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Poor sleep and an inflammatory response go hand in hand as both are regulated by our circadian rhythm.In talking about sleep and the immune system, we’re tackling two of the most complicated processes of the human body. For all our scientific inquiry to sleep, there’s a tremendous amount we don’t know. Though it’s clear we need sleep to survive, scientists still don’t know why we sleep. The human immune system is tremendously complex, and scientists are still working to de-code its operations, to understand how it works—and why things go wrong.
One thing we do know? Sleep, immune function, and inflammation share a common regulator. Our sleep is regulated by circadian rhythms, which drive hormones and other physiological changes that cause us to move back and forth along a continuum of sleep and wakefulness throughout the 24-hour day. Those daily sleep-wake cycles we move through without much thought? Our circadian rhythms are working behind the scenes to keep us on schedule. When circadian rhythms are out of sync, so is sleep.
Circadian rhythms also regulate our immune system, and with it, our levels of inflammation. When circadian rhythms are disrupted, so is normal immune function. We’re more prone to unhealthful inflammation, and more at risk for diseases, including metabolic disease, cancer, and heart disease.
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