Sleep Cycles and the Inflammatory Response

The human immune system and the way that the human body regulates sleep, are two of the most complex processes of the human body. Despite the vast library of studies you can find on sleep, there remains an enormous amount of unknowns. It goes without question that a person will certainly perish in the absence of sleep, but scientists still cannot pinpoint why. Equally as mysterious is the human immune system, and work continues to unlock the secrets of how it functions and why things go wrong.
In this chapter on Chronic Inflammation, we will explore the connection between sleep, immunity, and the inflammatory response.

Circadian Rhythms

What we do know about sleep, immune function, and inflammation is that all three share a common regulator. Circadian rhythms direct the hormones that create the 24-hour cycle of waking and sleeping times. When our circadian rhythms are out of synch, so is our sleep schedule, and visa-versa.

These same circadian rhythms control our immune system, and therefor the inflammatory response. A disruption of circadian rhythms will disrupt normal immune function, often triggering an unhealthy inflammatory response. That unhealthy inflammation is what puts us at a higher risk of serious diseases like heart disease, cancer, and metabolic disorders.

Consistency is the key to well-functioning bio rhythms. Going to bed and getting out of bed at the same hours every day and night creates an environment where circadian rhythms can stay in synch and support a healthy immune system, including inflammation.

Although much research still needs to be done, very strong links have been established between sleep and inflammation. All levels of sleep deprivation have been shown to raise levels of inflammation within the body.

Acute Prolonged Sleep Deprivation, defined as having restricted sleep over a period of 24 hours or more, has been shown to increase the inflammatory response. Even Partial Sleep Deprivation, defined as a chronic, insufficient sleep, (a very common condition from which many of us suffer), elevates inflammation levels.

Not getting enough sleep is not the only culprit when it comes to disrupting circadian rhythms. Getting too much sleep also triggers a negative inflammatory response, raising levels of inflammatory markers including those associated with heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Completely controlling one’s circadian rhythms and immune system is impossible, but an effective way of starting to live healthier, is to manage your sleep routine, and make sure you are getting the correct amount, said to be between 7 and 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep, at least 5 nights per week.

Many of us shake our heads at the assumption that this is a simple fix and getting a good night’s sleep is next to impossible. We know we should get the right amount of sleep to live a healthy life, but how do we go about it?

In next month’s chapter in our 12-part series on chronic inflammation, find out how to get the best night’s sleep and where you can get help right here in our community!

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