9 Ways to Boost Your Immunity with Sleep (especially right now)
Immune-boosting sleep is different than other forms of sleep. For example, if I wanted to optimize my sleep to increase muscle gains from the gym, I would eat more carbohydrates before bed compared to the sleep approach that we’re discussing here.
Most people realize that getting enough restorative sleep feels good. Besides feeling good, humans evolved to spend 33% of our waking life sleeping, and sleep is one of the critical activities that supports us during the day.
Here are some easy steps you can take to receive immune-boosting sleep starting today.
#1. Be informed without the stress
The number one way to boost your immunity through good sleep is to reduce stressful information inputs. Social media and mainstream media, I’m looking at you.
“If it bleeds, it leads” is a common phrase in journalism suggesting that fear and negative emotions capture peoples’ attention greater than positive news or gratitude. Right now news is targeting the amygdala (emotional center) and hijacking our emotions (namely with fear) to keep us glued to news stations. It’s not a conspiracy, it’s just crafty marketing.
The biggest problem with this trend is that fear amplifies stress hormones, which weakens immune health. Meta analysis of 300 studies spanning 30 years of research shows that psychological stress (i.e: global pandemic and how many people are going to die) reduces immune health.
Short term stress, like a heavy gym workout, can help boost immune health. Long term consistent stress, like watching news and social media feeds for weeks on end, creates immune dysfunction.
How do we remain informed without added stress in our current situation?
Ignoring the news may not be an option to make informed decisions. A better option is to be highly selective about what we watch and read and when we do it.
Personally, I follow Daniel Schmachtenberger, Jordan Hall, and Jamie Wheal for most of my information and sensemaking. Here’s a list of health experts on twitter to follow to get news straight from the source rather than media outlets, which add drama and hype.
Light plays a big role in restorative immune-boosting sleep. Getting the wrong type of light at the wrong time of day can negatively impact sleep quality.
#2. Get morning light
Looking at the blue sky in the morning triggers the beginning of the “alertness” cycle in our circadian rhythm. Our bodies operate hormonally on a light and dark schedule daily. If we are cooped up inside all day (as during a quarantine), it is easy to go without looking at the blue sky and triggering the alertness chemicals like cortisol. If these chemicals are delayed, it can delay the onset of nighttime relaxation hormones when it is time for bed.
#3. Remove nighttime blue light
Blue light during the morning and day is great for alertness, but if our light bulbs, screens remain blue into the night, our body gets confused and keeps us alert rather than relaxed.
Even if blue light at night does not prevent you from falling asleep, it may be negatively affecting the quality of your sleep especially as it relates to immune health. Blue light reduces the production of a brain chemical called melatonin, which is helpful both for relaxation and sleep, but is also a powerful antioxidant. This is a major reason we included a dose of melatonin in our DREAM nighttime relaxation formula.
There are many tools I use to remove blue light at home. Firstly, I use blue blocking glasses as soon as the sun starts to go down and it makes a noticeable difference. If you buy a pair, I suggest Primal Hacker because most glasses on Amazon acknowledge they only block 65% of blue light. The glasses I linked are much more effective than most on Amazon.
I also incorporate red light bulbs throughout my house. This allows me to go glasses free when I desire. I also limit or eliminate screen time for an hour before bed.
Finally, for those who have odd working schedules or need to be able to sleep past sunrise, I suggest these curtains to help with the light. Light coming through my blinds will stimulate me to take up early if I have been out late or just need to catch up on rest
#4 Chill Out: Sleep in cool temperatures
Light matters and so does temperature. We have all had miserable sleepless nights tossing and turning in a hot room. Don’t worry, it’s not just you. Most people benefit from cooler temperatures in bed than during the day.
I keep my room at 69 degrees when I’m sleeping and raise the thermostat during the day. If ambient temperature is too hard to control, a chilipad is a popular option. This is especially valuable for couples who find different sleeping temperatures ideal.
Supplements for Immune-Boosting Sleep
As sold out health food stores suggest, people are preparing for COVID-19 by boosting their immune system with supplements and pills. I picked up some liposomal vitamin C and liposomal glutathione for general immunity, but they don’t help with sleep specifically.
#5. Use sleep boosting supplements
Here are 6 sleep boosting supplements that can support a healthy immune system.
#1. Melatonin – this hormone is a powerful antioxidant. Most supplements sell too high of a dose, however. One study found that 0.1 – 0.5 mg was as good or better as 1 – 5 mg. A dose of 10 x less was better whereas the larger doses caused lethargy.
#2. Lemon balm – this herb is from the Mediterranean and was used by Greek and Roman people thousands of years ago. The flavor has a flowery aroma and the plant interacts with a neurotransmitter called GABA, which is associated with relaxation and sleep.
#3. Terpenes – many plants have molecules that are sedative and relaxing called terpenes. Some of them are challenging names to pronounce, such as myrcene, camphene, linalool, and terpinolene. The point is, they’re molecules from plants that can be highly effective (without many risks).
#4. Ashwagandha – traditional Indian Ayurveda used many herbs and ashwagandha was a staple for improved relaxation. Due to the thousands of years of use, there is much evidence on the efficacy and safety of this herb. It’s still best to find a trusted brand, such as KSM-66 to be safe from toxic heavy metals.
#5. Theanine – green tea has an amino acid called theanine, which supports relaxed alpha brain waves and sleep quality. Even if you go to sleep relatively quickly after getting in bed, a supplement like this amplifies the quality of the sleep.
#6. Magnesium (glycinate or threonate) – Magnesium is one of the most common deficiencies in the wealthy western world. Magnesium supplements can be calming and relaxing not to mention critical for enzymatic processes.
Our DREAM supplement uses 5 out of the 6 supplements on this list and we did that intentionally. The product was engineered to promote healthier and more restorative sleep.
#6. Try supplement cycling
One cycling option would be to use DREAM 2 or 3 times per week and balance it with lemon balm or some of the other options in isolation. This is a process called “cycling” supplements.
Our body is constantly seeking balance. If we take the same supplement each day we may get some benefits. But over time our body reacts differently to the substance. For example, most people experience needing more caffeine over time because the body builds tolerance. The same is true for many sleep supplements.
Cycling supplements can also be helpful for your pocketbook!
Tools of the Trade
Investing in restorative sleep benefits your immune system, but it also improves cognitive performance, daytime concentration, and memory retention. Here are some other tools you can use to maximize your sleep.
#7. White noise machine
If sirens are blaring and people are yelling around your bedroom, it’s going to be hard to sleep. Even slight noises can be disruptive. A simple white noise machine is a low $45 investment to have better sleep.
#8. Mindfulness (or Heart Math)
Any kind of mindfulness practice before bed is going to be valuable. This could be meditation of some sort, it could be focusing on your breath, or for those who geek out on biofeedback (like me), HeartMath is a great option. At $150, it tracks my heart rate variability (HRV) and mind-body coherence. It also provides feedback on how my practice is going.
#9. Oura Ring
The final tool I suggest is the Oura ring because it can provide valuable insights into how we are sleeping and what changes might need to be made. The current technology is not perfect, but it does provide valuable insights to compare against.
When we formulated DREAM with the help of pharmacists and medical doctors, we made sure to test the efficacy of the product on volunteers who had Oura rings so that we could create real, quantifiable data as a result.