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When we are well, it is easy to take our health for granted. It is often the case that we don’t think about our health until we get sick.  But there are so many ways that we can actively reduce the risk of getting sick.  And by active I mean get good sleep.

Our Own Special Forces Team

In Part 1 I talked about the importance of healthy skin in defending against the pathogens that cause disease.  Our skin and mucous membranes are specially designed to keep germs out.  But in the event an invader breaches the barrier, we have a highly sophisticated special forces team of white blood cells ready to go to war. Each member of the team has a specific skillset. They all work together to identify, disarm and eventually conquer the pathogen.  When it works well, our immune system is an example of precision.  But sometimes our warriors don’t have the resources necessary to succeed in their mission.

Supporting Our Troops

We all know the importance of diet and exercise in maintaining health.  But another key factor in optimal health whose impact is often ignored, or at least downplayed, is sleep.  Good quality, regular sleep is vital to supporting those specialized cells of our immune system.  Several different studies have shown that our body (bone marrow, specifically) produces and distributes white blood cells during sleep.  Another study shows that T cells (specialized white blood cells that attack invaders) are better able to stick on to the pathogen they are sent in to destroy during sleep cycles than during wake cycles.  So if we want to support our troops, it is important that we get good sleep.

When It Comes to Sleep, Quantity and Quality Matter

It’s a known fact than many people don’t get enough sleep.  Many get the recommended 8 hours, but still feel depleted.  People often have interrupted or disturbed sleep cycles that prevent them from getting into the deep restorative parts of the sleep cycle.  Some tips to help improve the quality of your sleep include:

  • Keep a regular sleep time.  While we don’t have to assign ourselves a bedtime, going to bed at approximately the same time every night helps our body establish a rhythm

  • Ease into bedtime.  In the hours before bedtime, avoid caffeine or foods that may impede your ability to fall asleep. In the 30-60 minutes before going to bed check your email/texts for the last time and turn off your devices, put down your work and turn off the TV.  If you have a gratitude and/or affirmations practice, this can be a great way to transition your mind from activity to restoration.

  • Encourage deep rest.  Whether you practice a bedtime yoga routine, take a relaxing bath or diffuse sleep supporting essential oils, these can help signal your body that it is time to let go of the effort of the day and rest. 

A good night sleep might not keep the germs away, but it gives your immune system the support it needs to keep you healthy.


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