Sufficient sleep is critical for maintaining a healthy immune system, which is your best defense for fighting off colds and flu. When you don’t get enough sleep, production of protective proteins called cytokines is decreased, as are your all-important infection-fighting antibodies.

Sleepless in-fluenza

A recent study found that participants who slept five hours or less had a 4.5 times higher risk of catching a cold than those who enjoyed seven hour or more. And not only are sleep-deprived people more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus; they also may face a longer recovery time after contracting one.

Think you don’t have to worry because you got a flu vaccine? Think again: people who are sleep deprived get less protection from flu vaccines than those who are well rested.

Force the retreat

If you do get sick, sleep is your best offense, too. Extend your sleep time to get back on your feet faster. To optimize your sleep, be sure to:

  • Avoid alcohol and medications that contain alcohol.

  • Raise the head of the bed or try a wedge pillow to make breathing easier.

  • Stay hydrated.

  • Take a hot bath or shower before bed.

  • Moisturize the air with a humidifier or vaporizer.

  • Drink chamomile tea before bedtime.

  • Banish your bed partner to the guest bedroom.

  • Change sheets and pillowcases frequently.

Sleep-scription

Sufficient sleep is not only a fundamental component of a healthy lifestyle, but it is also critical for a healthy immune system. Make sleep your frontline defense in combating colds and flu. Be sure to prioritize sleep, get the recommended amount, invest in a comfortable sleep surface and pillows and see a sleep specialist for persistent sleep problems. Sleep may be the number one lifestyle factor that can increase your chances of being healthier, happier and less stressed so you function at your very best—no matter the season!