29 Oct 3 Ways Sleep Can Help Fight Back Against Colds
As anyone who has suffered from a heavy, debilitating cold will know, getting plenty of sleep is a great way to start feeling better. If you’re wondering whether this is down to physiological or psychological reasons, scientific research tells us that it is the former. According to a study by researchers from the University of California, sleep is potentially the single most important factor in preventing colds.
The researchers found that people who had fewer than six hours of sleep a night in the previous week were a whopping 4.2 times more likely to catch a cold compared to people who managed to catch over seven hours of sleep a night. People who slept for less than five hours a night were 4.5 times more susceptible to colds. Perhaps even more surprisingly, researchers suggested that poor sleep had a greater impact on one’s chances of getting sick than age, income, stress levels, race, and lifestyle habits such as smoking.
So why is maintaining good sleep patterns such an important health habit and how does it fight back against colds?
1. Sleep Improves T-cell Function
According to a study published by researchers from the University of Tübingen, being awake for too long can lead to the overproduction of adrenaline. This adrenaline can hinder the function of a special protein called integrin that allows T-cells to attach themselves to unhealthy cells and destroy them.
Indeed, during the study, volunteers who achieved eight hours of sleep a night had much higher levels of integrin in their systems than those who were sleep-deprived by over three hours a night.
2. Sleep Improves Cytokine Function
As well as improving T-cell function, sleep can help to improve another aspect of a person’s immune response: the release and production of proteins known as cytokines. Cytokines are fundamental in helping the immune system launch a speedy response to antigens and have two main priorities:
• Promoting communication between cells, thereby improving the body’s ability to fight infection
• Encouraging cells to move directly towards infection in order to counteract it
Put simply, cytokine proteins are like the soldiers ready in waiting to respond to the body’s orders about how to fight a virus effectively, directing certain immune cells to identify infected tissues quickly.
A lack of sleep can slow down this complex process as the body needs plenty of rest to replenish and restore cytokines.
3. Sleep Is Necessary For Fevers To Do Their Job
If you have a cold, you will probably experience a low-grade fever. Although they may be uncomfortable, fevers represent an important part of the body’s immune response, fighting and destroying pathogens with heat. When you feel hot and flushed, your body is working hard to make you better. Fever usually rises at night whilst you are sleeping, so it important to get a decent night’s rest and ensure that your body is primed for battling an infection.
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