6 things this immunologist does every night to sleep better and boost her immune system
More than two years after the emergence of a pandemic, we are still dealing with outbreaks of Covid-19 – and that means building and maintaining a strong immune system should be a top priority.
As an immunologist and functional medicine physician, I always remind my patients that while genetics, diet, and exercise all play a role in our immune response, sleep is one of the most effective ways to prepare your body to fight infections.
Exercising is not enough to get quality sleep. I see patients who go to the gym every day who have made sacrifices like eliminating alcohol or sugar, but still can’t sleep well.
This, unfortunately, affects our health in many ways. Sleep deprivation not only makes us tired the next day, it also creates inflammation and increases our risk of disease. He was related to increased rates of hypertension, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, depression and cancer.
The good news is that as soon as you start prioritizing sleep, your the immune system can rebound quickly.
Here are six things I do every night to ensure a good night’s rest:
1. Reduce digital devices
You might be shocked at how much time you spend surfing the web, watching TV, and mindlessly scrolling on your phone. Once you’ve become honest about what you do with your time, think about how you can cut back on those non-essential activities and reallocate time to sleep instead.
I also suggest putting your phone and computer in a drawer at the same time every night. Human behavior experts have found that succeeding in making healthy lifestyle choices depends less on innate willpower than on creating a lifestyle that facilitates those decisions.
2. Create an optimal sleeping environment
Your bedroom should be your sleep sanctuary. You don’t need expensive sheets, a weighted blanket or a cooling pillow. A comfortable mattress, high-quality pillow and soft bedding will do just fine.
If you have any indicator lights on electronics in your bedroom, cover them with black electrical tape. If you have bright streetlights outside your window, use blackout curtains. If you hear traffic noise, use a white noise machine to drown it out.
Finally, make sure your bedroom is nice and cool (the optimal temperature for sleeping is about 65 degrees Fahrenheit or 18.3 degrees Celsius).
3. Calm the mind before bedtime
Insomnia is often caused by ruminating on things that didn’t happen or might never happen.
One way to calm your mind and body is to journal before bed. Dealing with your concerns by writing them down Was found to help clear your mind of stressful thoughts so they don’t keep you up at night.
Breathing exercises can also help. If I’m in an anxious or worried state, or just a little amplified, I use the 4-5-7 breathing technique:
- Sitting calmly, place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth near the back of your upper front teeth and exhale with a “whoosh” sound.
- Inhale through your nose for a silent count of four seconds, hold your breath for a count of seven, and exhale through your nose for a count of eight.
- Repeat this cycle three more times, for a total of four rounds.
4. Experiment with magnesium
Magnesium is often referred to as a “relaxation” mineral, thanks to its demonstrated ability to combat insomnia.
You can always take a magnesium supplement, but one of my favorite ways to use it for sleep is to take a hot Epsom salt bath. Magnesium sulfate is the main component of Epsom salt, and by penetrating your skin and muscles, it can have a relaxing effect.
Even just soaking in a hot bath helps you fall asleep faster.
5. Wear blue light blocking glasses
Blue light impairs your body’s ability to prepare for sleep because it blocks a hormone called melatonin that makes you sleepy.
And given the excessive amounts of blue light in our homes (i.e. smartphones, tablets, computers), blue light blocking glasses are essential for me. wear these glasses was shown to significantly improve the quality of sleep and reduce insomnia.
the best glasses typically have yellow or orange lenses and block higher percentages, some up to 90%, of blue spectrum light. My favorites are Swanswick glasses, but there are also several good manufacturers and prescription options.
6. Do easy stretches
Implement stretching or restorative yoga before bedtime can help with pain, high blood pressure, restless leg syndrome and anxiety. A few poses are enough engage your parasympathetic nervous system and helps you sleep better.
I love doing leg up poses. And the best part is that you really only need about five minutes to make a big difference.
Dr. Heather Moday is a board-certified allergist, immunologist and functional medicine physician. She is also the author of “The Immunotype Breakthrough: Your Personalized Plan to Balance Your Immune System, Optimize Your Health, and Build Your Lifelong Resilience.” Follow her on Instagram @theimmunityMD and Facebook.