Sleep and boosting your immune system: An antidote to Corona!

With every new case of coronavirus confirmed, people, businesses and entire industry sectors are being affected, from travel to events, to financial markets.

The fear of it becoming a pandemic, and the large degree of uncertainty about the virus has created mass hysteria and anxiety around the world, and in turn gives many of us sleepless nights.


While there is currently no vaccine for Coronavirus, preventative measures go beyond fighting over hand sanitizer. In fact, much of our control over the virus lies in how well we manage our body internally. Good quality, restorative sleep and healthy eating habits are two such measures. We need between seven and nine hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. Any less than seven hours and you are putting yourself at a higher risk of contracting the flu, or worse off, Coronavirus. In a study conducted by the University of California, San Francisco and Carnegie Mellon University, participants were monitored by their quantity of sleep for one week. The following week, they were then given nasal drops that contained the common cold virus. Those who had slept less than six hours of sleep per night, the week before, were four times more likely to catch the cold, compared with those who got more than seven hours of sleep.


Although you may clock up the right number of hours, your quality of sleep is as important for your overall health and a strong immune system. Your internal body clock, or circadian rhythm, is regulated by structures in the brain that put us through a series of distinct physiological stages during your sleep cycle. Your sleep cycle typically reoccurs every 90 minutes, and each stage of the cycle serves an important purpose in keeping our brain and body healthy. The five stages of sleep rotate between non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM) and include drowsiness, light sleep, moderate to deep sleep, deepest sleep, and dreaming.


Stages 3 and 4 of NREM is when you have your deepest sleep, and is where both brain and body activity drop to their lowest point during the cycle. Blood is redirected from the brain to muscles, which helps repair tissues, detoxify your brain, and most importantly build and energize your immune system. Without deep restorative sleep, your body may not be able to fight the various viruses and toxins that you get exposed to!


During REM sleep, brain activity is at it’s highest, and this is when we process and synthesize our memories. This stage is also crucial for helping us deal with the media onslaught of fear and terror about the coronavirus. Our brains are brilliant, and use sleep time to reprocess difficult ‘issues’ unconsciously, at night in a ‘safe space’. Professor Matthew Walker, Author of the book ‘Why We Sleep’, says, “When you wake up the next day [after good REM sleep], you have a memory of an emotional experience or an emotional event, but it’s no longer emotional itself.” He calls this “overnight therapy”. If you are not getting enough quality sleep, you brain simply cannot process the emotionally charged issues from the previous day.


Beyond sleep, staying hydrated and nourishing our body with healthy, real (as close to nature, as possible) food choices is critical for boosting your immune system. When you eat large amounts of sugary foods, this affects how your white blood cells perform, which in turn compromises your immune system. The effect lasts for several hours after you have had that afternoon chocolate! There are over 70 different names used for sugar on packaged foods. Start reading the ingredient lists on all packaged foods. The ‘health bar’ that stares at you at a coffee shop is ‘cake’ masquerading as a health cookie.

Although so much of the Coronavirus is out of our control, building healthy habits and resilience is absolutely in our control. In summary a minimum of 7 hours of deep, restorative sleep, and healthy natural, healthy foods is as important as washing your hands.



Resilient People is a business that is abundantly and relentlessly focused on ways to empower individuals and teams to be more resilient in the workplace today.

Through the use of pragmatic Resilience Assessments, Workshops and Key Note Talks, Resilient People crafts bespoke programmes for their clients. The focus is on sustainable behaviour change, taking team by team on a practical, relevant journey.

Joni Peddie is a Professional Speaker, Executive Coach and Strategic Facilitator. She is determined to build awareness in SA about sleep being the key to good health and resilience.

Resilience is a skill needed in the 4th Industrial Revolution, to enable us to bounce back from adversity and do so with AGILITY!