Lack of sleep and disrupted body clock damages immunity

A study has found that not getting enough sleep can reduce your immune system and make you more susceptible for infections

While many business executives will relish the opportunities a jet set lifestyle will bring, they will be able to relate to the lethargic feeling jet lag and a lack of sleep can bring.

And it has now been confirmed that not getting enough sleep at night and having a disrupted body clock can weaken the immune system.

Researchers from the School of Medicine at Yale University in the US believe that this makes people more susceptible in infections and illnesses and also makes them harder to fight off.

There are now thoughts the findings could lead to future drug developments which take into account the effects the body clock has on the immune system.

During their study, the team discovered the toll-like receptor nine (TLR9) protein is in control of the strength of the body’s immune system.

This is controlled by the body’s 24-hour clock, known as the circadian cycle, which is affected when the body has been deprived of sleep.

A study on mice revealed that when the TLR9 protein is at its most active, the animals were able to fight off infections and responded better to vaccinations.

TLR9 activity varies throughout the day in conjunction with the circadian cycle and according to the researchers the best time to give a patient a vaccine is when TLR9 it at its peak.

Explaining the inspiration behind the study, Dr Erol Fikrig, the author of the research, said: “People intuitively know that when their sleep patterns are disturbed, they are more likely to get sick.

“It is becoming increasingly evident that disruption of daily rhythms, such as from sleep deprivation, affects the immune response.

“In our study, we were interested in investigating whether the ability of the immune system to detect a pathogen is under circadian control and whether there are timing-associated consequences for the subsequent immune response.”

While commenting on the findings he added: “It does appear that a disruption of the circadian clock influences our susceptibility to pathogens (infections).

“Sleep patterns of patients in intensive care are often disrupted because of the noise and prolonged exposure to artificial light.

“It will be important to investigate how these factors influence immune system response.”

The findings have now been published in the journal Immunity.

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