Sleep is essential and not getting enough of it can drastically impact on your health. As well as keeping our brains healthy, sleep also helps us to remember. Studies have shown that sleep transforms our short term memories into long term ones.
But what if we have another type of memory, can it also benefit from sleep? That’s the question posed in an opinion piece in Trends in Neuroscience where scientists investigated if getting some shut-eye helps your immune system to remember pathogens that it may have come into contact with.
Whenever the body encounters a bacterium or virus battle commences. Once the immune system has defeated the invader it creates special immune cells called T cells from fragments of the recently deceased bug. These T cells act like memory for the immune system. They help it to sniff out bugs similar to the fragments of defeated bugs that they store. So memory T cells are good things to have swimming around inside of you because they allow your body to quickly identify and attack the bad disease causing bugs while leaving the good guys alone.
“While it has been known for a long time that sleep supports long-term memory formation in the psychological domain, the idea that long-term memory formation is a function of sleep effective in all organismic systems is in our view entirely new,” senior author Jan Born of the University of Tuebingen
So, guess when T cells are created. Yep, during deep sleep!
Studies have shown that after vaccination, when dead or weakened pathogens are introduced into the body, T cells are created after a good night’s sleep. The important thing here is the number of T cells. Each T cell has a fragment of the pathogen. If your body does not create enough T cells with the right types of fragments they may not recognise a similar infection. Each fragment provides a clue as to what the next infection may look like. Pathogens mutate often so you want to have as many fragments encased in T cells as you can.
“If we didn’t sleep, then the immune system might focus on the wrong parts of the pathogen,” Jan Born
So, if you seem to be constantly catching a cold or flu, make sure you’re getting enough rest. There is more than one type of memory in your body but luckily sleep can help strengthen both!
So what exactly is deep sleep? Also known as slow-wave sleep, it’s the third and fourth stage of sleep. It’s the restorative dreamless sleep that causes us to be groggy and likely to drool if we’re woken up out of it! During normal sleep we drift in and out of light dream sleep and deep slow wave sleep several times.
So are you getting enough sleep or are you fighting fit? Let me know in the comments!
- EurekAlert! – Sleep may strengthen long-term memories in the immune system