Sleep Disordes, Immune Suppression, Cancer Risk

When an old saying tells you should “sleep like a baby” or “sleep like a log”, modern science is backing it up, especially when insufficient sleep can suppress your immune system. The human immune system plays an important role in protecting the body against the development of cancer. The cells of the immune system are our defenders, constantly destroying and eliminating any cell in the body that initiates or undergoes a malignant change. When this natural defense mechanism is weakened, as malignant cells increase and then overpower the immune system, cancerous growth takes place.

View from the real world:
I’m sure everyone can relate to what inadequate sleep can cost in our daily lives. Sleep deprivation and/or disorders are linked to an array of health issues from fatigue, lacking mental alertness, and depression to more serious problems such as heart failure, hypertension and diabetes. Insomnia certainly contributes to road or workplace accidents. Of significance, sleep disorders are commonly associated with chronic inflammatory diseases, and can lead to immune suppression. Some studies suggest that shortened/reduced nightly sleep is associated with a higher risk of breast cancer development.

View at the cellular level:
Sleep is a key factor for supporting a functional body defense system. During deep sleep, our bodies work to strengthen our immune system by producing and releasing potent immune-enhancing substances, such as cytokines. In contrast, there are cancer-stimulatory cytokines, which may be switched to dominance when sleep is deprived. It seems that cytokines are a group of critical players in the sleep-immune interaction.

When sleep is deprived, the immune T-cells go down and inflammatory cytokines go up, as shown by many studies. This alone may post a potential risk for a suppressed body defense. When your immune system is weak and not functioning well, germs or pathogens can easily penetrate the body and commit destruction to the cells, thereby you are susceptible to colds, flu, and even more serious diseases including cancer. In addition, sleep deprivation may lead to a higher level of C-reactive protein – an inflammation marker. Inflammation plays a role in heart disease, atherosclerosis and cancer.

How to get a good night’s sleep:
We all have had experience how it feels after a good night’s sleep. For those who are unable to sleep well, don’t be depressed. Here are a few practical, time-tested tips – in I-b-e-d:

I-b-e-d techniques help you have a restful sleep:

Individualize sleep hours.
Best practice on time.
Eliminate distractions.
Discover the cause (of sleep disorders).

1. Individualize your sleep hours, and get what you really need, whether is 6, 7, or even 9 hrs. Of course, more than 10 hours of sleep doesn’t make you healthier.

2. Best is to maintain so-called “sleep hygiene”, i.e. go to sleep at the same time every day and wake up at the same time.

3. Eliminate any distractions. These range from bedroom TV, computer, too much food before bed to thoughts and emotions. If necessary, discipline yourself: no coffee, no alcohol or smoking 6 hours before bed.

4. Discover the cause of sleep disorder, don’t rely on “sleeping pills”. There are various reasons responsible for sleep disorders: from stress, health complications to side effects from medication – including drug use or abuse, and drug withdrawal as well. Consult your physician, explore it and receive effective treatments.

How did your sleep impact your health? What’s your practice to get enough sleep?

Photo credit: by sean_mcgee

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