Sleep deprivation is as harmful as stress in wreaking havoc on your immune system, a new study suggests. Researchers observed that white blood cells “reacted immediately to the physical stress of sleep loss and directly mirrored the body’s stress response.”
In the study, 15 young men followed a strict regimen of 8 hours a sleep a night, 15 minutes of daylight upon waking, and no caffeine or alcohol for a full week. This stabilized their circadian clocks, or the body’s “internal clock”, before they underwent a 29-hour period of no sleep. The researchers then compared the men’s white blood cell counts before and after the period of sleep deprivation. Their white blood cells counts spiked at night, and their day-to-night rhythmicity dropped during the sleep-deprived period.
The study adds to previous research linking sleep loss to a slew of other health problems from weight gain to high blood pressure to an increased risk of chronic pain and fibromyalgia.
Maintaining an adequate sleep schedule is a simple way to promote a healthy immune system. Regular chiropractic adjustments can also improve immunity according to another recent study.
Ackermann, Katrin, et al. Diurnal Rhythms in Blood Cell Populations and the Effect of Acute Sleep Deprivation in Healthy Young Men. Sleep 2012; 35(7):933-940.