How sleep can boost your immune system

When it comes to your health, sleep plays an important role. Especially as we move through a period of time with a lot of flues and viruses, sleep is one of the key elements to staying healthy. Numerous studies show that sleep helps the immune system.

A healthy immune system can fight off infection. Without sufficient sleep, your body doesn’t make enough immune cells, known as T cells. T cells fight virus-infected cells and so T cells play an essential role in the immune system. The better you sleep, the more T cells you make. 

Sleep needs

In a study from 2015, 164 men and women were tested to see the connection between having a virus and sleep. The participants were all exposed to a cold virus. Surprisingly, not everyone got sick. Short sleepers — those who regularly slept less than six hours a night — were 4.2 times more likely to catch a cold compared with those who got more than seven hours of sleep. The risks were even higher when a person slept less than five hours a night.

What this study proves, is that you need the right amount of sleep to be healthy. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Sleeping according to the recommended time will help keep your immune system in fighting shape, and also protect you from other health issues including heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.


If your schedule doesn’t allow you to sleep 7 to 9 hours per night, try napping. A short nap of 20 to 30 minutes long can help you decrease stress and offset the negative effects that sleep deprivation has on the immune system. Taking a short nap will also restore alertness, enhance performance, and reduce mistakes and accidents. 

Sleep stages

In what sleep stage does your body actually get healthy? Research shows that there are three basic states of consciousness: wakefulness, REM sleep, and non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. REM sleep and NREM sleep typically repeat themselves every 90 minutes during a night.   

This image from Verywell Health explains the role of each sleep stage. As you can see, NREM stage 3 is really when you’re body is recovering. During this stage, the body repairs and regenerates tissues, builds bone and muscle, and strengthens the immune system.

The Bottom Line

Getting quality sleep is very important. Developing healthy sleep habits will help you get a good night’s rest and strengthen your immune system. Read more on healthy sleep, here.


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