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How sleep can prevent cold and flu

Have you been having trouble sleeping? Whether that's having a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep, not getting your 7-8 hours of sleep at night can effect more than how many cups of coffee you may need in the morning. Sleep is important for the body and mind. Sleep decreases stress, improves our mood, helps us recover from our day, and also improves our immune system. But reports have shown that two-thirds of older adults say they suffer from frequent sleep problems.

Did you know that according to the National Sleep Foundation and multiple studies, not getting enough sleep at night impacts immune function, making the body more vulnerable to infections diseases?

With flu season fast approaching, it is important to take steps such as eating a healthy balanced diet, getting your flu shot, exercising regularly, and getting a good nights sleep to reduce your chances of getting the flu. Especially for adults 65 and older, taking steps to avoid the flu is crucial as you are at greater risk of serious complications from the flu. It has been estimated that 54-70% of flu-related hospitalizations occur in people 65 and older. Not only that, but 71-80% of flu-related deaths occur in the same population.

Luckily there are steps you can take today to help reduce your chances of getting the flu by boosting your immune system. Today we will go into how getting a good nights sleep can be a beneficial way to lower your chances of getting the flu.

Sleep deprivation and the flu

Not getting a full nights sleep can weaken the immune system and make it easier to catch the flu. Research has shown that sleeping less than 6 hours per night actually quadruples your chance of catching the cold. One study even found that sleep was a more important factor in preventing the cold than stress, age, or smoking.

Sleep’s healing powers with the flu

What is your first instinct when you don’t feel well with the flu? Usually its rest! And a recent study has shown that in mice who lacked a brain protein that helps with sleep, they had more severe symptoms and died more frequently from the flu compared to the mice who did have the protein and slept more. Not only that, but sleep helps the immune system fight off the flu. In another study of college students, those who slept their 8 hours at night had an average of twice as many flu fighting antibodies than those who did not. Sleep is an important factor to helping the body be at its best!

How to get a better nights sleep

  • Set a Bedtime

  • Stick to a sleep schedule of the same bedtime and wake up time, even on the weekends.

  • Create the environment

  • Your body has a natural clock and rhythm that can be disrupted by things such as TV and our phones. It is also important to get sunshine during the day, and darkness at night to help set the clock.

  • Evaluate your room. Keep the room cool, quiet, and dark to help ensure the best night’s sleep

  • Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows

  • Unwind in the evening

  • Meditation, reading, listening to soft music, or sharing a conversation with your partner, take the evening as your chance to relax

  • Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual like taking a bath, reading, or having a cup of decaf tea

  • Eat right for better sleep

  • Stay hydrated, as water helps to calm the brain and promotes better sleep

  • Watch what you eat, avoiding spicy foods, chocolate, caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes and heavy meals in the evening

  • Certain herbs and nutrients for example in chamomile tea can help with sleep

  • Exercise

  • Regular exercise improves sleep, as it relieves tension, stress, and helps the body relax

  • Exercising daily can help, but not within two hours of bedtime

If you’re still having trouble sleeping, don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor or physical therapist.



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