedtime can help your body learn to anticipate sleep and cut down on anxious thoughts swarming around your mind at bedtime. Try to keep your wake and sleep times regular (within 30 minutes to 1 hour) throughout the week – yes, this means the weekends, too! Begin to build yourself a bedtime-specific routine. Do you exercise at night? Shower? Have a hot tea? Read in bed? All of these tasks can be implemented into your unique routine so that you’re doing them nightly and for roughly the same amount of time each night to train your body to learn when it’s time to rest.
- Use relaxation techniques – Using guided mediations, progressive muscle relaxation, body scans, breathing techniques, and more can help you relax your body and mind to prepare for a restful night. Bonus points if you include these techniques into your nightly routine!
- Focus on your physical health – Exercising during the day is linked to better sleep at night. If you find yourself tossing and turning, it may be because you have some excess energy that you did not burn off during the day. Also, focus on what you’re fueling your body with. It’s probably not a surprise that a more balanced, healthy diet both improves our sleep and boosts our immune system, too. Steering clear of fried, spicy, and acidic foods as well as caffeinated and alcoholic beverages is generally advised for improved sleep.
- Create a comfortable environment – Your bed, bedding, and bedroom matter! Make sure that your bedroom is dark, comfortable, and free of excess or interruptive noises. Studies have shown that the ideal bedroom temperature for sleep is around 67 degrees. Lastly, make sure your bedding is cool and comfortable. If it’s been awhile since you replaced your mattress, topper, sheets, or pillows, it may be time for an upgrade to help you sleep better during this uncertain time.
Sleep your way to an improved immune system using these tips. We’re all in this pandemic together. Why not use this extra time to reset some of our habits – sleep included!