Al Sears, MD, CNS – With the 24-hour news cycles spinning out of control these days, you may find yourself feeling way more stressed than usual. And that additional anxiety can lead to a lot of sleepless nights…
If there’s one thing these trying times will teach us, it’s that we need to take control of our own health. We can’t rely on the government or anyone else to do it for us. After all, self-reliance in hard times is the core of the American spirit.
Which means it’s up to each of us to protect and bolster our own immune system.
And one of the best – and easiest – ways to do this is by getting enough sleep. Your immune defenses won’t work if you don’t. A good night’s sleep also affects how fast you’ll recover if you do get sick.
You see, without enough shut-eye your body makes fewer cytokines. These are a kind of protein that targets infection and inflammation – basically creating your immune response. Cytokines are both produced and released during sleep, causing a double whammy if you don’t get enough sleep.
Sleep Turns on Infection-Fighting T Cells
Numerous studies show a good night’s sleep improves immune cells known as T cells.
T cells are a specialized white blood cell that fights what are known as intracellular pathogens… viruses that live inside your cells, including flu, HIV, cancer – and coronavirus.
In a new study from Germany, researchers compared immune-boosting T cells from volunteers who slept eight hours to those who stayed awake.1
They found that the T cells in the study participants who slept were much better equipped to fight off an invading virus than the T cells in than those who didn’t.
It turns out that there’s a strong connection between stress hormones like adrenaline, T cells and sleep…
Stress hormones decrease dramatically when you’re asleep. If you can’t sleep, levels of these hormones remain high. And high levels of these hormones prevent T cells from getting inside infected cells and killing the pathogens.
When cells in your body recognize a cell infected with a virus, they activate something called an integrin. This is a sticky type of protein that allows them to attach to and kill infected cells.
During these troubling times and sleepless nights, you might be tempted to ask your doctor for a sleep aid. But I don’t recommend it…
Sleeping pills like Lunesta, Ambien or Halcion cause dizziness, headache, depression and anxiety. They can lead to suicidal thoughts, memory loss and hallucinations. Some people report sleep-walking, and even unconscious sleep-eating or sleep-driving.
And come morning the drug is still in your system. You can feel hung over and groggy instead of rested.
I don’t prescribe these drugs. Instead I help my patients restore rest with natural sleep solutions like melatonin.
With Melatonin, Less is More…
Now, a lot of people tell me that melatonin doesn’t work for them. But it will – if you don’t take too much. Most sleep-deprived Americans think that doses of 3 mg to 5 mg will knock them out faster.
But they won’t.
When you take high levels of melatonin, it stops working as a sleep aid. And it turns into a powerful anti-aging supplement.
I tell my patients to take no more than 200 to 300 micrograms… That’s about a third of a milligram.
If that amount isn’t helping you sleep, increase the dosage by 100 micrograms each night until you find a dose that works for you. Five hundred mcg is good for most people, but if you get up to a 1 milligram dose and it still doesn’t work, it’s likely melatonin is not your best option.
And be sure to use a spray, drops or a sublingual tablet. They’re easier to absorb and work faster. When you take melatonin orally, it breaks down in the liver. Most of it never gets into your bloodstream.
Supercharge Your Melatonin with These Two Sleep Supplements
Certain nutrients boost the effectiveness of melatonin and help your body prepare for sleep.
Sleep Supercharger #1: Jujube fruit (Ziziphus spinosa). This botanical is an exotic herb I like for helping to usher in a good night’s sleep. Jujube fruit has been used for years as a natural means to restore a sense of calm and relaxation.2 Take 25 mg per day in supplement form.
Sleep Supercharger #2: Zinc. Supplementing with this mineral increases both the duration and quality of sleep.3 I recommend taking up to 30 mg per day.
1. Dimitrov S, et al. “Gαs-coupled receptor signaling and sleep regulate integrin activation of human antigen-specific T cells.” J Exp Med. 2019 Mar 4;216(3):517-526.
2. Zhang M, et al. “Inhibitory effect of jujuboside A on glutamate-mediated excitatory signal pathway in hippocampus.” Planta Med. 2003;69(8):692-695.
3. Cherasse Y and Urade Y. “Dietary zinc acts as a sleep modulator.” Int J Mol Sci. 2017;18(11).