You have heard about the immune system. It’s a combination of factors in your body that fight illness and disease. White blood cells and antibodies are great examples.
You may have also heard that lack of sleep can make you more vulnerable to catching the common cold. But do you know if that’s true or how it works? Can sleep truly change your immune response?
The answer to these questions can change your motivation to sleep and improve your long-term health. And if you have untreated sleep apnea—possibly waking up with dry mouth and headache—it’s crucial you get sleep apnea treatment from Dr. Stirneman, DDS, who knows how to treat sleep apnea with an oral appliance. He can also determine if you are in need of a CPAP Machine.
Two Parts of the Immune System
What is really in the immune system? One way to think about it is that it has two major parts—the general defense of your body and the ways it learns to fight against specific illnesses.
1. General Protection
Also called innate immunity, this includes all the parts of the immune system that blanket your body in several layers of checkpoints for foreign invaders to go through. For example, white blood cells can engulf and carry away any foreign particles that enter your body, such as dirt that has entered a cut.
2. Learned Protection
Also called adaptive immunity, this means your immune system can learn that particular bacteria or viruses are dangerous. It can create specific fighters known as antibodies for certain viruses, bacteria, or substances. This can be stimulated by vaccines or by surviving illness.
These functions are supported by complex chemical messengers and specialized cells, and it exists in delicate balance between being too alert and being too weak.
Sleep is one of the most powerful ways of giving the immune system the resources it needs to function well. Something as trivial as loud snoring can disrupt it. A sleep apnea doctor can reduce sleep apnea symptoms, such as difficulty breathing at night and snoring, that may be interrupting your rest. Better sleep at night means better health overall.
Longer Sleep Reduces Inflammation
Many people have heard about inflammation. It refers to the swelling of bodily tissues when the immune system is fighting a problem. It sends white blood cells and other resources to an area with an increase in blood flow, which can cause redness, swelling, and even fever and pain.
How does this relate to sleep? Researchers have found that while we sleep, our bodies work hard to build up our immune systems. Your body may even be building its ability to remember and respond to past illnesses.
And this causes some inflammation during the night. This inflammation would hurt your mental and physical performance if you were awake. So, the body performs this work during sleep.
An important hormone that’s present during sleep—melatonin—also helps reduce the stress of inflammation. Plus, your breathing and other muscle movements are lower during sleep, giving your body more energy to build up the immune system.
Here’s the crucial point. Remember this, even if nothing else. The inflammation is supposed to go back down to normal before you wake up. But if your sleep is too short or is interrupted by obstructive sleep apnea, your body doesn’t have time to reduce the elevated levels. It can leave your body in a state of chronic inflammation.
Sleep, Vaccines, Allergies, and Diseases
Research has also found that people who didn’t sleep right after being vaccinated don’t get as much benefit out of it. Also, persistently getting less than seven hours of sleep has been shown to weaken vaccine benefits.
Sleep deprivation has also been linked to having more severe allergic reactions or being more likely to have allergic problems. It is also linked to:
- Heart problems.
- Catching the flu or cold.
- Chronic pain.
- Slower healing.
- Neurodegenerative disease.
Do I Have Sleep Apnea? Visit Dr. Stirneman Today
Our goal at Sleep Better Illinois is simply to help give you the physical and mental health benefits of better sleep! If you have trouble breathing at night, you may need an oral appliance for sleep apnea.
Visit Dr. Stirneman—a recognized sleep dentistry leader—for a FREE sleep apnea consultation!
Take our sleep quiz to check yourself for signs of sleep apnea. Or call Sleep Better Illinois now to set an appointment to learn your sleep apnea treatment options, such as a sleep apnea mask or sleep apnea mouthguard.