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With COVID-19 cases on the rise again and the commencement of flu season in the Northern Hemisphere, what can we do to increase the likelihood of staying healthy? Scientists and medical professionals have long known that sleep benefits the immune system and reduces the likelihood one will get sick. In May of this year, Psychology Today reported, “A large body of research shows that when sleep is experimentally shortened by having volunteers restrict their sleep duration, the presence of inflammatory markers in their blood rises and numbers of T helper cells that secrete cytokines and natural killer cells decrease.” This means that if we do not get sufficient sleep, our immune system gets weaker and we cannot effectively fight off infection. The negative effect of sleep deprivation on the immune system has been observed with just one night of insufficient sleep. In one study, people who slept seven hours or less were three times more likely to contract a virus that causes colds than those who had eight or more hours of sleep. Some critics blame poor immune function on genetics alone. However, even in twin studies (in which two people who have the exact same genetics) where one twin is sleep-deprived and the other is not, sleep deprivation results in weaker immune systems.
In order to stay healthy and lower the risk of contracting Covid-19 or other infections, we must work to maintain a regular sleep cycle and get adequate amounts of rest. One of the ways to sleep well is to make sure we work hard and include physical activity throughout the day where we can. The Bible notes, “The sleep of a laboring man is sweet” (Ecclesiastes 5:12). Mental and physical labor give us a feeling of fulfillment, and they also tire us in a healthy way and improve our sleep. God also assures us that “He gives His beloved sleep” (Psalm 127:2). To learn more about the benefits of sleep and how to improve yours, read “He Gives His Beloved Sleep.”