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The Healing Power of Sleep 

J. Roxanne Prichard, PhD

Mihad Semir 9/20/2021

We have all been tired to the point of forfeit before—fatigue, distress, brain fog, and even body aches come with that level of exhaustion.  Sleep relieves that mental exhaustion, but  it also helps heal our bodies physically. Sleep is crucial in regenerating our body tissues and eliminating toxins and other bodily threats like viruses. Here, we will describe how sleep helps us heal our bodies both on a day-to-day basis and when we are sick.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

Super Hero Kids

Sleep is essential for healing, especially when we are sick. Sleep allows us to strengthen our immune system to fight off illness. If we go without enough sleep, we are at greater risk for short-term illnesses, such as the common cold and more prone to infection. It is a survival tactic our body has developed to keep us alive, safe, and healthy.

According to the CDC, there are different amounts of sleep that we need  every 24 hours (including naps), depending on our age:

  • Newborns (0-3 months) 14-17 hours  

  • Infants (4-12 months) 12-16 hours

  • Toddlers (1-2) 11-14 hours

  • Preschoolers (3-5 years) 10-14 hours

  • Kids between the ages of 6-12, 9-12 hours

  • Teens (13-18) 8-10 hours

  • 18-60 7-9 hours per night.

When we are deprived of sleep, we increase our chances of developing heart disease and other chronic health problems. When we don’t get enough sleep, we are putting our immune health at risk and weakening our innate and adaptive immunity. Sleep is directly related to how well our immune systems work. When we lack sleep our body will not be able to recover, repair, or fight off infections as well if we were getting more sleep. This may leave us sicker for longer.

Sleep also impacts the way our bodies respond to vaccines. When we get vaccinated, getting more sleep is important for the vaccine to work effectively to attack and protect from antigens. Lastly, sleep impacts our allergies and how often one may have allergy attacks. When deprived of sleep, our circadian rhythm is also disrupted, which leads to our bodies having “false alarms” from what it assumes to be our allergies being present in our bodies.   

The best thing to do to prepare for sleep is to make sure you create space that is established for sleep. Make sure you turn off all your lights, do not use blue lights (electronics, tv, etc.) before bed, and create a comfy environment that allows you sleep in peace. Doing this will help ensure better sleep and can create better sleep habits.

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Mihad bio.heic

J. Roxanne Prichard, PhD (University of Wisconsin-Madison, Neuroscience, 2004) is a Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of St. Thomas. An award-winning researcher, speaker, and author, Dr. Prichard has spent the last thirteen years studying how college students sleep. She has designed popular courses on sleep and dreaming, led workshops for college health professionals on sleep, has published multiple peer-reviewed articles on sleep, and has presented numerous papers at national and international professional meetings. Her TEDx talk “Addressing our Children’s Sleep Debt” was featured in the lecture series: Transforming Education. Her research has been summarized in a variety of national media outlets including TIME, US News and World Report, PBS News Hour, Huffington Post, ABC News, and USA Today, among others.

Mihad Semir graduated with her Bachelor of Science from the University of St. Thomas. She majored in Neuroscience and double-minored in Public Health and Psychology. Mihad is interested in the neuroscience of sleep and the social epidemiology of sleep. Mihad works as an intern for My Very Own Bed and hopes to continue her education with a focus on health equity.