As the mercury dips and we head towards the cooler months, bringing with it the dreaded flu season, there has never been a better time to look at how you can naturally boost your immunity.
Teaming up with Lou Edney, Nutritionist for Allambie Compounding Pharmacy in Sydney, we’ve pulled together a series of immune boosting tips, starting with today’s tips around sleep.
Here’s what Lou had to say…
Immunity covers many physiological processes and can be affected by genetics, nutritional status, medication, medical treatments such as chemo and lifestyle habits. As such, we are going to address immunity in small easily digestible chunks, starting with sleep and what to do if you aren’t getting enough of it.
😴 Sleep is a powerful immune elixir yet 40% of Australians do not get enough sleep.
Sufficient sleep (7 – 9 hours per day for adults 18+ and much more for the young ones, more on that soon)
- is associated with a reduced infection risk,
- can improve infection outcome and
- can improve vaccination responses.
Sleep is the ultimate medicine for your brain and your body.
When you are sleeping your body is not creating toxins like it does during normal daily activity, such as eating and exercising. In fact, it does the opposite. For 8 hours (if you are lucky) your natural physiological processes are cleansing and scrubbing, resetting and repairing. Literally mopping up the “damage” that has been created during the day.
Sleep allows your busy and potentially anxious mind to take a well needed break, which helps to reduce stress and anxiety. It also regulates hormones, appetite and energy levels.
Prolonged sleep deficiency (e.g., short sleep duration, sleep disturbance) can lead to chronic, systemic low-grade inflammation and is associated with various diseases that have an inflammatory component, like diabetes, atherosclerosis, and neurodegeneration.
In summary you can eat the best diet and follow an exercise plan like a pro, BUT if you are not getting enough sleep, your immunity can still be compromised sabotaging your efforts in other areas.
What can you do if you know you aren’t getting enough sleep?
If you are having trouble falling asleep, you could try…
- reducing/stopping caffeine
- implementing a sleep hygiene routine and
- making sure you are getting enough exercise to make you physically tired
The vitamins, minerals and amino acids required to produce the sleep hormone melatonin, which is made from serotonin, are:
- Calcium and
- Vitamin B6.
All are available in a healthy balanced whole food diet but if you are experiencing long term sleep issues however minor your nutrient needs may be higher than normal. Supplements are available for tryptophan, magnesium, Calcium and B6. Melatonin is also available as a supplement. Many are also available in sleep formulas. Magnesium is also available as Epsom Salts which you can use for a long soak in the bath.
It is important to make sure that any supplements you take do not interfere with your regular medications or any treatment you are undergoing, this is why we recommend speaking with a Pharmacist and your GP before you take anything new.
How much sleep is enough sleep?
- Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours each day
- Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours
- Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours
- Pre-schoolers (3-5): 10-13 hours
- School age (6-13): 9-11 hours
- Teenagers (14-17): 8-10 hours
- Younger adults (18-25): 7-9 hours
- Adults (26-64): 7-9 hours
- Older adults (65+): 7-8 hours
Here’s why you need that sleep!
Cerebral spinal fluid is pumped more quickly throughout the brain while you sleep. It acts like a dishwasher, whisking away waste products that brain cells make. So, you wake up with, quite literally, a clean slate.
One body part that gets a break during sleep is your heart. Your ticker works hard during the day, so at night during non-REM sleep it takes some pressure off itself by reducing heart rate, as well as blood pressure.
When you’re awake, your breathing patterns vary greatly. You’ll breathe faster when excited and harder while exercising, for example. But during sleep, your breathing slows down and becomes very regular.
While you sleep, your body releases growth hormones that work to rebuild muscles and joints. The more sleep you get, the better equipped your body will be to repair itself.
Certain foods contain an amino acid called Tryptophan that causes sleepiness. Carbohydrates containing B vitamins and Magnesium make Tryptophan more available to the brain, which is why carbohydrate-heavy meals can make you drowsy and also why carbs with your evening meal is a good thing.
This content was written by Lou Edney, Nutritionist for Allambie Compounding Pharmacy.