Lack Of Sleep Causes Body Clock To 'Alter' Immune System

Lack Of Sleep Linked To Immune System

The Huffington Post UK   First Posted: 17/02/2012 10:19 Updated: 17/02/2012 10:19

The body’s natural ‘circadian’ clock determines whether we fall victim to illness, scientists have found after discovering a link between disrupted sleep patterns and the gene that controls the immune system.

Researchers from Yale University linked the immunity gene TLR-9 (a protein that can 'spot' DNA from bacteria and viruses) to the body's circadian clock - a finely tuned genetic mechanism that regulates our sleep cycle and metabolic changes during the 24-hour cycle.

Scientist, who tested on lab rats, found that the circadian clock controls the activity levels of TLR-9 and discovered that when the gene was at its highest level, it was able to respond better to bacteria and viruses.

This means the body is more likely to fight infections and respond well to vaccinations when the gene is at its most active - but for it to peak, the circadian clock needs to be functioning properly, which is where the disrupted sleep patterns come in.

"People intuitively know that when their sleep patterns are disturbed, they are more likely to get sick," professor Erol Fikrig from the study, said in a statement.

"It does appear that disruptions of the circadian clock influences our susceptibility to pathogens (infection)," adds Professor Fikrig.

Researchers added that they hope their findings lead to further investigation into 'body clock impacting medicine' where drugs are given at the peak times of the day when the immune system is at its most active.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, nearly a third of Brits suffer from insomnia, resulting in over 10 million sleeping pill prescriptions being issued each year. Find out how to overcome insomnia without taking medication.

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  • How To Rest Easy At Night

  • Don't Worry

    "Don't go to bed worrying about anxieties or concerns. They can wait until tomorrow."

  • Get To Bed Before The Clock Strikes Midnight

    "It has been proven that you get a better quality of sleep before 12 and ancient Chinese practitioners swear by it."

  • Head To The Gym Or Cycle To Work

    "Exercise in the morning will set you up nicely to feel re-energised and ready for your day. Not only this, but you will feel great about yourself having worked your muscles and relaxed and centred your mind before your day really begins."

  • Switch Off

    "Finish everything you have to do on your computer by 10pm. Switch off mobiles and PCs and leave them outside of the bedroom so you're not tempted to answer texts or emails."

  • Breathe

    "Shut your eyes and focus on your breathing as it becomes slower and deeper. This makes your body more relaxed."

  • Avoid Caffeine And Tyrosine

    "Caffeine, a chemical in coffee, tea and chocolate causes hyperactivity and wakefulness. Some sleep laboratories encourage people to avoid such tyrosine-laden foods as fermented cheeses such as cheddar cheese, ripe avocados, some imported beers and fermented meats (bologna, pepperoni, salami). Also avoid red wines, especially chianti."

  • Meditation

    "Sitting quietly for 10 minutes in the morning upright and concentrating on your breath, or listening to a guided re-energising meditation which you can listen to free on YouTube or download online will do wonders for your general well-being. Large companies like Ernst and Young are now introducing meditation into the workplace because its proven effects on wellbeing and concentration amongst other things. Its simple to do, and costs nothing, so give it a go and watch yourself go from strength to strength."

  • Have A Bath (Not Shower)

    "Take a long, hot bath before going to bed. This helps relax and soothe your muscles. Showers, on the other hand, tend to wake you up. Insomniacs should avoid showers in the evening."

  • Never Oversleep

    "Never oversleep because of a poor night's sleep. Get up at about the same time every day, especially on the morning after you've lost sleep. Sleeping late for just a couple of days can reset your body clock to a different cycle and you'll get sleepy later and wake up later."

  • Eat Early

    "Don't go to bed on a full stomach - make your final meal before 9pm."

  • Create A Story

    "Create a story in your head and allow your imagination to experience that story."

  • Positive Affirmations

    "Sounds simple, but just by telling yourself that you are going to have a great day and feel energised and happy will make a massive amount of difference. You get back what you put out, and even science is telling us how powerful our thoughts are."

  • Ease Yourself Out Of Bed Gently

    "Set your alarm 15 minutes earlier than you need to get up. Find some nice calm or uplifting music online and download it onto your phone to use as an alarm. It eases you into your day far better than a loud beep and a rush to get up will."

  • Listen To Your Body

    "Getting enough sleep is vital, and for this, you need to listen to your body - some people function wonderfully with 7 hours, but others need much more. It really does depend. Most adults need 7-8 hours a night, and if you're finding yourself dragging in the morning, try to catch a few more 'zzz's' by going to bed sooner. When you've found the perfect amount, you should be able to wake up to the alarm ready to face the day."

  • Don't Lie Awake For The Sake Of It

    "Don't lie in bed awake. If you can't get to sleep, don't just lie in bed. Do something else, like reading, watching television, or listening to music, until you feel tired. The anxiety of being unable to fall asleep can actually contribute to insomnia. Return to bed when you begin feeling sleepy, and try to avoid sleeping in locations other than your bed."