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Sleep and Your Immune System: What You Need to Know

“There is a reason why ‘sick and tired’ just rolls off the tongue,” offers Dr. Harvey Karp, best-selling author Happiest Baby on the Block, Happiest Toddler on the Block and creator of the safe baby bed, The Snoo. “That’s because studies show that being sick and being tired go hand in hand.  Sleep deprivation suppresses your immune system, making you more susceptible to illness.”  Karp offered some sleep data and information not just for new and expectant parents (his usual fan base) but also for those dealing with the COVID-19 oubreak with or without children.

  • Being sleep deprived makes us more likely to catch a cold. In a 2009 study, people sleeping less than 7 hours per night had a 3 times greater risk of catching a cold than those with 8 hours or more.
  • We all know that fatigue makes us crankier and easily inflamed, but it actually undermines a key part of the body’s inflammatory response—called cytokines— which are absolutely essential for fighting off infections.
  • As exhaustion rises so does the risk of serious infection. In a study of 57,000 women, those trying to get by on less than 5 hours of sleep a night had a 50% increase in risk of pneumonia.
  • Several studies have found that sleep promotes a stronger immune response to vaccines—which improves our body’s immunological memory.
  • Sleep may also help our T cells better glom onto their target to fight infection, according to a recent study out of Germany.

Bottom line? “Sleep is one of the best things you can do to strengthen your immune system and protect your body from cold and flu,” according to Dr. Karp, “Get your zzzzs!”

Happiest Baby is here.

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