Sick? Sleepless? What's the Connection?

Did you know that a lack of sleep can affect your immune system? Multiple studies indicate that people who don’t get enough quality sleep are more likely to get sick after exposure to an illness or virus. A lack of sleep can also affect how quick your recovery time is after getting sick.

While you sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines. Some of these proteins help to promote sleep while certain cytokines need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation. When you’re not sleeping enough, there can be a decrease production of these protective cytokines.

To stay healthy, especially during flu season, it’s incredibly important to get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep each night. By sleeping enough, your immune system will maintain its fighting shape, and may protect you from other health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. When your sleep schedule is interrupted by a busy workload or other factors, make up the lost rest with short naps. Taking a short, 30-minute nap in the morning and a short, 30-minute nap in the afternoon has been shown to decrease stress and offset the negative effects that occur as a result of sleep deprivation to the immune system.

If it’s impossible to take a 30-minute nap in the morning, try taking a 20-minute nap during your lunch hour and take another one before dinner. These options are effective at gaining back lost sleep and helping fight against illness.

Additional ways to protect your immune system during cold and flu season include implementing proper handwashing techniques and consuming enough Vitamin C. Vitamin C is an important vitamin and antioxidant that the body utilizes to keep you strong and healthy. It helps in the formation of collagen and helps the body absorb iron. When taken daily, Vitamin C supplements can help lessen the severity of a cold.

Whether your aim is to prevent a cold or recover quickly from one, it’s important to help yourself get the best quality of sleep possible. Be sure to check out our other articles to learn more tips and tricks to improve your sleep quality.