Stock up on sleep, not groceries: doctor

Emily Cosenza

Many Australians are stockpiling groceries at the supermarket but their energy is better spent stocking up on sleep to boost their immunities, thus better protecting themselves against the coronavirus.

Sleep plays a vital role in the body's immune system, University of South Australia sleep and fatigue researcher Raymond Matthews says, and it should be prioritised, especially among frontline healthcare workers.

"As the reality of COVID-19 steps up, people are rightly more vigilant with handwashing, social distancing and working from home if they can," Dr Matthews said.

"What they may not realise is how important sleep is to their overall health.

"When people suffer from a lack of sleep, they're reducing their body's natural killer cells, the white blood cells that hunt down virally-infected cells, which means they may be compromising their immune system and increasing their risk of getting sick."

Dr Matthews said sleep also played a large role in the effectiveness of vaccines.

"Looking forward to when we discover a vaccination for COVID-19, we must also ensure we have sufficient sleep for it to work well."

For those who struggle to get some shut-eye, Dr Matthews suggests having a relaxing bedtime routine to wind down; avoiding cigarettes, caffeine and alcohol; eating light meals in the evening; and exercise during the day.

He also recommends having a dark, cool and quiet bedroom.

"These times are no doubt challenging, but sound sleep is something we should all strive for to maximise our health."