Does lack of sleep affect your immune system?
Dr Norman Swan
There’s a lot of concern about lack of sleep. Now lack of sleep is in the eye of the beholder. Let’s call it insomnia. And if you’ve got a hundred people and you asked them whether they had insomnia, and then tracked whether or not they’ve said they’ve got insomnia to the number of hours you sleep, there’s not a lot of difference in the hundred people.
In other words, there’s people getting just as little sleep, or just as much sleep, as some people who say they’ve got insomnia who are not complaining of it. Now, I’m not saying that people who’ve got insomnia are neurotic or anything like that it’s just that they are noticing their sleep, getting anxious about it, or feeling terrible in the morning.
And the key here, more than the length of sleep is actually uninterrupted sleep. So, if you’re only sleeping 4 or 5 hours a night is that it’s really good 4 or 5 hours. And I’m not going to talk here, we can talk elsewhere about how you get that.
So, lack of sleep and the immune system is very hard to untangle here, because there are some causes of ill-health which are actually going to affect your sleep and some causes of ill-health affect your immune system. So getting cause and effect between sleep and immunity is a really hard thing to do. It’s just part of a sensible way of life.
If you’re not exercising too late at night, getting a good night’s sleep, you’re eating healthily, keeping your weight down as much as possible – trips off my tongue, as easily as it could be seen, as easily as anything. And if this camera was a bit wider than it is, you could see that you’ll do as I say, but not as I do. But you know this is the issue, it’s just a generally healthy lifestyle, with healthy eating, is the best thing for your immune system, rather than focussing on sleep, because if you get too anxious about sleep, you’re not going to sleep well.
Last Reviewed: 08/07/2020