Sleep! And Boost Your Family’s Immune System

As schools consider when to reopen, or perhaps have already opened for in-person learning in your area, you may rest a little easier knowing that there are things we can do to strengthen our bodies’ response to infection. This post is part of a series looking at ways to help our bodies fight infection and stay well. We have looked at how we can eat to promote immune function, and creative ways to integrate movement into our immune-boosting routines!

And now, sleep. While regular sleep plays an important role in bolstering the immune system, it is also relevant to many other topics we’ve been talking about lately, such as self-care for parents and children, and supporting learning. And getting good sleep will help you and your child prepare for the inevitable change in routine that will come when children return physically to school.

Because sleep is so frequently overlooked in our hectic lives, or overshadowed by all there is to do and see, I hope this information will motivate you to make a plan to prioritize sleep.

The illness-fighting properties of sleep

We know from studies that regular and adequate sleep decreases our chance of getting sick and reduces the severity and length of illness when we do get sick. But, why? It turns out that special immune cells, called T Cells, become “stickier” when we sleep which allows them to attach more readily to invading pathogens, and then deactivate them. Sleep-deprived individuals are also more likely to have higher levels of inflammatory cells that interfere with T Cell activity.

Sleep works on these same mechanisms to enhance our bodies’ response to vaccines too! In one study, people who regularly got 8 hours of sleep each night produced twice as many antibodies as participants who were sleep deprived. These participants were less likely to get sick when exposed to the flu virus. And researchers found that just one night of inadequate sleep during the study was enough to decrease antibody production. If a vaccine is in your future, you may consider this an opportunity to take a closer look at your sleep habits and routines!

So, how much sleep is “adequate”?

As you may guess, the amount of sleep each person needs varies. The CDC recommends the following:

    • School-aged children, 9-11 hours
    • Teens, 8-10 hours
    • Adults, 7-9 hours

If you or your child are not feeling well, listen to your body, stay home, and rest up. Extra sleep will help you get well and has the added benefit of keeping those around you from getting sick as well!

As we unlock the secrets of sleep and the circadian rhythms that govern our bodily systems, it becomes increasingly clear that, even for adults, regular sleeping routines are important for mental and physical health. Over the years KITS has provided a lot of suggestions for establishing solid bedtime and morning routines for our children, even during the pandemic. The Mayo Clinic provides these suggestions to help adults create a routine for getting the sleep they need to be on top of their game.  After setting up a visual aid or incentive system to encourage regular sleep routines for your children, you may find it helpful to set one up for yourself!

How will you take that leap for better sleep?

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Text: © Kids In Transition to School 2021

Image: © Yevgen Rychko | Dreamstime.com

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