top of page

How does sleep deprivation affect the immune system?

You may not be surprised to hear that many clinical and experimental studies have demonstrated that lifestyle can have a huge impact on suppressing the immune system[1]. Fortunately, the effects of lifestyle choices on your immune system can be attenuated if you make the necessary adjustments and start to adopt healthy lifestyle practices.

The advantages of a healthy lifestyle are most clearly seen when you view lifestyle practices and their effect on the bodies natural killer cell activity [2].

Lifestyle practices associated with higher natural killer cell activity include:

• Not smoking

• Increased intake of green vegetables

• Regular meals

• Proper body weight

• More than 7 hours of sleep per night

• Regular exercise

• A vegetarian diet [3]

Sleep is essential for a healthy immune system. You may recall how it feels to be in constant jet lag mode after burning the midnight oil one too many times or after watching that Netflix boxset series that you just had to finish watching, but swiftly regretted when you realised that its 4 am in the morning and you start work at 8 am! (Yes- we have all been there)

Sleep deprivation has consistently been shown to not only impair the immune function but also mood (hello grumpy, snappy and groggy without a cup of coffee). Paradoxically, the decline in your immune function and alterations in your defence system after sleep deprivation are followed by impaired mood and psychosocial functioning[4]. This may explain why you often feel low or experience a drop in your wellbeing when you’ve had inadequate sleep.