Cold and Flu Season is Coming: Are You Sleeping Enough?

As we move further into fall, we’re all seeing more signs offering flu shots.  While these shots are a great idea and can protect you from the misery of influenza, there’s something simpler (and free) that can add to their effectiveness: sleep.

With cold and flu season around the corner, making sure you get plenty of sleep (as you should all year `round) is one of the best moves you can make to help yourself stay healthy.

For years, scientists have worked to try to understand how sleep improves the immune system or, on the flip side, lack of sleep compromises it.  Non-scientists, however, only need to know that to decrease our chances of getting sick, we should stay well rested.  For those who need more proof, however, here is some research into the matter:

• A recent study at the University of California found that lack of sleep can reduce the effectiveness of vaccines.  In their study, which looked at the Hepatitis B vaccine, participants who slept fewer than six hours on average per night were far less likely to mount antibody responses to the vaccine and thus were far more likely (11.5 times) to be unprotected by the vaccine than people who slept more than seven hours on average.  While the study did not focus on the flu shot, it’s something to consider if you want to be as fully protected as possible.

• A 2009 Carnegie Mellon University study of 153 men and women showed that those who slept fewer than seven hours on average per night were about three times more likely to develop a cold than those with at least eight hours of sleep daily.

• The same study in 2009 found that those who spent 92% of their time in bed asleep were five and a half times more likely to develop a common cold than those who spent 98% or more of their time in bed sleeping.  In short, quality time in bed matters more than quantity.

While we’d all love more time off to can lay in bed guilt-free, being sick isn’t much fun — just one more reason to take a good look at how you’re sleeping, and how you can improve your nightly rest.