Sleep: Your Body’s Defense
Far from just laying in one place, inert, for several hours, your body gets a lot done while you sleep. While your brain works to clear itself of debris and consolidate the learning that you did during the day, your immune system is working to heal you and rebuild its defenses. So what happens when you don’t get enough sleep? Your body releases chemicals that can cause inflammation where you don’t want it–sort of like having a very mild cold. An added downside: your body can only make some components of your immune system, like killer T-cells, while you’re sleeping. If you don’t get enough rest, you might not have the wherewithal to fight off a cold or influenza virus.
How To Preserve Your Sleep
In our busy modern world, it can seem like everything from work deadlines to that excellent television show you’ve been wanting to see is conspiring to keep you up at night. Even if you can’t permanently alter your life to get more sleep, it’s important to try to prioritize rest during cold and flu season. Here’s some ideas for improving your sleep habits:
Check your mattress. If you’re going to bed at a reasonable time but tossing and turning or waking up frequently during the night, then the problem might not be you–it might be your old, worn-out, or uncomfortable mattress. Make sure you’ve got a good bed and set yourself up for success.
Schedule your entertainment for the afternoon or weekend. Resist the urge to binge-watch more episodes of that new show. The episodes will still be there tomorrow! Try to be in bed with the lights off no later than 10pm.
Don’t socialize at night. This can be tricky, since many events happen in the evening, but if you’re really trying to stay well, it can be necessary to take drastic measures for a while. Consider meeting friends for lunch, or for an activity that can be done in the afternoon. An added bonus: lunch is often less expensive than dinner, and you can benefit from avoiding the drinks that typically accompany an evening meal.
Speaking of drinks, be cautious about drinking alcohol at night. Although many people think that alcohol will make them tired, it actually has a paradoxical effect. You may feel sleepy at first after a drink, but as your body processes the alcohol it can lead to lower-quality sleep during the night and increased likelihood that you’ll experience wakefulness.
While the flu shot, frequent hand washing, and avoiding contact with those who are sick are still your first line of defense against illness, don’t underestimate the power of healthy sleep habits to keep you feeling great. Don’t let poor sleep rob you of your productivity–sleep well, and be well!
Can Better Sleep Mean Catching Fewer Colds? – www.webmd.com
Choosing The Best Mattress – bettersleep.org