The Role of Sleep in Fighting Disease

Many people brag about how little sleep they can survive on. Others get forced into sleep deprivation by job and family responsibilities and associated stress. Whatever your reason for skimping on sleep, except for about three percent of the population, adults need a consistent seven to eight hours of sleep a night, teens more at nine hours, and school-age children still more at ten hours.

If you’re routinely short on your sleep cycle, you face the risk of throwing your body out of whack and making it harder to fight infection and disease. During sleep, your body produces proteins called cytokines, which are essential to fighting infection, stress and/or inflammation. In addition, the production of infection-fighting cells and hormones is reduced by substandard sleep.

Overall, your immune system functions best if you’re sleeping the right number of hours on a seven-days-a-week schedule. In your lack of sleep endures long-term, you face the additional and substantial risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, irregular heart beat, heart attack and stroke.

So the consequences of shortchanging your sleep can be disastrous, even if you deliberately stay up burning the candle at both ends for personal, professional or social reasons.

A sleep expert at the Harvard Medical School observed: “Treating sleep as a priority, rather than a luxury, may be an important step in preventing a number of chronic medical conditions.”

If you’re not getting the proper amount and type of sleep you need to be fully functioning and able to resist and fight disease, you should seek professional help as soon as possible. And whatever you do, don’t shortchange your sleep purposely. No reason is good enough to consistently ignore your sleep needs.

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