Sleep Loss, the Reproductive and Immune Systems
As we have been looking at how sleep loss adversely affects your health, I wanted to discuss two final systems, reproductive and immune, that are compromised by lack of sleep.
The Reproductive System
First the male species. Men who sleep too little have a 29 percent lower sperm count and the sperm themselves has more deformities. Also, low testosterone causes greater tiredness, more fatigue, less mental focus, and a dulled libido. Low testosterone is sometimes a common finding among males middle age and above. Add the reduced effects of low testosterone with lack of sleep and you have a progressive decreased ability to maintain normal everyday function. Walker often ends his response to audiences noting that under slept men also have significantly smaller testicles.
Secondly the female species. Women who slept less than six hours a night had up top a 20 percent drop in follicular-releasing hormone – a vital hormone that peaks just prior to ovulation. One study of more than 100,000 employed women who worked irregular nighttime hours had a 33 percent higher rate of abnormal menstrual cycles. And 80 percent were more likely to suffer from issues of sub-fertility. Women who do become pregnant and routinely sleep less than 8 hours a night are significantly more likely to suffer a miscarriage in the first trimester.
Combine these two scenarios of little sleep and you can ‘appreciate why the epidemic of sleep deprivation is linked to infertility or sub-fertility.
The Immune System
Sleep fights against sickness by beefing up your immune system which provides protection from nasty bugs. And when and if you do fall ill, the immune system stimulates the sleep system to put you to bed so your body has reinforcements to fight. Even a single night of less sleep,will decrease this suit of immune armor. One study revealed the less sleep one got in the week prior to exposure to a cold virus, the more likely they would be infected.
And here is the icing on the cake for those flu shot groupies! Individuals who had 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night in the week prior to a flu shot generated a powerful antibody reaction reflecting a healthy immune system. Those that did not get that length of sleep had a 50 % immune reaction leaving you more susceptible to getting the flu when it comes around. They noted the same for hepatitis A and B vaccines.
Our bodies have immune fighter cells aptly named natural killer cells. These identify foreign elements and eliminate them. Cancer is one of those foreign elements that the killer cells target and destroy. A scientist at UCLA found the a ‘single night of four hours of sleep swept away 70 percent of the natural killer cells circulating in the immune system’. Again night shift workers have increased odds of developing many forms of cancer. A large European study found a 40 percent increased risk of cancers with sleeping less than 7 hours a night. The evidence linking sleep disruption and cancer is so damning the World Health Organization has officially classified nighttime shift work as a ‘probable carcinogen’.
There ya have it! Sleep vital to health in so many ways. If you are asking what can we do about getting more sleep. Stay tuned and I’ll give you the recommended ideas for improving your sleep time and cycles.