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‘Quality sleep boosts the immune system, important in the fight against COVID-19’ 

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it social, economic and health challenges. Each aspect of the challenge calls for a collection of innovative solutions both new and old. Nnenna Nina Chigbo, vice president of the Nigeria Society of Physiotherapy (NSP) outlines the relationship among quality sleep, a strong immune system and resistance against infection. She spoke to Anthonia Obokoh. Excerpts:

Experts are proposing various ways of boosting the immune system in fighting the novel coronavirus. What is the link between healthy sleep and a strong immune system?

Documented evidence shows that certain cells that help fight infection in the body increase significantly during sleep. During quality sleep, hormones that help our body are better regulated.

On the other hand, lack of sleep can cause long term issues such as a lower immunity and it can increase your risk of conditions such as diabetes, heart and cardiovascular issues and obesity. These complications increase your risk of contracting viral diseases like the COVID-19.

Give us more details on how sleep builds the immune system. What is the biochemistry behind this?According to the National Sleep Foundation when it comes to your health, sleep plays an important role. While more sleep won’t necessarily prevent you from getting sick, skimping on it could adversely affect your immune system, leaving you susceptible to a bad cold or case of the flu. Remember that COVID-19 is a severe case of the flu.

Without sufficient sleep, your body makes fewer cytokines, a type of protein that targets infection and inflammation, effectively creating an immune response. Cytokines are both produced and released during sleep, causing a double whammy if you skimp on shut-eye.  Chronic sleep loss even makes the flu vaccine less effective by reducing your body’s ability to respond.

To stay healthy, especially during the influenza season, get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep a night. This will help keep your immune system in fighting shape, and also protect you from other health issues including heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

If your sleep schedule is interrupted by a busy workweek or other factors, try to make up for the lost rest with naps. Taking two naps that are no longer than 30 minutes each —one in the morning and one in the afternoon—has been shown to help decrease stress and offset the negative effects that sleep deprivation has on the immune system.  If you can’t swing a half-hour nap during the workday, try grabbing a 20-minute siesta on your lunch hour, and another right before dinner.

Of course, there’s more to boosting your immunity and guarding against illness than getting ample sleep. It’s also important to practice smart stay-healthy strategies such as washing your hands with soap regularly, avoiding close contact with people who are obviously under the weather and talking with your doctor about getting an annual flu shot.  And remember: Even if you do come down with a case of seasonal sniffles, you’ll be able to bounce back faster if your body is well-rested.

What are sleep disorders and how do comfortable mattresses and beddings help prevent them?

Sleep disorders are changes in sleeping patterns or habits that can negatively affect health such as restless leg syndrome, jetlag, and narcolepsy.

Sleep is important for health and poor sleep impairs function. Sleep is critical for the proper functioning of the body, including immune function, tissue healing, pain modulation, cardiovascular health, cognitive function, learning and memory.

Sleep disruptions occur across the life span and in individuals with various conditions that are typically treated by physical therapists.

Good quality mattress determines a great deal how well you will sleep. The body needs to align well with the mattress – not too soft and not too hard. A bad mattress can affect the spine and cause damage to the body.

Secondly, when you are not comfortable on your mattress it will affect the quality of your sleep and can be detrimental to your physical, mental health and overall quality of life.

The Nigeria Society of Physiotherapy (NSP) recently set up a coronavirus (COVID 19) committee, what is meant to achieve?

The NSP set up a 20-man COVID-19 taskforce committee with representatives from the six geopolitical zones. The essence is to support the Presidential Taskforce (PTF) on COVID-19 in combating this novel virus in Nigeria.

We are raising awareness on the laid down protocols to mitigate the spread of the infection and advise the government on better multidisciplinary approaches to the management of the COVID-19. More so, we are advising the PTF on discharge protocols and follow up for the people infected with the virus.

Many of the cases in Nigeria are asymptomatic and therefore our approach must differ from what obtains in other climes. We are also advising on the use of exercise and quality sleep to boost the human immune system to prevent infection in the first place.

What are the steps taken by the NSP in terms of enlightenment on the current COVID-19 pandemic and have there been areas of collaboration with corporate organisations?

The NSP has through the national taskforce initiated the formation of state taskforce committees in the 36 states and Abuja to replicate what we doing at the national level.

We have been engaged in massive media campaigns on COVID-19 and on the role of physiotherapy. Indeed, prescribed exercises can play in the prevention and management of COVID-19.

We have offered the PTF technical advice and manpower to fight COVID-19. We have collaborated with big organisations like Mouka foam in creating jingles that convey the importance of preventive measures like using quality sleep to boost the immune system.

What inspired the collaboration between the NSP and Mouka on the issue of boosting the human immune system in fighting infections?

The NSP already endorsed Mouka foam due to the good quality of their products. Both parties are also helping the federal government in fighting this pandemic so we decided to work together in some areas.

To what extent is the level of partnership, in terms of awareness creation, and what would be the intended effect on the populace?

NSP and Mouka are collaborating to raise awareness and in so doing equip the populace with relevant information that can help boost the body’s immune system. The expected effect is fewer cases of COVID-19 to be recorded in Nigeria

How do quality mattresses help to improve mental and body performance which leads to a strong immune system as part of the benefits of quality sleep?

When you sleep well, you feel better. Why? This is attributed to the increase and peaking of those cells that protect you against diseases. Your hormones also function better.

Now a good quality mattress will help you achieve this. When you sleep well, your mental clarity and overall mental state are improved. Sleepless nights leave you grumpy and restless the next day. Note that a bad mattress will also leave you sore and induce inflammation and pain in your body.

What do you think the citizens can do for themselves in addition to what is already in place, such as awareness creation, preventive measures, restriction of movements, among others, to combat the spread of the deadly disease?

Exercise, a balanced diet and quality sleep. These three can be added by the individual to complement what the government is doing. They should also follow all laid down guidelines like social and physical distancing, wearing of face mask and hand hygiene.

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