It’s a beautiful Christmas morning but oh no, you’ve got the sniffles! Nobody likes the flu, and the end of December is typically when the flu invades Canada with coughs, sneezes and sick days of plenty. So how can you protect yourself from flu and other respiratory viruses?
There is a natural, enjoyable and often overlooked way to help your body stay healthy during the Canadian winters. You guessed it; sleeping well can help you prevent those sickly sniffles and research can explain why that happens.
In the 1980s, scientists noticed that sleep deprivation weakens the immune system and affects the mechanisms that help us fight off diseases. In fact, it became evident that the effects of both; sleeping less than usual and low quality of sleep, was correlated to an increased risk of contracting flu and other respiratory viruses.1
In 2009, the definitive link was established when 153 healthy men and women and their sleep habits were compared with these people’s susceptibility to a common cold virus, rhinovirus.
For two weeks, participants’ sleeping habits and quality of sleep were questioned and recorded. At the end of the 14 days, the brave volunteers were given an infectious dose of the virus rhinovirus, under proper ethical approval.
Over the coming days some of the participants came down with the full flu infection while others were only mildly affected, or did not get sick at all! Scientists charted and mapped the results and found out that those participants who slept fewer than seven hours were almost three times more likely to contract an infection than those who had eight or more hours of sleep.2
More recently, research done at Washington State University in Spokane has gained some insight into why a good night's sleep is such a great medicine against sickness. Sleep is associated with a brain protein called AcPb, and was shown to speed up recovery from the H1N1 flu in infected lab mice.3
The same was concluded from an interesting twin study that examined 11 pairs of identical twins with different sleep habits. The twin with chronically reduced sleep had a weaker immune system. "The immune system functions best when it gets enough sleep" said lead author Dr. Nathaniel Watson, co-director of the UW Medicine Sleep Center at Harborview Medical Center.4
Since untreated sleep apnea leads to fragmented, poor quality of sleep, successfully treating your sleep apnea will get you healthy sleep and a natural immune system booster for fighting off infections.
Unfortunately excellent sleep does not guarantee a year free of flu!
Get More Sleep – so you can have a HAPPY HOLIDAY!