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An Expert Reveals Exactly How Lack of Sleep and Stress Affect Your Immunity

We’re all aware of the stomach in knots, can’t sleep, frustrated, agitated feeling that comes with a big work project or impending life milestone — otherwise known as stress. It’s a common feeling and one that we will all, unfortunately, suffer from at one point or another. While stress may be inevitable, the effect it has on our body doesn’t necessarily have to be. The thing is, and bear with me as we take a trip back down science class memory lane, when you’re stressed or not getting enough sleep, that can negatively impact your immune health because as it turns out, lack of sleep, stress, and the immune system are all interconnected.

“Our health is actually comprised of multiple systems working together,” says Dr. Susan Mitmesser, VP of Science and Technology at Pharmavite. “This interconnectedness means they rely on each other so when one system is out of whack, it can affect something else over here and vice versa.” She adds, “An inability to cope with stress can disrupt our sleep, and without good sleep, the body has less time to restore itself and keep our immune system robust. When that happens, you start to see this cyclical pattern where you’re not sleeping well, and therefore the body isn’t recovering.”

While stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to certain life situations, Dr. Mitmesser notes that we deal with two types of stress: acute and chronic. Acute stress is one of the least damaging types of stress. It also happens to be the most common and occurs multiple times throughout the day. It’s experienced as an immediate perceived threat, either physical, emotional, or psychological.

“We sometimes think of stress as negative. However, acute stress can be motivating,” Dr. Mitmesser says. “If you’re under stress or pressure to meet a deadline, it can motivate you to prepare better.” Some of the symptoms you may see or encounter with acute stress are a racing heart, sweating, tense muscles, and the ability to react without even thinking.

On the other hand, chronic stress is your body’s reaction to everyday occurrences such as paying bills, job responsibilities, and family responsibilities that pile up and you don’t manage them to the point where you’re releasing the stress. “The common signs of chronic stress include things such as persistent headaches, irritability, an inability to focus, and poor sleep habits. Chronic stress can, over time, lead to more serious issues,” says Dr. Mitmesser.

To ensure your body (and mind) are staying healthy, it’s important to remember the role of sleep and stress on your immunity. Because as Dr. Mitmesser says, “when one is disrupted, it can have a cascading impact on your overall wellness.” There’s a reason why so many doctors say “get some rest” when you’re ill. “Sleep is the time when our body repairs,” says Dr. Mitmesser.

Chronic short sleep can weaken your immune system and limit your ability to operate at its fullest potential. Cytokines are proteins that target infection and inflammation, and they are produced and released during sleep. Without sufficient sleep, your body makes fewer cytokines which impacts the immune system’s effectiveness. Beyond your immune system, sleep is when your body is repairing and rejuvenating itself. If you don’t have proper sleep, your body isn’t able to be at its best.

We often think of the immune system as seasonal, but just like any good operating system, the immune system is constantly running in the background,” says Dr. Mitmesser. “You want to make sure your immune system’s foundation is really robust, so it can use your body’s cells, proteins, and chemicals to promote everyday balance.”

For people looking to maintain the delicate balance of sleep, stress, and immune health, Nature Made recently launched Wellblends, its new line of scientifically curated solutions that target specific sleep, stress, and immune health needs. Dr. Mitmesser uses Back to Sleep to help illustrate what these curated solutions offer.

Wellblends

“Our Back to Sleep product is low dose melatonin, but also has L- theanine, which is an amino acid that acts on the Alpha Brainwave and relaxes your mind,” says Dr. Mitmesser. “It also has GABA, which is an amino acid naturally produced in the brain. It is the primary inhibitor of neurotransmitters, which means it suppresses a neurotransmitter from reacting and calms your mind.” She adds, “If I’m somebody that has a hard time staying asleep, this is a great product because if I wake up at 2 am the low dose melatonin will help me fall back to sleep quickly and wake up refreshed while the other ingredients help support a relaxed mental state.”

Speaking from personal experience as someone who has trouble falling and staying asleep, I’m now claiming Wellblends as my go-to source for sleep support. But while having this product line is extremely helpful for maintaining overall health and wellness, it’s also crucial to focus on your everyday lifestyle. Everyone is different so what may work for someone may not work for you, but it starts with asking yourself those introspective questions and looking at them from a holistic viewpoint.

“It’s not just about our diet or exercise,” says Dr. Mitmesser. “It’s looking at all of these things collectively because if one is out of balance, it most likely will impact another aspect of your life. If stress is your big concern, more than likely it is impacting your immune system and your ability to get quality sleep. Make sure you understand your health and your body’s interconnectedness so that it doesn’t throw the rest of your wellness cycle off.”

This article was created by SheKnows for Nature Made.

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