Sleep and immunity: 9 ways to sleep better at night

General Health Lifestyle
25 November 2020

Sleep experts are urging Australians to get their forty winks to help boost immunity.

A growing body of research suggests sleep-deprived people may have suppressed immunity, potentially putting them at greater risk of catching viruses.

“Sleep is now well understood to benefit immunity,” says Dr Moira Junge, spokesperson for the Sleep Health Foundation. “An early night may be just what you need to boost your mood and immunity and help protect yourself from illness.”

Dr Junge says those worrying about the COVID-19 pandemic are more at risk of sleep problems like insomnia.

“It’s a vicious cycle because if you’re sleep-deprived, you’re more likely to be anxious and when you’re anxious you’re more likely to not be able to sleep well,” she says. “Take our advice and prioritise getting a good night’s sleep. Put down your phone, close your laptop and go to sleep.”

However, if switching off a busy brain is difficult, Dr Junge offers the following tips:

  • Set aside a ‘worry time’ during the evening. Use this time to think about what has been happening during the day, make plans and possible solutions. Then don’t think about these things until the next day.
  • Keep the hour before bed as your wind down time – develop a routine that prepares your body and mind for sleep. Listen to quiet music or do relaxation. Remember that we can never shut off our mind. Our thoughts continue all the time, so try to make them calmer thoughts.
  • Create a favourite fantasy place. Or daydream of your favourite holiday spot. If other thoughts come in, consider them for a moment and then try to gently replace them with calm thoughts.
  • If you still can‘t sleep despite your best attempts at relaxing and trying to calm your thoughts, go out of the bedroom and wait until you’re sleepy and tired and then try again.

We asked our residents about their tips and tricks for getting a good night’s sleep. Here’s what they said...

Reg Baxter – IRT Parklands

“I play a lot of tennis, so every time I play tennis I sleep very well. If I do a lot of exercise during the day, I sleep very well at night. I would probably usually play an hour and a half each day, four times a week. I think routine is quite essential.”

Bill Spackman – IRT Parklands

“Make sure you’re relaxed before you go to bed. I read nearly every night. I always go for quite a long walk after dinner around the village, it helps with my digestion.”

Jacki Janke-Walker – IRT The Ridge

“I usually do the trick of taking a breath in of four counts, holding it in for seven and then expelling the air for another four counts. Keep doing that and you’ll go to sleep. Also trying not to stew over the day’s problems – put them aside and think happy thoughts.”

Norma Powell – IRT Thomas Holt Kirrawee

“If I wake up and can’t get back to sleep I turn on the TV in my bedroom. I have the sound off and the captions on and that usually puts me back to sleep. I don’t get up and wander around. Being a positive person, missing a night’s sleep does not worry me – I know I will sleep well the next night. So be positive.”

Lenoma Noakes – IRT Thomas Holt Kilpatrick Court

“If I’m not tired by my usual bedtime, I sit on the side of the bed and play FreeCell on the iPad until I get tired. I then climb into our pre-warmed bed, which I warm up with an electric blanket in winter, and then turn off the blanket. I also sleep on a comfortable pillow with a silk pillow case.”