Poor sleep harms your immunity and well-being

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  • There is a link between sleep deprivation and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Not getting enough sleep can also compromise your immune system.
  • Sleep deprivation costs the world an estimated $ 818 billion a year.
  • You probably need around eight hours of sleep a night – we’ve got a few tips to help you out.

Did you sleep well last night? And how has that affected the way you feel today? Most of us will have suffered from a lack of sleep or even insomnia in the past and are only too well aware of how you are feeling.

What is perhaps less well known is how well you get adequate sleep. Not only will you wake up refreshed and ready to face the day, but your mental and physical well-being will benefit. Sleep can help your immune system to be at its best, but not getting enough can even make your vaccinations less effective.

Writing in BBC Science Focus magazine, Dr Matthew Walker, professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, says: no major health system in your body or operation in your brain, which is not wonderfully improved by sleep when you get it, or obviously weakened when you don’t get enough.

During the pandemic, many people said they found a good night’s sleep harder. A UK study from April 2020 found that 36% of respondents aged 35 to 44 found their sleep had been disrupted by confinement.

This is how sleep patterns changed during the pandemic.

Image: Statista

Other consequences of sleep deprivation that Walker highlights include:

The role of poor sleep in Alzheimer’s disease

A detailed study by Berkeley, involving Walker, identified a link between poor sleep and one of the most common forms of dementia – Alzheimer’s disease. Worldwide, more than 50 million people live with dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) organization. Every 20 years, that number is likely to double, and by 2050, an estimated 152 million people around the world will be living with this debilitating disease.

a graph showing that by 2050, more than 150 million people could be living with Alzheimer's disease

By 2050, more than 150 million people could be living with Alzheimer’s disease.

Image: Alzheimer’s Disease International

“The estimated total global cost of dementia was $ 818 billion in 2015, which represents 1.09% of global GDP,” according to ADI, which today puts global cost of dementia to more than $ 818 billion per year.

While their report makes it clear that many questions remain unanswered, the authors of the Berkeley research report highlight a link between insomnia and other sleep disorders and an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease: “Sleep disruption appears to be an essential component of Alzheimer’s disease and its pathophysiology.

Can Sleep Deprivation Affect Your Immunity?

A separate study from the Department of Psychology at Carnegie Mellon University found that: “Lower sleep efficiency and shorter sleep duration in the weeks before exposure to a rhinovirus were associated with lower resistance to disease.”

Researchers tracked the sleep patterns of 153 healthy men and women between the ages of 21 and 55. After 14 days, participants were quarantined and given nasal drops containing a cold virus. Those who slept an average of less than seven hours per night were 2.94 times more likely to develop a cold than participants who slept an average of eight hours or more per night.

How to sleep better

The oft-repeated advice is to get eight hours of sleep a night, and this is confirmed by Walker, who says most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep every night. But for some people, this is easier said than done – parents of very young children in particular may wonder if they will ever get close to eight hours of sleep a night once again.

There are some things most people can try to increase their chances of falling asleep easily. And stay like that.

One in four people will suffer from mental illness in their lifetime, costing the global economy an estimated $ 6 trillion by 2030.

Poor mental health is the leading cause of disability and poor life in young people aged 10 to 24, contributing up to 45% of the overall disease burden in this age group. Yet globally, young people have the worst access to mental health care for young people in their lifetimes and at all stages of illness (especially during the early stages).

In response, the Forum launched a series of global dialogues to discuss ideas, tools and architecture in which public and private stakeholders can build an ecosystem for health promotion and mental illness management.


One of the top current priorities is to support global efforts for mental health outcomes – promoting key recommendations to meet global mental health targets, such as the WHO Knowledge-Action Portal and the Global Mental Health Countdown

Learn more about our platform’s work to shape the future of health and healthcare and contact us to get involved.

Stick to a routine, says the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) on its sleep advice web page. Gentle exercises to relax the body before going to bed are an option. Another is to take a hot bath.

Sleeping pills such as audio relaxation – music or words – can also help. Mindfulness and meditation exercises, such as focusing your attention on your breathing, can also help calm a busy and distracted mind, suggests the NHS.



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