Inflammation accelerates the aging of our cells and impairs the function of our organs and systems, including the ability of the immune system to function optimally.
Sleep plays a critical role in regulating inflammation in the body, and the relationship between sleep and inflammation profound implications for our health and longevity, and how we look, feel and perform in our lives.
As one recent study described it, sleep and inflammation are “partners in sickness and in health.” A strong, consistent routine of high-quality, restful sleep can help limit chronic, low-grade inflammation as we age. Sleeping poorly—not getting enough sleep, sleeping restlessly, keeping an irregular sleep schedule—creates dysfunction in the immune system and contributes to higher levels of systemic inflammation.
Not all inflammation is bad: in fact, the body’s inflammatory response is essential to our health and survival. Inflammation is a natural, protective biological response from the immune system to help the body heal from injury and fight off harmful foreign pathogens that cause illness and disease.
The symptoms of acute inflammation, which include swelling and redness, fever and chills, pain, stiffness, and fatigue, are signs the body’s immune system is in “fight mode,” working hard to neutralize a threat.
Inflammation poses problems for aging, and disease risk, when “fight mode” becomes chronic. When inflammation is chronic, the immune system is constantly on high alert, activating disease-fighting cells that have no threat to eliminate. Over time, these fighter cells can wear down, and cause damage to healthy cells, tissues, organs, and systems.
Chronic inflammation contributes to outward signs of aging. And persistent, low-grade inflammation is a significant factor in illness, and in the chronic and life-threatening diseases of our time, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer.