Research shows sleep can boost immune system and fight infection



PENNSYLVANIA, United States, Wednesday April 30, 2014 – Since early childhood, most of us have been urged to rest in order to speed up recovery and ward off complications from a variety of ailments. Now researchers have finally come up with proof that one of the best ways to combat infections is to sleep them off.

The scientists say that sleep gives our immune systems a major boost, especially if we are battling an infection.

In the case of major infection, sleep can even save lives, according to the results of experiments with fruit flies.

Scientists from the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine found that in fruit flies sleep enhances immune system response and recovery from infection.

“Many studies have used sleep deprivation as a means to understand how sleep contributes to recovery, if it does at all, but there is surprisingly little experimental evidence that supports the notion that more sleep helps us to recover,” said Julie Williams, who led the study.

“We used a fruit fly model to answer these questions.”

Along with post-doctoral fellow, Dr Tzu-Hsing Kuo, Williams conducted two related studies to directly examine the effects of sleep on recovery from and survival after an infection.

The team’s findings appear online in two related papers in the journal Sleep, ahead of print editions in May and June.

“It’s an intuitive response to want to sleep when you get sick,” Williams said. “These studies provide new evidence of the direct and functional effects of sleep on immune response and of the underlying mechanisms at work.

“The take-home message from these papers is that when you get sick, you should sleep as much as you can – we now have the data that supports this idea.”

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