How to boost your immune system and fight an infection - Part 5: Sleep

Apr 16, 2020

Worried about Coronavirus and looking for ways in which you or your family can boost your immune system to be able to resist as well as fight the virus?  This is part five of five on how you can boost your immune system and fight an infection.

If you know anybody that is at risk, please share this blog if you think this could help them. This series is intended to be educational. Please talk to your healthcare professional before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle.

There's five things that you can do to help you boost your immune system and fight an infection. These are conveniently remembered by the mnemonic VIRUS:

  • V - Vagus Nerve
  • I - Inflammation
  • R - Resilience
  • U - Understanding
  • S - Sleep.

Part 5 - S is for Sleep

Sleep is fundamental in terms of our resistance and recovery from infection. The recommended duration of sleep is 7-8hrs for adults and eight plus hours for children.

Sleep is so important as at night as your body is asleep at night your brain actually washes itself of the toxins so it can show up as its best self the next day. It's important you get the right amount of quality sleep to remove these toxins from your system and reset your brain for the next day.

What hurts your sleep?

  • Bad sleep habits
  • Room too hot
  • Light in your room
  • Noise - Gadgets / too much screen time before bed
  • Alcohol, nicotine and marijuana, that upsets your sleep patterns
  • Caffeine too late in the day, which upsets your sleep pattern - Naps during the day
  • Hormonal changes
  • Stress levels
  • Eating close to bedtime, which is also linked to increasing your risk of heart disease
  • Exercising close to bedtime, which stops your brain from shutting down
  • Jet lag.

What can really help you improve your levels of sleep?

  • Caring about the importance of your sleep: understanding why it's so important for you to get the sleep you need
  • Avoid the things that hurt it
  • Engaging in sleep healthy habits.

Sleep healthy habits include:

  • Making sure your room is cool
  • Using blackout curtains
  • Using an app such as Calm to cutout background noise if you struggle with noise when going to sleep
  • Shutting down any electronic devices at least an hour before bed and setting the switch on your phone to shut out blue light
  • Writing down your worries before bed.  You can then challenge them or simply not worry about them as you've taken them out of your head and put them on paper and so can reflect on them in the morning
  • Reframing your mind to the positive before bed - detailing three things that you've been grateful for each day
  • Avoiding alcohol, nicotine and marijuana before bed, all of which disrupt your sleep pattern and reduce blood flow to your brain. In a study by the Amen Clinics, marijuana significantly ages your brain
  • Caffeine - don't consume after 2pm in the day as recommended by Dr Daniel Amen in the book 'the End of Mental Illness'
  • Avoiding naps in day as that upsets your circadian rhythm
  • Seek to adopt all other sleep healthy habits if you know your hormonal levels are fluctuating, such as being pregnant.  Get your hormonal levels checked if you're worried
  • Put in place Stress management techniques - such as yoga, tai-chi, meditation, prayer, mindfulness exercises to calm your brain down before bed
  • Avoid eating several hours before bed - allow fasting of 12-16 hrs to help your brain clean itself of toxins overnight
  • Seek to stop exercise at least four hours before bedtime to allow your body to wind down
  • If travelling into a new time zone, seek to shift your body into the new time zone before travel one hour each day, and work straight into the new time zone when you arrive.

I hope this helps you boost your immune system to fight infection. To summarise what was discussed over this five part series:

  • V - Vagus Nerve: Focus on eating the foods and doing the appropriate activities that boost the good bugs and don't feed the bad bugs
  • I - Inflammation: Eat foods that decrease inflammation and avoid food and lifestyle choices that boost inflammation
  • R - Resilience: Looking at your emotional, physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing, using the mnemonic FACTS™️ - how you Feel, Act, Connect, Think and Sense your surroundings
  • U - Understanding: What is helping and hurting you and why you care - why it's important
  • S - Sleep: Adopting sleep healthy habits and avoiding activities that can steal your sleep.

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