The Foundations of Immune Health: Part 1 – Sleep

In Naturopathic Medicine, prevention is one of the founding principles that we follow. One of the ways we can ensure the prevention of illness is by ensuring that our immune system is healthy. Having a strong immune system means that we are able to defend against illnesses so that we either do not get sick or have a very short illness period.  To build a strong immune system we must look at its foundational building blocks. These include…

      • A good night’s sleep
      • Stress management
      • A healthy diet
      • Exercise and time outdoors
      • Appropriate supplementation

With the start of school and the current pandemic, these foundations are now more important than ever. For the next couple of weeks, we will be sharing tips about how to best implement the foundational building blocks and some of the best ways to support your immune system.

This week we will be discussing sleep and the impact it has on immune health.

Sleep and the Immune System


When we get sick, we often also get tired. This is the body’s natural way of telling you that it needs sleep to help you get better. Sleep plays a major role in regulating the immune system. When we sleep our bodies produce and release proteins called cytokines. Cytokines are used to help the body effectively fend off any infection or illness coming our way. Sleep is also key in establishing immunological memory. It allows the body to store information about a current infection or illness so that the next time it is exposed to it, the immune system can quickly and effectively fend it off.

Sleep deprivation can leave a person susceptible to many different illnesses. While many supplements can be prescribed to help with sleep, we must first address how lifestyle plays a part in sleep. One of the best ways to get a good night’s sleep is by establishing a regular routine. This means getting up at the same time every day, creating a relaxing bedtime routine and going to bed at the same time every night. You can read more about the different sleep hygiene tips we have here and here.

If you struggle with sleep and are looking for support, book an appointment so that we can help support you and prevent illnesses.

Sleep Hygiene: What you can do to help you sleep

What your body does during the day is just as important as what your body does during the night. Sleep is highly important for health and wellbeing. Ensuring you are getting the sleep you need is one of the best methods of self-care. Last week we provided 5 tips to help you have a better sleep, this week we have 5 more to get you sleeping optimally.

1. Sleep in a dark, cool and quiet room.

Setting up your bedroom in a way that helps the body carry out the natural sleep cycle can be very helpful for your sleep.  Keeping the room dark is important because when the body senses darkness, it produces melatonin which helps you fall asleep. The temperature in your room is also important for your sleep. Naturally, our body temperature drops before bed, so making the room cold will help mimic this natural effect and help you to fall asleep. Sleeping in a quiet room increases the amount of deep sleep and improves the quality of sleep.


2. Establish a relaxing routine before bed.

By doing relaxing activities, such as having a bath, reading, journaling, knitting or mediation, you decrease the amount of cortisol in your body. Cortisol is your stress hormone which works opposite to melatonin levels: when melatonin is high, cortisol is low and sleep is initiated. When melatonin is low, cortisol is high and you wake up.

3. Don’t lie in bed for more than 30 minutes.

If you are having trouble falling asleep or if you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t return to sleep, do not spend more than 30 minutes in bed awake.  Instead, get out of bed and do some relaxing activities, or perhaps carry out your relaxing bedtime routine.  Ensure you are keeping the lights low when you get up.


4. Go outside first thing in the morning.

The sleep-wake cycle established by the body is what wakes us up in the morning and helps us to fall asleep at night. It is called the circadian rhythm. One of the main drivers behind the circadian rhythm is the production of melatonin. Melatonin production is started when the body senses darkness and helps the body to fall asleep.  Conversely, melatonin production is inhibited when there is light. By going outside first thing in the morning, you are telling the body it is time to be awake and will help to cycle you back to sleep when it is dark out.

5. Do not eat a large meal before bed time but if hungry have a small, light, healthy snack.

Large meals may lead to reflux, heart burn and other digestive pains which may result in poor sleep. However, it is also important to eat if you need help regulating blood sugars.  Sometimes having low blood sugar after not eating can wake a person up at night. If you have this problem, eat a light snack with tryptophan. High protein snacks like turkey, fish, poultry, eggs, soy protein are the best as they can provide tryptophan needed to produce melatonin and serotonin.


You can read more of our sleeping tips here.

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

5 Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep

Sleep is an essential part of health and wellbeing.  In order to improve sleep quality, there are a number of different supplements that can be used. However, before supplements are prescribed, we must look at the foundation and the lifestyle elements that affect sleep. Healthy sleep habits are often referred to as sleep hygiene because similar to personal hygiene, sleep hygiene helps to maintain health and prevent illnesses. In this post, we will share with you our top 5 sleep hygiene tips.

1. Avoid Caffeine

This first tip may seem very obvious to you, but it is so important! Avoid caffeine-containing beverages or foods after 2 pm and if you are sensitive to caffeine avoid it after 12 noon. Some common caffeine-containing products include coffee, sodas,  some vitamin waters, chocolate, ice cream and even decaf coffee and tea has a bit of caffeine.  A recent study showed that in some people, caffeine is not metabolized efficiently and they can feel the effect long after consuming it. As such, an afternoon cup of coffee or tea will keep some people from falling asleep. Also, some medications, particularly diet pills contain caffeine. In addition to caffeine being a stimulant that can keep you up at night, it is also a bladder irritant that can wake you up in the night to use the washroom.

2. Keep a regular routine to train your biological clock.

Go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day, even on the weekends! Keeping a regular schedule helps the body know when it is supposed to sleep.

3. Do not use electronics 1-2 hours before bed.

Electronics, such as cell phones, tablets and televisions give off a blue light that affects melatonin production and the natural sleep-wake cycle. Avoiding the use of electronics 1-2 hours before bed, as well as dimming the lights help to encourage the body to prepare for sleep.

4. Use your bed only for sleep and sex

By limiting the activities that you do in bed, you are helping the mind make the association that when you are in bed, it is time to relax and go to sleep.  If you are used to watching TV or doing work in bed, you may find it harder to relax and to think of the bedroom as a place to sleep.

5. Don’t panic about a poor night’s sleep.

This makes your sleeping worse. Trust in the wisdom of your body that you are getting enough sleep.  Instead, use positive self-talk phrases before going to bed. Repeat a positive affirmation regarding sleep 10 times in a row and do this 3x/day. Here is an example of an affirmation you can repeat: “I trust in the wisdom of my body to get the sleep I need.”


Getting a good night’s sleep starts by regulating the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. Simple lifestyle tips, such as the ones above help to improve sleep. There are many other sleep hygiene tips that can be done to help the body to get a good night’s sleep, which we will share over the next couple weeks. Making sleep a priority is an important choice in achieving overall wellness.


You can read more about why sleep is important here.

The Importance of Sleep

Sleep is an important part of your physical, mental and emotional health. How you feel during the day, is largely a result of how you sleep at night.

Sleep plays a role in controlling your hunger hormones: ghrelin which causes appetite and leptin which suppresses appetite. It affects your memory, concentration and focus. People with better sleep have a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and depression.

The body has a natural sleep cycle called the circadian rhythm. It is largely controlled by natural sunlight. The darkness stimulates the brain to release melatonin which initiates sleep. Sometimes the circadian rhythm can be disrupted which causes sleep issues.

Sleep is one of the pillars of health and it is very important to make sure that you are sleeping optimally. Sleep issues can occur with falling asleep, staying asleep, waking up at night, light sleeping, not feeling refreshed in the morning or snoring loudly. If you have any of these issues, book an appointment so we can help you on your path to health and wellbeing.