How are Sleep, Stress & Immune System Health Connected?

Apr 13, 2022 Immune System Sleep Tips Stress wellblends

How are Sleep, Stress & Immune System Health Connected?

Quick Health Scoop

  • Your sleep habits, as well as your management of stress and immune system health, all impact one another
  • Sleep and immunity are interconnected: insufficient sleep can have an impact on immune system health [1]
  • The ideal number of sleep hours per night to support overall health varies by age, with most people needing at least 7 hours of sleep
  • The effects of stress on the immune system happens when constant stressors, both physical and mental, impact your body's response [2]
  • Stressors’ impact on the immune system may lead you to experience more stress and disrupted sleep [2]
  • How well you manage your stress, sleep and immune system health every day will impact your overall health

If you've wondered about the impact of stress on your body and how sleep affects your immune system health, we have some clarity for you. First, it’s important to understand that your sleep, stress and immune system health are all interconnected. Broadly speaking, when you have disrupted sleep, you might in turn experience physical and mental fatigue that can then affect your ability to cope with stress. When you are stressed, your body releases stress hormones that can affect your body’s regular function, including your immune system. The good news is that there are ways to help your body by getting quality sleep, stress management support, and immune system support.

How Many Hours of Sleep is Good for the Immune System?

In a nutshell, getting adequate sleep helps to ensure you stay healthy.[3] Check out the chart below for recommended hours of sleep as well as the potential side effects of not getting enough sleep:

Sleep Duration Recommendation

Learn More: Why Is Sleep Important?

Does Sleep Improve the Immune System?

Sleep is only one of many factors that can help support your immune health. When you regularly get the recommended hours of sleep for your age, you will likely wake up feeling refreshed and ready to face the day. Getting consistently good sleep helps your body be more mentally and physically relaxed each day, and rest is important for the health of the immune system. Did you know that you have two immune systems? Studies show that sleep contributes to the health of both your innate (the immune system you were born with) and adaptive (the immune system you developed with age) immune systems. While you sleep each night, your body is actively working to create new immune cells so that your immune system stays healthy. Conversely, adults who sleep less than six hours a night do not get the restoration that the body needs, which may have an impact on immune system health, which is why getting at least 7 hours of sleep per night is essential.[1]

Learn More:  The Sleep & Immune System Link: How Good Sleep Supports The Immune System

Does Oversleeping Weaken Your Immune System?

With all this talk about getting enough sleep, we should also discuss oversleeping. While some adults might need more sleep than recommended amounts, consistently oversleeping (more than 10 hours a night) may not be good for one’s health.[4] It’s best to check in with your physician if you feel you are sleeping too much and still not feeling well-rested during the day.

How Does Stress Affect the Immune System?

An inability to cope with stress in healthy ways can have an impact on your sleep and immune system. Everyone at some point experiences stress, which can cause physical reactions such as headaches, muscle aches, and digestive discomfort, as well as emotional reactions such as constant worrying, altered mood, irritability, disrupted sleep, and lack of motivation.[5]

So, does stress weaken your immune system? Weaken isn’t necessarily the right term. Instead, during times of stress, the immune system may have a decreased ability to mount its best response when it’s activated. Additionally, stress can cause your body to produce excess levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which over time, can cause several physical reactions in the body.[5] Many of these reactions can also impact your sleep, and lack of regular sleep can increase your likelihood of not feeling yourself, which can put even more stress on the body and certainly the mind.

Learn More:  The Stress & Immune System Link: How Are They Connected?

How You Can Support Your Immune System

What are the signs of a strong immune system? Everyone’s immune system responds differently, but all immune systems exist to help your body have a normal, healthy response when activated by foreign substances.[6] Considering that sleep, stress and immune system health are interconnected, you might want to consider assessing your sleep habits and evaluating the number of stressors you encounter each day, as well as how you manage your reactions to them. The best way to help support your immune system response is to find healthy ways to manage stress and get sufficient sleep. Some suggestions include: [7]

  • Practice keeping to a consistent sleep schedule
  • Eat a balanced, healthy diet every day
  • Get regular exercise
  • Find time to relax and take care of yourself
  • Set priorities and try to minimize demands on your time
  • Try relaxation techniques like mindfulness, meditation, or breathing exercises

The Bottom Line

Stress, sleep and immune system health are interconnected. When one system of the body is disrupted, the other systems can also be impacted. It’s a good idea to balance your nightly sleep routine, stress management techniques, and immune health routine on the regular to stay healthy. Continue to check back on the Nature Made blog for the latest science-backed articles to help you take ownership of your health.

 

Learn More About Sleep, Stress and the Immune System:

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to serve as medical advice or a recommendation for any specific product. Consult your health care provider for more information. 

 

References

  1. Sleep Foundation. “How Sleep Affects Immunity.” November 19, 2020. Accessed on: March 9, 2022.  https://www.sleepfoundation.org/physical-health/how-sleep-affects-immunity
  2. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. “Stress, Sleep, and Immunity.” Oct. 18, 2021. Accessed on: March 25, 2022. https://www.cshl.edu/stress-sleep-and-immunity/
  3. USDHHS MyHealthFinder. “Get Enough Sleep.” July 8, 2021. Accessed on: March 9, 2022. https://health.gov/myhealthfinder/topics/everyday-healthy-living/mental-health-and-relationships/get-enough-sleep#panel-2
  4. org. “Is it Possible to Get Too Much Sleep?” March 12, 2021. Accessed on: March 7, 2022. https://www.sleep.org/sleep-questions/is-it-possible-to-get-too-much-sleep/
  5. Discover Magazine. “What Stress Does to the Immune System.” October 26, 2021. Accessed on: March 9, 2022. https://www.discovermagazine.com/health/what-stress-does-to-the-immune-system
  6. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care. “How does the immune system work?” April 23, 2020. Accessed on: March 10, 2022. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279364/
  7. Cleveland Clinic. “Stress: Ways to Ease Stress.” Accessed on: March 25, 2022. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/8133-stress-10-ways-to-ease-stress

Authors

Amy Mills Klipstine

NatureMade Sr. Copywriter

Amy has an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University in Los Angeles and is a credentialed English teacher, though she left the classroom to write full time. She especially enjoys creating educational content about health, wellness, and nutrition. Her happy place is in the kitchen, and when not writing, you can find her trying out “kid-friendly recipes” and “healthy desserts for chocolate lovers” from her Pinterest board.

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Keri Marshall MS, ND

Director, Medical and Scientific Communications

Dr. Keri Marshall is an Epidemiologist and Naturopathic Doctor, with over 20 years of experience in the Natural Product Industry and in clinical practice. She’s a recognized expert in nutrition, Omega 3 fats, and integrative medicine for women, children and chronic disease management. Dr. Marshall is an international speaker, has published several scientific papers across a range of health topics and is also the author of a book on protein and amino acids. She is currently the Director of Medical and Scientific Communications for Pharmavite.

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