The magic of sleep: How a good night's rest relates to your immune system

If you have trouble sleeping at night and often get sick, a doctor wants you to know, those are often related.

Your immune system can impact every aspect of your life, especially sleep.


Many of us dream of getting eight hours of sleep but feel there's no way we can pull it off. Dr. Vikki Petersen shares why it should be at the top of our To Do List!

"During the day, you're eating and digesting and running around and the body is engaged in other functions. But when you go to sleep, a lot of things are supposed to happen to you. You transition out of this fight or flight, busy mode into this rest, digest, repair mode and it's called the parasympathetic part of your nervous system. Melatonin is secreted, immune cells are secreted, and those two are linked. So if you don't have enough melatonin, you're not going to secrete enough what's called natural killer cells," explains Dr. Vikki Petersen, who is a co-founder of Root Cause Medical Clinics.

Dr. Petersen says you need those killer cells because they help your body fight everything from parasites, bacteria, to mold, heavy metals, even cancer.

"Research time and time again says that you are annihilating your immune system, doubling your risk of cancer, increasing your risk for brain malfunction, cognitive malfunction, Alzheimer's disease, if you don't get that eight hours. So it's not a luxury, it really is life-sustaining," exclaims Dr. Petersen.

If you're not getting enough shut-eye, you're definitely not alone.

"The World Health Organization has stated that two-thirds of adults in developed nations do not get enough sleep, so it is absolutely considered a worldwide epidemic," says Dr. Petersen.

So how can we work to end the problem? Besides getting plenty of quality sleep, Dr. Petersen says there are several things you can do to boost your immune system while helping your sleep at the same time. She suggests taking a Vitamin D supplement, before bedtime.

"We've always known that vitamin D protected your immune system from cancer, from respiratory issues which of course, the current virus is very directed at the respiratory system, but it has very pervasive effects. It's actually a hormone, we call it a vitamin, but it's truly a hormone, and there's new research linking with taking your vitamin D at night at bedtime, to help with sleep, because again like melatonin, it's so tied in with your immune system," states Dr. Petersen.


The other thing to consider, Dr. Petersen suggests cutting out sugar, especially refined sugar, like high fructose corn syrup found in items like soft drinks.

"It's critical! The preferred source of fuel for cancer cells, bacteria, and viruses is sugar. Sugar is more addictive than cocaine. So if you're listening and saying, I'm an addict, just so you know I was too. You can get past that even though you feel really addicted, by changing your diet," says Dr. Petersen.

She says cutting out sugar could also help you sleep better.

"80% of the immune system is in the gut, that will mean you've got an unhealthy immune system. So that gut and sleep is very tight link," she says.

One final thought. Dr. Petersen says new research shows that every hour of sleep you get before midnight is worth two hours!  In other words, if you got to bed at 10 p.m., that would be worth four hours of sleep by midnight. So the earlier, the better, to help boost your immune system.

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