The Impact of Sleep and Stress Reduction On Your Immune System: How T-Cells Stick It to The Enemy

Written by The editors

On April 15, 2020

By Dr. Bill Booker, DC, and Dr. Denia Tapscott, MD


When we get ample and quality sleep, we feel better, which allows us to reduce or manage stress better. No surprise! But are you aware how profoundly powerful and important sleep and stress reduction are for boosting your immune system?

In a previous post, we mentioned the awesome power of T-cells and T-cell-boosting foods. We want to provide here some more technical detail on how they work to help you understand the importance of sleep.

T-cells are a type of “immune cell” that fight against viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens, like cancer cells, HIV, and the flu. In order for them to work, they literally have to STICK to the cells they kill.

So how do they do that? When we are under stress, our body secretes two stress hormones — adrenaline and noradrenaline — as well as prostaglandins, which are inflammatory molecules that reduce the stickiness of molecules called integrins.

When we sleep, especially when we get good sleep, our body naturally lowers the levels of adrenaline, noradrenaline, and prostaglandins. This is also when the time when integrins are stickiness.

We want sticky integrins because that’s where the T-cell connect to the cells carrying viruses, bacteria, cancer, and other pathogens.

In short, not only does sleep reduce stress hormones, but also sleep increases integrin production, which makes T-cells stick better to the bad things that we are trying to eliminate from our bodies.

The key takeaway here is: now more than ever, when you have the opportunity and no excuse not to, prioritize sleep!

Here are some additional problems caused by lack of quality sleep:

— Getting fewer than seven hours of sleep for three days in a row is the equivalent of missing an entire night’s sleep.

— Fewer than five hours of sleep on a regular basis is associated with a higher mortality rate.

— Poor sleep increases inflammation in the body, weight gain, blood pressure, insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a MINIMUM of seven hours of sleep per day. At Capitol Rehab of Arlington, we recommend at least eight-nine hours or more of sleep in adolescents and teens. Why? Because not only does sleep reduce inflammation and improve immunity, it also releases the growth hormone that young people need.

At some point, we will start to get past this pandemic and hopefully one of the big life lessons learned will be that we ALL need to take better care of ourselves. Getting better sleep and reducing stress will go a long way in that direction.

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