The connections between sleep quality and health — both physical and mental — are well established. The body of evidence supporting the role of sleep quality in immune system function continues to expand. A new study links sleep quality and COVID-19 recovery times for hospitalized patients. In short, better sleep quality was connected to earlier hospital discharge.
Making the Sleep Quality and COVID-19 Recovery Connection
In a recent study, researchers at Beylikduzu State Hospital in Istanbul, Turkey who were examining patients hospitalized with COVID-19 found a significant connection between sleep quality, the patient’s degree of anxiety or depression related to being hospitalized for the virus and COVID-19 recovery times. Patients with lower sleep quality scores were more likely to have higher degrees of anxiety or depression and to spend more time in the hospital.
This study involved 189 people. The group included 111 men and 78 women, all of whom were hospitalized due to COVID-19 in 2020 during the months of April and May. Study participant sleep quality was assessed using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI). The Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) was used to obtain hospital-related anxiety and depression scores for each participant. This was an important factor to measure because, with the COVID-19 diagnosis and the more restrictive precautions associated with the illness, hospitalized patients have the potential to experience a higher degree of worry regarding their diagnosis and hospital stay.
According to the study results, the participating COVID-19 patients with poor sleep quality were more likely to experience depression during their hospital stay. In addition, that poor sleep quality was also associated with a longer stay in the hospital. From the data collected via the study, the researchers theorized that better sleep quality could help to reduce not only the length of time patients spend in the hospital, but also may potentially reduce the amount of time spent in critical care units within a hospital.
Sleep Quality Impacts Health
During sleep, there’s a lot happening in the mind and body to support health. The day’s accumulated toxins are removed from the brain while you sleep. Tissue repair, healing and growth are among the many essential activities taking place throughout the body during sleep, along with metabolic system re-balancing.
Poor sleep quality includes not getting enough sleep, disrupted sleep, the sort of disordered sleeping associated with shift work and more serious sleeping disorders, such as insomnia and narcolepsy. Quality of sleep has been shown to impact health in a variety of ways. Cognitive performance, including memory and learning, are directly impacted by sleep quality. Poor sleep quality increases the risk of depression – also associated with disrupted immune system function – and other mood-related disorders.
Sleep quality also impacts the circadian rhythm and the countless body clocks found throughout the body, right down to the cellular level. These support health in numerous ways, such as regulating and timing the chemical reactions involved in just about every process in the body, from the extraction of nutrients from food to the utilization of energy for bodily functions to the production of essential hormones, including melatonin. Well-known for its importance in the sleep-wake cycle, melatonin also has a vital role in metabolic system functioning.
Because of the role of sleep in maintaining the delicate balance within the body that promotes good health, poor quality sleep is associated with an increased risk of many diseases and chronic health conditions. These increased risks include a higher risk of some cancers, (particularly those that are hormone-related, such as breast cancer), type two diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity. Sleep is also important for the health and proper functioning of the immune system.
Optimal Immune Function Linked to Sleep Quality
The importance of sleep to immune system functioning is strongly supported by years of clinical research. Poor quality sleep strikes at the very mechanics of how the immune system operates, reducing its efficiency and weakening its ability to function. During sleep, T cells – immune system cells that help fight viruses – and their sticky helpers, called integrins, operate more efficiently, due to the decrease in activity of stress hormones that takes place during that period. The stress hormones appear to make the integrins less sticky, decreasing T cell ability to damage and destroy viral cells. Sleep also supports the immune system’s pathogen memory, or ability to recognize, locate and attack potentially dangerous invaders.
Better Sleep Can Improve Health
Overall, the Beylikduzu State Hospital study helps confirm what modern science is learning about the connections between sleep quality and health. Better sleep quality helps to strengthen the immune system. A stronger immune system is better able to fight off pathogens, reducing the severity of an illness and perhaps even avoiding it altogether.
Improving sleep quality can help reduce the risk of depression and anxiety, both of which are linked to immune system functioning. Taking a more holistic view of the role of sleep in physical and mental health, as well as the connections between physical and mental health, it’s not surprising to find links between sleep quality and COVID-19 recovery and hospitalization release readiness.