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Sleep to Strengthen Your Immune System

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, 1 in 3 adults are not getting the nightly recommended 7-9 hours of sleep[1]. Sleep is essential, and just a few hours of sleep deprivation has been associated with heart disease, hypertension, diabetes[2], obesity[3], depression[4] and overall mortality[5][6].

Sleep & Its Effects on Immunity

In addition to the above effects, sleep deficit has been shown to reduce our immune response and increase our susceptibility to infection[7]. Participants who were sleep deprived showed a significantly reduced immune response to flu vaccinations compared to those with adequate sleep in a 2002 study[8]. In addition to this, a 2009 study showed that shorter duration and reduced sleep efficiency were associated with increased susceptibility to the common cold (rhinovirus)[9].

Insufficient sleep has repeatedly been shown to be detrimental to our immunity. A lack of sleep seems to alter gene expression[10], increase stress hormones and inflammatory mediators as well as interfere with our T cells’ (immune cells that search out and destroy infection) ability to bind and destroy infectious material[11].

Sleep is inherently restorative and while it is common knowledge that lack of sleep can impact the efficacy of our natural defenses, recent studies are showing that a bi-directional relationship exists where infection can also alter our sleep[12].

Based on the existing research, it is highly recommended that 7-9 hours of quality sleep is achieved on a regular basis for optimal immune function. While sick you may naturally feel more fatigued, please honor the need for rest as your body works to defend and restore itself.

Seven Keys to Support Your Sleep

  • Set a strict bed time

  • Keep the bedroom dark, cool & quiet

  • Restrict the bed to sleep and sex

  • Leave all electronic screens outside the bedroom

  • Avoid screen activity one hour before bed, reserve this time for winding down (bath, reading, meditation, journaling, gratitude)

  • No caffeine after lunch

  • Use a blue light filter on screens after the sun sets (consider an app like “Twilight”)

3 Herbs and Nutrients to Support Your Sleep


  • Magnesium supports the calming brain chemical GABA to maintain a deeper sleep, a deficiency of magnesium often leads to a light or restless sleep while supplementation supports healthy sleep.[13]

Lemon balm

  • This delicious, gentle herb helps to act as a mild sedative to calm anxiety and improve insomnia. In study seems to be help for sleep disorders associated with menopause[14].


  • This beautiful flower has been shown to have similar effects to benzodiazepines and impact GABA receptors to elicit a relaxing, sedative effect[15]. A study looking at the effects of passionflower as a tea showed improved sleep in healthy adults[16].



[1] Canada, P. (2020). Are Canadian adults getting enough sleep? Infographic - Retrieved 11 April 2020, from

[2] Nagai, M., Hoshide, S., & Kario, K. (2010). Sleep duration as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease- a review of the recent literature. Current cardiology reviews, 6(1), 54–61.

[3] Beccuti, G., & Pannain, S. (2011). Sleep and obesity. Current opinion in clinical nutrition and metabolic care, 14(4), 402–412.

[4] Luca, A., Luca, M., & Calandra, C. (2013). Sleep disorders and depression: brief review of the literature, case report, and nonpharmacologic interventions for depression. Clinical interventions in aging, 8, 1033–1039.

[5] Cappuccio, F. P., D'Elia, L., Strazzullo, P., & Miller, M. A. (2010). Sleep duration and all-cause mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. Sleep, 33(5), 585–592.

[6] Relationship of Sleep Duration With All‐Cause Mortality and Cardiovascular Events: A Systematic Review and Dose‐Response Meta‐Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies | Journal of the American Heart Association. (2020). Retrieved 11 April 2020, from

[7] Nieters, A., Blagitko-Dorfs, N., Peter, H.-H. and Weber, S. (2019). Psychophysiological insomnia and respiratory tract infections: results of an infection-diary-based cohort study. Sleep, [online] 42(8). Available at: [Accessed 12 Apr. 2020].

[8] Spiegel K, Sheridan JF, Van Cauter E. Effect of Sleep Deprivation on Response to Immunizaton. JAMA. 2002;288(12):1471–1472. doi:10.1001/jama.288.12.1469

[9] Cohen, S., Doyle, W. J., Alper, C. M., Janicki-Deverts, D., & Turner, R. B. (2009). Sleep habits and susceptibility to the common cold. Archives of internal medicine, 169(1), 62–67.

[10] Watson, N., Buchwald, D., Delrow, J., Altemeier, W., Vitiello, M., Pack, A., Bamshad, M., Noonan, C. and Gharib, S. (2017). Transcriptional Signatures of Sleep Duration Discordance in Monozygotic Twins. Sleep, [online] 40(1). Available at: [Accessed 6 Dec. 2019].‌

[11] Dimitrov, S., Lange, T., Gouttefangeas, C., Jensen, A., Szczepanski, M., Lehnnolz, J., Soekadar, S., Rammensee, H. G., Born, J., & Besedovsky, L. (2019). Gαs-coupled receptor signaling and sleep regulate integrin activation of human antigen-specific T cells. The Journal of experimental medicine, 216(3), 517–526.

[12] Besedovsky, L., Lange, T., & Haack, M. (2019). The Sleep-Immune Crosstalk in Health and Disease. Physiological reviews, 99(3), 1325–1380.

[13] Abbasi, B., Kimiagar, M., Sadeghniiat, K., Shirazi, M. M., Hedayati, M., & Rashidkhani, B. (2012). The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Journal of research in medical sciences : the official journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, 17(12), 1161–1169.

[14] Taavoni, S., Nazem ekbatani, N., & Haghani, H. (2013). Valerian/lemon balm use for sleep disorders during menopause. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 19(4), 193–196.

[15] Elsas, S. M., Rossi, D. J., Raber, J., White, G., Seeley, C. A., Gregory, W. L., Mohr, C., Pfankuch, T., & Soumyanath, A. (2010). Passiflora incarnata L. (Passionflower) extracts elicit GABA currents in hippocampal neurons in vitro, and show anxiogenic and anticonvulsant effects in vivo, varying with extraction method. Phytomedicine : international journal of phytotherapy and phytopharmacology, 17(12), 940–949.

[16] Ngan, A., & Conduit, R. (2011). A double-blind, placebo-controlled investigation of the effects of Passiflora incarnata (passionflower) herbal tea on subjective sleep quality. Phytotherapy Research : PTR, 25(8), 1153–1159.

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