Live better with a dose of adequate sleep and fight against COVID 19
Varun stays abroad. His mother calls him ten times a day to ask if his health is fine. Maria runs her family all alone. The shopping mall where she works is temporarily closed due to the pandemic and her nights are sleepless. Simmi’s examinations are postponed; she can’t relax. Veena is a housewife and staying far from her aged parents. She is worried about their health and safety.
We all are more or less anxious about the present situation and it is quite normal to get anxiety due to the uncertainty and panic caused by this pandemic. But studies show that “women are almost twice as likely to suffer from anxiety as men”.
But anxiety is not the solution to any problem. We need to rewire our anxious brain, boost our immunity and stay calm.
How to do that? Get a dose of adequate sleep daily.
Yes, good sleep has the potential to soothe our anxious brain and keep us calm.
UC Berkeley researchers studied this subject thoroughly. They found that spending a sleepless night can make someone up to 30% more anxious the next day. They have also noted that even the functional tests like MRI and polysomnography show a significant difference between a well-rested brain and a sleepless brain. The study showed a significant difference in the anxiety levels also in between the two brains, where the only difference in activities was sleep.
When does sleep show this magic?
According to sleep science, there are various stages of sleep. Researchers found that Non-Rapid Eye Movement (Non-REM) sleep – one of the most significant stages of sleep, helps the most to reorganize the anxiety of our brain and let it calm down.
What happens exactly in the ‘Non-REM sleep’? At Non-REM sleep, our brainwaves become highly synchronized. Besides, the heart rates, as well as our blood pressure, drops.
This stage is also known as deep sleep as it helps our brain and body to get well-rested. Hence, if we continue the practice of sleeping well each night, the deep sleep works as a natural anxiety preventer and our brain gets healed.
Let’s listen to the scientists -
Scientists noticed that after a sleepless night, the brain scan report shows a shutdown of the medial prefrontal cortex, which normally helps keep our anxiety in check. On the other hand, the brain’s deeper emotional centres are seen as overactive due to lack of sleep. When a brain gets a good amount of sleep, the same test shows dropped anxiety levels.
Not only on our nervous system or on the brain functions but also on our immunity system sleep impacts positively.
How does sleep boost our immunity?
While sleeping, our immune system secretes cytokines. These cytokines are the cell signalling molecules that communicate among cells in immune responses and stimulate the movement of the cells towards the sites of inflammation, infection, and trauma. So, skipping sleep may easily affect the production of cytokines.
Now, do you know how the cytokines are made? They are mostly produced by the helper T cells and microphages. These T cells also have a direct connection with sleep.
When these T cells in the human body detect a virally infected cell, they activate a sticky type of protein called integrins. These integrins work like an adhesive and help them to stick to and kill the virally infected cells.
Going through several studies, the researchers compared the activity of the T cells from some healthy individuals who either slept well or didn’t get good sleep. Surprisingly, the result differed from one another. They found that the volunteers who slept well had healthier t-cells. Their T cells performed better with a higher level of integrin activation than that of the T cells of the participants who stayed up for long at night.
The findings of the study showcased that sleep has a great impact on the functions of T cells. It is also found that the release of stress hormones due to poor sleep also affects the functionality of the T cells.
On the other hand, the secretion of stress hormones dips when we get good sleep and the T cells can kill the pathogens effectively without any difficulty.
So, sleep peacefully and allow your immune system to be strong enough in fighting with the COVID 19.
Now, you may ask, how to sleep peacefully in the present scenario?
Please remember, panicking won’t solve a problem, you yourself have to. Just keep a few simple things in mind and maintain them well.
- Maintain a proper sleep-wake cycle by managing a fixed time in going to bed and waking up.
- Exercise daily. It’s true that staying at home is making us lethargic and lack of physical exercise keep us up till late at night. We need to make us tired in a healthy way.
- Eat healthy. Cook nutritious food for you and avoid ordering from outside or fast food.
- Relax yourself, and your bedroom before going to bed. Leave all your stress behind before sleeping; you can take a shower in lukewarm water also. At bedtime, make sure your bedroom doesn’t allow bright light to enter, and the temperature is cool and comfortable.
- Your sleep accessories should be hygienic enough and should provide you with optimal comfort and support.
- Avoid heavy meals, alcohol, tea, coffee, and cigarettes before bedtime. You may rather opt for a brisk walk on your terrace or reading a book.
- If difficulty in falling asleep persists, call your doctor and get some tips. After all, sleeping enough is important.
Moreover, keep yourself busy with some extra but enjoyable tasks like arts & crafts, preparing some pickle, gardening, or whatever you loved to do but was not getting time to be in it. Follow the guidelines of WHO, wash your hands with soap of sanitizer as frequent as possible, maintain social distancing and indulge yourself into some lung exercise regularly. Everything will be fine soon. Happy sleep, happy life!