Sleep – The overlooked immune booster

Sleep Walker

“Tick tock….tick tock……”

It’s 1am, and you’re laying in your comfy king sized bed staring at the ceiling, tired but wired, frustrated about not being able to fall asleep, worried about when or if it will happen and terrified about how you’ll cope the following day on an empty battery.

“Stop thinking!!!!” you shout to yourself in your head, loud enough for the world to hear.

The thoughts come tumbling from what happened in the day, to what to do tomorrow, grasping feverishly like a monkey swinging from branch to branch……ahhhh the monkey mind finds one thought that seems to hook onto another thought, multiplying without end.

You think about how you used to slip off into a dream filled blissed state years ago without thought, effortlessly, waking up refreshed and not remembering when you fell asleep the night before…….. “How in the H*LL can I get some sleep!?”…….nothing but crickets.

Given how little we think about sleep, it’s crazy that so many people are affected by sleep disorders like insomnia. In fact, according to one study (Sleep Foundation.org), up to 14.8% of Australians people report insomnia or other sleep related disturbances.

This can lead to daytime sleepiness and lack of cognitive functioning across the board. Matthew Walker even cited evidence to suggest that the consciousness of a sleep deprived person is closely related to the cognition and awareness of a drunk person.

ACCORDING TO MATTHEW WALKER, SLEEP DEPRIVED PEOPLE ARE ESSENTIALLY FUNCTIONING IN A DRUNKEN STATE.

Matthew Walker – Why We Sleep

It’s not surprising really when I think about myself. I have at times suffered from the effects of short term sleep deprivation (many a time from having that afternoon coffee or pre bedtime hot chocolate that’s loaded with caffeine), noticing the wired and frenetic good morning chatterbox turn into the afternoon drongo.

It’s amazing how little we think about sleep, considering its impacts on our health and day to day consciousness.

Another major impact on health is how lack of sleep affects the immune system.

According to Matthew Walker and a study done on participants who were given only 4 x hours sleep for just 1 x night, there was a 70% reduction in Natural Killer cell activity (5).

He is quoted as saying that: “Sleep is the best Health Insurance policy you could ever wish for”.

Lack of sleep also makes you “more vulnerable to dementia” and other health conditions (4).

Of some of the most simple and basic things many people can do to improve sleep, 1 of them involves considering caffeine.

The “quarter life” of the “psycho-active stimulant” caffeine is typically 12 hours. That means, that 12 hours after your coffee at 8 in the morning, you still have 25% of that coffee in your system at 8pm.

Have you ever tried drinking some coffee just before bed?

trying to sleep

According to him, even the people that say they aren’t affected by caffeine, have a reduction in the quality of deeper sleep states (6).

Other positive changes can be anything from making the room as dark as possible, to having a hot bath before bed and limiting light exposure so as not to delay the release of melatonin.

In Chinese Medicine, there are some overlaps in theory, but also some contrasting ideas.

The Liver is said to “anchor the Hun”, the ethereal soul and “store the blood”. At night time all the blood gets stored in the Liver and the “Hun” is anchored, leading to deep sleep.

The Spleen, when not in balance, is said to lead to overthinking and worrying, which can make it hard to fall asleep at night. That idea is very relevant to the ideas of Western Medicine and meditative practices.

As some might know, in meditative practices, a quiet and calm mind often leads to deeper and more restful sleep.

There are other organs and factors that can influence sleep, but I won’t delve any further into that here. This article dives a little bit deeper into Chinese Medicine, Sleep and the Circadian Rhythm.

So it seems that many health and longevity factors are influenced by a restful night sleep, from immune function to brain health and mental clarity.

Here is another link to 6 x tips for better sleep.

For those wanting to improve practically all facets of your mental and emotional well being, It’s definitely worth the effort.

Thank you,

Chad

Acupuncture Practitioner in Hobart

References:

  1. Sleep Foundation.org: https://www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au/pdfs/Special_Reports/SHF_Insomnia_Report_2019_Final_SHFlogo.pdf
  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SiDMd-b-R2g – Matthew Walker. Lack of sleep makes people 3 x more likely to be infected by Rhinovirus. Produce 50% antibody responses to flu shot, rendering vaccination less effective.
  3. https://www.ted.com/talks/matt_walker_sleep_is_your_superpower – Matthew Walker open with: Men who sleep less have smaller testicles
  4. https://www.wired.com/story/youre-not-getting-enough-sleep-and-its-killing-you/ – Protection against Demetia
  5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0CJHhihZYj8&t=11s – 30% drop in immune function – Natural Killer cells. Restricted to 4 hours sleep for just 1 x night.
  6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGfdR7TSJo4 – Caffeine half life
  7. http://georgekelley.org/why-we-sleep-unlocking-the-power-of-sleep-and-dreams-by-matthew-walker/ – image credit and references
  8. https://www.ted.com/talks/matt_walker_6_tips_for_better_sleep – 6 x tips to better sleep
  9. https://www.thelifepilot.com/sleepguide/caffeine-half-life/ – Image credit and referencing

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