Sleep and the immune system

The importance of a good night’s sleep

When it comes to maintaining a healthy immune system, the importance of sleep is often taken for granted. Sleep plays a proven role in helping to regulate several key functions of the immune system.

Some ways quality sleep can help enhance the immune system:

  • Sleep promotes the release of hormones and chemicals that help support the activation and production of certain immune cells.
  • During sleep, there is an increase in the number of immune cells circulating in the lymph nodes and blood, where they can quickly travel to sites of infection to defend the body.
  • At night, energy that would normally be used for mental and physical activity during the day can be redirected towards the activity of specialised cells of the immune system.

Sleep hygiene tips for quality sleep

Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, it can be hard to fall or stay asleep. This problem can become increasingly common as we age. Prolonged periods of sleep loss or restriction for several days or more can have detrimental effects on immune function, potentially increasing the risk of becoming ill. Thankfully, there are several things we can do to develop a routine that helps promote regular, quality sleep.

Create a positive sleeping environment

Improving your sleeping environment can help your body prepare for sleep once you enter your bedroom at night.

Why not try the following:

  • Reserve your bedroom for sleep and intimacy only, keeping work and other activities confined to other designated areas in your house. This can help train your mind to associate the space with rest and relaxation. 
  • Invest in a quality mattress, pillows, and sheets. Increased comfort can help your body relax when in bed.
  • Keep the temperature and light levels in your bedroom controlled at night-time to promote quality sleep.

You may notice reduced sleep quality when your bedroom is a too warm, too cold, or not dark enough.

Avoid using electronic devices immediately before bedtime

The use of screens, such as TVs, laptops or even mobile phones, in the bedroom can negatively affect sleep. This is because these devices stimulate brain activity, promoting wakefulness. Removing such devices from your bedroom and avoiding using them immediately before bedtime can enhance the quality of sleep.

Get some exercise, but not too late at night

Exercise can help with sleep-related problems and help improve sleep quality for many people. However, it’s best to avoid vigorous exercise within an hour of bedtime, as some studies suggest this may negatively affect sleep quality.

Maintain a consistent sleep schedule

Maintaining a healthy, consistent sleep schedule gives you a better chance of getting a good night’s sleep. Try setting a regular sleep and wake time each night that accommodates the recommended sleeping hours for your age. By sticking to a routine, you can help program your body clock to recognise when it’s time to sleep. It's also best to avoid taking naps in the afternoon, as this may disrupt your routine.

How much sleep is needed per night?

Every person requires a different amount of sleep to wake feeling rested and refreshed. However, some general recommendations have been made for adults of different ages who are healthy and not suffering from sleep disorders.

The United States National Sleep Foundation recommends:




Adults aged 26–64

7–9 hours

< 6 hours, or > 10 hours

Older adults
aged 65+

7–8 hours

< 5 hours, or > 9 hours

Adults aged 26–64


7–9 hours < 6 hours, or > 10 hours

Older adults aged 65+


7–9 hours < 5 hours, or > 9 hours

The above information is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice.

NP-AU-NA-WCNT-210004 Date of GSK Approval: June2021