Helping your immune system function at its peak and getting enough sleep are two of the most important things you can do for your overall health and well-being. You’ll be better able to fight off common colds and viruses. And with enough rest, you’ll also be less prone to moodiness and depression, and you will feel energized throughout your day instead of exhausted.
The potential benefits of maximizing your sleep and immunity are worth putting in the effort by incorporating some of these tips. Here’s what you can do to give yourself an edge when it comes to your health.
Eat More Plant-Based Foods
Plant foods, including nuts, seeds, fruit, vegetables, and herbs, support our immune systems. They are full of healthy nutrients like antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and phytochemicals. Plus, they can help you reduce inflammation, which may make you more comfortable, leading to less aches and pains at bedtime. That might make it easier for you to fall asleep at night.
Shoot for at least eight to nine servings of vegetables and fruits, and try to include various colors of produce.
Spend More Time In Nature
Heading outdoors to spend some time at the beach, a lake, or in the woods doesn’t just relax you -- it can also help improve your immune system. Researchers aren’t quite sure why, but time spent in nature appears to protect against cancer, diabetes, ADHD, depression, and other diseases and conditions.
Being outside can help you sleep better, too, because the natural light helps your body regulate its sleep cycles.
Get Vitamin D
Experts usually advise people to get their vitamins through food rather than supplements whenever possible. Vitamin D might be an exception to the rule though. The best way to get vitamin D is through sunshine. Being exposed to sunlight helps your body produce it.
Vitamin D is crucial for optimal immune system function, but in the winter months, many of us don’t get enough sunlight and can be low on vitamin D. Try to get some vitamin D in your diet by eating salmon, egg yolks, and milk. It might not be a bad idea to take a Vitamin D supplement in the winter, too, but check with your doctor first.
Physical activity increases the T cells in your body. T cells are a kind of white blood cell that is crucial for a strong immune system. Plus, exercise can help you lower your stress hormones, which is also good for your immune system.
Shoot for a minimum of two and one-half hours of moderate aerobic exercise each week.
Getting enough quality, restorative sleep is a key element of having a healthy immune system. You need to make sleep a priority.
At bedtime, you’ll fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly if you’re comfortable. Make the most of your time in bed by wearing pajamas that feel soft and cuddly against your skin, using cooling bedding like eucalyptus sheets, and turning down your thermostat a little. Most people sleep better in cooler rooms than they do in hotter bedrooms.
You might also benefit from white noise from a fan and from blocking out light with an eye mask.
Remember those T cells we talked about earlier? Meditation also helps to increase the number of these cells in your body, which is great news for your ability to keep your immune system functioning properly.
But meditation can also improve immunity because it appears to boost antibody response. Antibodies help fight off organisms and diseases in the body. It can also zap stress and anxiety, which can help you sleep better at night.
Cut Your Sugar Consumption
Sugar may be sweet and tasty, but it is bad for your immune system. Having sugar can suppress your immune system for hours, and if you consume sugar multiple times a day, you can be harming your immune system constantly.
Try making small changes to your eating habits by reducing your sugar intake. Instead of reaching for a soda, grab a seltzer. Instead of snacking on cookies or cake, have a banana or a small piece of dark chocolate. Try to make smarter choices so you aren’t constantly taxing your system.
Probiotics, like those found in yogurt, can help your immune system stay on track. They stimulate your T and B immune cells, the ones that help prevent and combat infection.
They may help you sleep better by fighting inflammation, diarrhea, and other little ailments that could keep you up at night, too.
Cut Out the Stress
Stress is a known problem for immune systems. It can lead to issues like heart troubles, depression, anxiety, and diabetes. Plus, high stress loads can make us more apt to catch colds and minor illnesses.
While we can’t avoid all types of stress, we need to be vigilant against constant sources of it. If you’re frequently stressed out, you should do a lifestyle evaluation and see what you can change to produce a more stress-free life.
In the meantime, while you’re deciding if major life changes are in order, you can do things to help reduce your stress, like exercising, getting enough sleep, and meditating.
Work Up a Sweat
If you’ve ever spent time in a sauna, you know how relaxing they can be. You’ll notice the stress melting away after a few minutes of that steamy heat. They may help you sleep better at night just because of that.
Saunas also are believed to mimic the effects of a workout -- that doesn’t mean you can skip the real thing, however. Saunas can also benefit your heart function, raise your healthy blood cell counts, and decrease your risk of stroke.
If you’re not a fan of the heat, you can check into using an infrared sauna, which uses light to warm your body.
Make Yourself a Priority
Every day, you’re probably putting yourself last. Your needs likely get ignored while you’re trying to earn a living and make sure your friends and family are happy and healthy. But it’s time to put yourself first to ensure you’re getting enough sleep and giving your immune system the fuel it needs to function well.
If you implement several of these items on this list, you’ll be much better off in the short-term and the long run.