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Discover quality sleep
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Does sleep impact your immune system?

Discover the impact sleep has on our health and immune system and let it inspire you to reassess your approach to make it a priority to protect your well-being.
Taryn Toomey

Sleep is the third pillar of health, alongside nutrition and exercise. We often take it for granted, yet it is the essential ingredient to maintaining a functioning brain and body. Over the last decade, sleep has moved down the priority list for many of us. Not only are we sleeping less at an average of 6 hours 35 minutes a night but over 50% of us also struggle to drift off. 

This issue is further exacerbated when major events in our lives create uncertainty. It causes us to become unsettled and stressed, making it even harder to get the sleep we need. When this happens, it’s a good time to reassess our approach to sleep and make it a priority to protect our well-being. 

We all know good sleep makes us feel better, but we may not have considered the powerful role it plays in helping build our immune system. Studies show that people who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get ill. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast we recover if we do become unwell. 

“If we keep our immune system strong, it helps us defend against viruses and strengthen the body’s ability to fight infection.”

Taryn Toomey

Taryn Toomey for Savoir

When the immune system is strong, it helps us fight malignancy, prevent infection and fight off sickness. This powerful internal defence system has a multifaceted role. It identifies pathogens including viruses, parasites, bacteria and fungi, and removes them from the body. It neutralises harmful substances that come from outside the body, and it combats major changes within the body such as serious illnesses. It is activated when it recognises antigens or toxins. This triggers a response where the immune system develops antibodies or cells specifically to fight the invader. 

If we keep our immune system strong, it helps us defend against viruses and strengthen the body’s ability to fight infection. There are several things we can do to boost our immune system. Starting with exercise, eating healthily, drinking less alcohol and taking vitamins. We can also make sure we consistently get a good night’s sleep. It is an effective and natural immune booster. 

During sleep, our immune system releases proteins called cytokines. These clever proteins target infection and inflammation, effectively creating our immune response. When we have inflammation or are under stress, certain cytokines need to increase. If we don’t get enough sleep, our production of these protective cytokines may decrease, thus lowering our immune response. In addition, certain infection-fighting antibodies and cells are also reduced during periods when we don’t get enough sleep. 

With all this in mind, we’ve put together a few ways to help keep your immune system in fighting order. 

Natural elements in the bedroom

Enjoy a restful night’s sleep on bedding made with natural materials


Make sleep a priority

We are all guilty of compromising our sleep, but if we focus on making it a priority again, we’re successfully prioritising our health too. The optimal amount for most adults is seven to eight hours of good sleep every night. Teenagers need nine to 10 hours of sleep and school-aged children need 10 or more hours of sleep. 

The simplest way to increase the amount of sleep is to make small adjustments to your sleep schedule. Bringing your bedtime earlier by 15-30 minutes and setting your alarm 15-30 minutes later gives you an additional half an hour to an hour’s extra slumber. 

Focus on quality sleep

The quality of your sleep is just as important as the length of it. If you are experiencing difficulties falling or staying asleep, you may need to revisit your sleep habits. There are also plenty of things you can do at home to improve the quality of sleep you are getting. From enjoying a mindful morning routine to cutting back on caffeine during the day and swapping your night-time cap for a cup of herbal tea. Read our Sleep Script with Sleep Specialist Dr Rebecca Robbins, where she shares with us how she improves the quality of her rest. 

Temperature check

If you find yourself waking up during the night, do a temperature check. Being too hot or too cold disturbs sleep patterns and leads to restless nights. With the changing seasons and the warmer weather beckoning, many of us have not replaced our winter bedding with a lighter weight or material. A duvet with a lower tog will help prevent overheating which could make all the difference to how you sleep. It’s also worth considering what your bed is made from. Natural materials are best as they are breathable and allow better airflow than man-made fibres such as foam. Horsetail and wool are particularly effective in wicking moisture away from the body, helping you to stay cool. 

Sleepy foods

In our continuous drive to understand sleep, we’ve embarked on discovering the connection food has with our ability to enjoy quality sleep. Dr Mike Molloy, who is a nutritional coach advises us on the key ways to approach food in order to aid sleep. 

Perhaps it’s no surprise but the nutritional approaches that generate overall health tend to result in the best night’s sleep. I suggest focusing 85% of your diet on foods that are unprocessed. Meaning they come from the earth in the same state that you eat them. The other 15% can be things that are fun and make life a little bit more enjoyable overall, such as chocolate, wine, bread.” 

Dr Mike Molloy

Consuming sleepy foods before bedtime can help you drift off. Although many foods contain sleep promoting compounds, only a few have high enough concentrations to affect our sleep cycle.  Cherry, almonds and walnuts are naturally high in the hormone melatonin which controls your sleep and wake cycles.  Kiwi fruit contains many sleep-promoting qualities such as calcium, potassium, magnesium and serotonin.

Small changes to your sleep routine can make big differences and help get your immune system in good order. Read our Pillow Talk with Chef Chantelle Nicholson to uncover the benefits of a plant-based diet and let it inspire you to make small, but effective changes to your lifestyle.