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Get better sleep to strengthen your immune system

We all know that sleep is important to our health. We get a good night’s sleep and we feel good the next day. And while getting more sleep may not directly keep you from becoming sick, getting poor sleep can definitely have a negative impact on your immune system.

Cytokines, proteins in your body that target infection and inflammation, are produced and released during sleep. If your sleep is insufficient, your body makes fewer cytokines, which in turn weakens your body’s immune response and lessens your ability to fight off sickness. Persistent sleep loss can even make flu vaccines less effective by reducing your body’s ability to respond.

Getting the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep each night, especially during flu season, is a critical part of keeping you healthy. This will help your immune system stay strong, and protect you from other health issues including heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.  

If work or other life events get in the way of sustained sleep, try taking naps to give your body the rest it needs. Grabbing a 30-minute or less nap in the morning and another in the afternoon, has been shown to decrease stress and lessen the negative effects of sleep deprivation on the immune system. If that’s not feasible, try napping for 20 minutes during your lunch break, then again before dinner.

In addition to improving your sleep, employing other healthy strategies like regularly washing your hands with soap, avoiding contact with people who are sick, and getting a flu shot will all aid in keeping your immune system strong. Then, even if you do come down with something, your well-rested self will be able to bounce back faster. 

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