September 29, 2009
Sniffles, Sneezes and Sleep
Rest Up for a Healthier Cold Season
It seems inevitable. The cooler weather settles in, and so does another bout of seasonal sickness — the cold you just can’t shake, and you don’t know why.
Turn to your pillow, say experts. Poor sleep may not be the most obvious cause for your illness, but it could certainly be part of why you’re suffering.
Amongst the various benefits of adequate sleep is the regulation of your immune system – the body’s defense mechanism against invaders, like germs. Piles of research over the past few years show that sleep deprivation can throw a wrench in these efforts, weakening the power your body has to stay as healthy as it can.
Are you truly sleep deprived? Likely not. Few of us are really wide awake through the evening, although that doesn’t mean that the potential risk to immunity isn’t there. In fact, a more recent, attention-getting study conducted by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that it doesn’t take an all-nighter to weaken your defenses. “People who sleep fewer than seven hours a night are nearly three times more likely to get a cold than those who average eight or more hours of sleep,” notes a university-issued report on the study.
What’s more is that simply clocking the hours isn’t enough — they must consist of quality sleep to minimize the risk. Doing everything you can to create a sleep environment that is as comfortable as possible can help.
Solid slumber isn’t always going to be enough to allow you to magically not catch that bug that seems to be making its way around your office (or that your child so kindly brought home from school) — but it’s certainly a weapon in your stay well arsenal.
Here, more you can do to reduce your risk of cold and flu this season:
Consider a Flu Shot
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends an annual seasonal flu vaccine. This shot protects against the most common strains; there is a unique vaccination for novel 2009 H1N1 (swine) flu. Pregnant women, children, those older than age 65, health care workers and those with certain chronic diseases and conditions are especially urged to get stuck.
For more on the flu shot, including information on safety and who should not get it, please visit the CDC website.
Wash your hands vigorously with soap and water often. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. If a sink is nowhere in sight, opt for antibacterial gel.
Break a Sweat
Exercise has been shown to keep immunity high.
Vitamins and nutrients in a well-balanced diet can help – aim for foods of a variety of colors.
Find Time to Relax
Though that may be easier said than done these days, do what you can to carve out time to decompress. Stress has been tied to weakened immunity.
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