Sleep and Your Health
Sleep is also essential for good health—both long and short term. A new study conducted by the Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands and the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom found that depriving your body of sleep takes the same toll on your immune system as stress. “Sleep helps sustain your immune system function,” says lead researcher Katrin Ackermann. Without it you are at increased risk for a host of ailments, including diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
But it’s not just chronic sleep loss you have to worry about. Ever wonder why you’re more likely to get the flu after a busy session at work or a trip to Vegas with the boys? Ackermann’s study found that after just 24 hours without sleep, detrimental changes in the body were already starting to occur. Granulocytes are a type of white blood cell that plays an essential role in immunity. When we don’t get enough sleep, granulocyte counts jump during the night, indicating a direct immune response by the body.
“Granulocytes react immediately to sleep deprivation and just one night of sleep loss can affect the immune system,” Ackermann says. Future studies need to be done in order to understand the full implications of the increase in granulocyte count resulting from sleep deprivation, but increased granulocyte counts have been shown to increase the risk of cardiovascular mortality.