Sleep Deprivation Might Actually Be Making You Sick

Photographed by Rockie Nolan.
By now, you probably know that in addition to being frustrating, sleep deprivation can also have negative effects on your overall health. But can you actually get sick from a lack of proper sleep?

According to a study published in the journal Sleep, if you regularly don't get as much shut-eye as you should, it can shut down the systems that are associated with the immune responses that keep you healthy.

For the study, researchers examined blood samples from 11 sets of identical twins who reported differing sleep patterns. (Since sleep could have a genetic component to it, using twins makes it easier for researchers to control the role of genetics in their findings.) Over a period of two weeks, each participant wore wrist actigraph devices that monitored the duration of their sleep.

At the end of the study, each participant's blood sample was compared with that of their twin's — during which researchers found that those who got less sleep displayed more symptoms of a suppressed immune system. Chronic short sleep, the researchers said, shuts down the programs in the body that are associated with the immune response of circulating white blood cells. Translation: constantly getting little sleep really does weaken your body's ability to fight illness.

"What we show is that the immune system functions best when it gets enough sleep," Nathanial Watson, MD, lead author of the study, said in a press release. "Seven or more hours of sleep is recommended for optimal health."

According to the CDC, about one-third of us get fewer than six hours of sleep per night — so if you're amongst that number, try some science-backed tips to get your sleep schedule on track. Your immune system will thank you for it.
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