It’s harder for your body’s immune system to protect you when you don’t get good sleep. Why? Because sleep deprivation is closely associated with higher levels of inflammation.
When you’re experiencing high levels of inflammation for extended periods, the risk for conditions like heart disease, diabetes, stroke, Alzheimer’s, and more increase.
Sleep deprivation is associated with higher levels of inflammatory markers. Your body’s molecules to fight intruders and protect tissue, like cytokines, interleukin-6, and C-reactive protein, stay elevated when you don’t sleep well.
These molecules are great if you become infected with a cold or cut yourself open, but they can spell trouble when fired up beyond these temporary responses. This may help explain why people who struggle with sleep are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and other chronic conditions.
One theory about sleep’s contribution to inflammation revolves around blood vessels. Blood pressure drops, and blood vessels relax during sleep. When sleep is restricted, blood pressure doesn’t go down like it should, which could trigger cells in blood vessel walls to activate an inflammatory response.
Too little sleep may also activate the body’s stress response system, which could promote inflammation.
A shortage of sleep may also promote inflammation in the brain. Each night during sleep, a natural housecleaning system in the brain – called the glymphatic system – cleans out waste. Without a good night’s sleep, the process is not as thorough.
It works like this: During the day, your brain cells produce waste. That waste is beta amyloid and is removed during the deepest phases of sleep when cerebrospinal fluid moves through the brain to carry away the beta amyloid protein.
Beta-amyloid is linked to Alzheimer’s.
So, it’s likely that poor sleep may impact inflammation and immune response in a number of ways. Do your best to go to bed on time and create an environment that lets you stay asleep for 7-8 hours every night. You may notice yourself feeling a lot healthier.