It has long been said that a good night’s sleep can make you feel better, and researchers have finally found it to be true.
They say sleep gives our immune systems a major boost, particularly if we are fighting off an infection.
Experiments in flies found that in the case of major infection, sleep can even save lives.
Researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania found that in sleep enhances immune system response and recovery to infection.
‘It’s an intuitive response to want to sleep when you get sick,’ said Julie Williams, who led the study.
‘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.’
‘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.
‘We used a fruitfly model to answer these questions.’
Along with post-doctoral fellow, Tzu-Hsing Kuo, PhD, Williams conducted two related studies to directly examine the effects of sleep on recovery from and survival after an infection.
Their findings appear online in two related papers in the journal Sleep, in advance of print editions in May and June.
In the first paper, they took a conventional approach by subjecting fruit flies to sleep deprivation before infecting them with either Serratia marcescens or Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria.
The pre-infection, sleep-deprived flies had a better survival rate.
‘To our surprise they actually survived longer after the infection than the ones who were not sleep-deprived,’ said Williams.
In the second study, flies with more sleep also showed faster and more efficient rates of clearing the bacteria from their bodies.
‘Again, increased sleep somehow helps to facilitate the immune response by increasing resistance to infection and survival after infection,’ said Williams.