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Covid–19: Why sleep could be a lifesaver

A lack of sleep leaves us stressed, tired and likely to overeat – but it also leaves us open to infection. The immune system is particularly boosted during ‘slow wave sleep’, the first third of the night when we sleep deeply. Research found that the people who slept less than six hours a night were four times more likely to develop cold symptoms than the ones who slept for seven hours or more.

“During sleep our immune systems produces and distributes cytokines [a type of protein], and in particular T cells [a type of white blood cell which is crucially important to the immune system]. T cells identify and attach themselves to any infected cells in the body and destroy them – and the infection, too,” says sleep expert Jason Ellis, director of the Northumbria Centre for Sleep Research.

“If you sleep well, you’re not only producing more cytokines but also the T cells become even stickier and more effective at fighting infection.”

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