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A study published in Psychosomatic Medicine (November-December 1994) found that until sleep debt is paid off, our infection-fighting immune cells are charged interest. Researchers in San Diego deprived twenty-three men aged 22 to 61 of four hours of sleep (from 3 to 7 a.m.) for just one night, and found that the activity of cells that fight viral infections was markedly reduced in all of the subjects the morning following sleep loss. The next night, the subjects were allowed a full night's sleep, which was followed by a full immune cell recovery the next morning. Preliminary results from the same study also show decreased immune cell activity from sleep loss during the earlier part of the evening. It stands to reason then, say investigators, that repeated sleep loss means longer stretches of impaired immune system function.
* Source: Healthwise, Fall 1995