With the ongoing COVID-19 situation, everyone is doing our best to stay healthy. Let’s hear from Singapore Sport Institute’s resident Nutrition and Sleep Expert, Dr Richard Swinbourne, as he addresses the following:
- Are some of us at greater risk than others?
- What foods help to prevent or fight against viruses?
- Which is better, natural fruits or supplementary vitamins?
- Is there a difference between exercising indoors and outdoors?
- How does sleep play a part in building our immune system?
Boosting your immunity through sleep
Photo: Active Health
Did you know that aside from physical activity, nutrition and good hygiene, sleep plays a big role in boosting immunity? Have you ever pulled a series of all-nighters while rushing for a deadline or studying for an exam, and you end up falling sick a few days later?
While clocking in more sleep does not directly keep you from falling sick, getting too little of it has shown to compromise one’s immune system, making one more susceptible to falling ill.
Mechanism of sleep and the immune system
The body’s defence system is run by T-cells. They recognise the entry of foreign bodies like viruses or bacteria. They then attach to these pathogens and destroy them, keeping the body healthy and infection-free. Sleep enhances the effects of T-cells meaning the body’s immune system functions better when you get sufficient rest.
Additionally, it is also found that hormones produced during stress, such as adrenaline and noradrenalin, are lower in subjects who had enough sleep. These hormones persist in high levels when the individual is subjected to high or constant stress. This includes the lack of rest, resulting in persistently high levels of inflammation throughout the body. As such, the body is at higher risk of infection.
How much sleep should you get?
Image: Active Health
The optimal amount of sleep differs amongst every individual but the most highly recommended amount is 7-9 hours in adults of ages 18-64 years old, and 7-8 hours in older adults 65 years and above.
Some things to consider
If you are not getting enough sleep, ask yourself if it is out of necessity. For some individuals who are unable to sleep, you may be suffering from insomnia or other health conditions. For such situations, it recommended to seek medical advice and treatment.
“Sleep is not a waste of time and should receive the same level of attention as nutrition and exercise in the package for good health.”
Here are some tips that can help you improve the quantity and quality of your sleep