Lack of Sleep Depresses the Immune System

It is the “cold and flu season”, the time of runny noses, coughs, sneezing and fevers. It is heart breaking to see our little ones so miserable.

As parents, our goal is to keep everyone healthy. It is important to follow the normal advice of  “good hand washing” and don’t forget to wash all the toys and items which make their way into your child’s mouth.

Getting enough sleep is vital in prevention of illness for your child and for yourself. Research shows that even a small amount of sleep deprivation depresses the immune system.

This means less ability to fight off the cold and flu germs when you and your child are exposed to them.

Desmond miserable

According to Diwakar Balachandran, MD, director of the Sleep Center at the University of TexasM.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, “A lot of studies show that sleep deprivation suppresses immune system function. The more all-nighters you pull, the more likely you are to decrease your body’s ability to respond to colds or bacterial infections.”

Sleep loss, which we experience as new parents, effects whether we come down with a cold or the flu. When we are exhausted, it is much easier to get sick.  In your role of being a parent, it is difficult to take time off to be ill because your child needs you to care for them. It becomes extremely important to keep yourself healthy and to keep your child healthy.

Sleep also makes a difference in how we recover from illness. “One of the things that happens when we sleep is that we can get a better fever response.” Balachandran says, “This is why fevers tend to rise at night. But if we are not sleeping, our fever reaction is not primed, so we may not be waging war on infection as best we can.

How much sleep do you need to stay healthy?

  • Adults need 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
  • Teenagers need 9-10 hours of sleep per night.
  • School-aged children need 10 or more hours of sleep per night.
  • 2-5 year olds need 10-13 hours of sleep
  • 0-2 year olds need 14-16 or 18 hours of sleep

Tips to Get Adequate Sleep:

1. Good sleep environment
The sleep environment should be dark and relaxing which is conducive to sleep. The room temperature should be 68-72 degrees.

2. Regular nap times for your child
Naps should be in sync with your child’s body. Your child’s body will have cycles of sleepiness and cycles of wakefulness. The naps should be at the time the child’s body desires sleep.

3. Consistent Bedtime Routine
Doing the same thing at the same time each day helps the body know it is time to sleep.

4. Teach your child the ability to get themselves to sleep
When your child awakens slightly during the night, they will be able to get themselves back into a deeper sleep.

5. Make sleep a priority
Provide the time and place for naps and a regular bed-time.

6. Get help from a “Sleep Consultant” to improve your sleep.   Teaching your child to sleep, overcoming ineffective sleep habits, and developing sound sleep patterns are not something that can be discovered by reading a web site. There are a lot of methods on the internet. What will work?  You may need someone to tailor a sleep plan for your family according to your needs.

If your child is sleeping well, you can too!

Contact me for help:

Arlene Fryling

Arlene is a registered nurse and certified sleep consultant for children 0-5 years. She has cared for premature, sick, and many healthy babies. For over 15 years she has taught expectant parents how to care for their newborns through classes teaching basic baby care, infant massage classes, and moderating support groups for new moms as they deal with parenting issues.

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