Your Immune System’s Long-Term Memories May Be Strengthened By Sleep
Written by: Kirsten Cowart
Over 100 years ago, scientists figured out that sleep helps your mind retain memories. Later research has shown that slow-wave sleep or deep sleep is important to help stabilize fragile new memories into long-term memories.
In an Opinion article recently published in Trends in Neurosciences, researchers suggested that deep sleep may help to strengthen your immunological memories from previously encountered pathogens.
In other words, sleep helps your body’s defensive system remember the illnesses and diseases it has fought, making future battles easier.
Your Body Forms Long-Term Memories Too
“While it has been known for a long time that sleep supports long-term memory formation in the psychological domain, the idea that long-term memory formation is a function of sleep effective in all organismic systems is, in our view, entirely new,” says senior author from the University of Tuebingen Jan Born.
“We consider our approach toward a unifying concept of biological long-term memory formation, in which sleep plays a critical role, a new development in sleep research and memory research.”
How Your Immune System Works
Whenever your body encounters a bacteria or virus, it stores fragments of that illness in what is known as memory T cells. These T cells become specialized experts on that type of illness and if it comes into your body again, the T cell will give your immune system the valuable intel it needs to fight off the disease.
Oftentimes, the second time the same strain of bacteria or virus attacks, you won’t even get sick, because your body knows what it is doing this time. The T cell memory can last for months or years, depending on your body’s needs and the health of the T cell.
Another awesome thing the T cells can do is recognize illnesses that are similar to previous encounters, which speeds up your body’s ability to respond and remove the harmful bacteria or viruses.
Sleep Helps Your T Cells Remember Illnesses For Longer
Recently, these studies have shown that having deep sleep, especially right after encountering an illness, will help your T cells develop a long-term memory for the pathogen. This long-term memory will help your body stay immune to the bad bacteria and virus for much longer.
Lack Of Sleep Can Make It Harder For Your Body To Fight Off Future Illnesses
“If we didn’t sleep, then the immune system might focus on the wrong parts of the pathogen,“ Researcher Born says. “For example, many viruses can easily mutate some parts of their proteins to escape from immune responses. If too few antigen-recognizing cells [the cells that present the fragments to T cells] are available, then they might all be needed to fight off the pathogen.
“In addition to this, there is evidence that the hormones released during sleep benefit the crosstalk between antigen-presenting and antigen-recognizing cells and some of these important hormones could be lacking without sleep.“
Next time you are feeling ill, make sure that you get plenty of rest so that your body can overcome the illness and remember how to fight it off in the future. Sleep is a huge part of healing and it is important that you give your body the time it needs to be its best.
What do you do to ensure that you get enough deep sleep? Let us know about your experiences in the comments below.
Source- Cell Press. “Sleep may strengthen long-term memories in the immune system.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 September 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/09/150929142022.htm>.
Kirsten Cowart is a writer and researcher that has worked in the spiritual, mental health and medical fields.Kirsten enjoys studying and experiencing the benefits of yoga, meditation, nutrition, herbalism, organic gardening and alternative health.She worked hard in 2014 losing over 40 lbs. and has since maintained a healthy lifestyle.Follow her to learn more about her journey on Twitter, Facebook & Youtube!
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