Many health care experts agree that the best way to avoid H1N1 or other viruses and colds is not to get infected in the first place. Depending on your exposure to the outside world, this may be easier said than done. But it all starts with strengthening your immune system and the one most effective way to accomplish this is to get more sleep. Recent studies continue to show the importance of adequate bed rest in fighting off disease.
Earlier this year, The Archives Of Internal Medicine reported on a clinical trial conducted by Carnegie Mellon University. The study involved exposing 153 participants to RV-39, an experimental rhinovirus, and then keeping them in quarantine and observing them for 5 days for signs of infection. While 88% became infected, those that slept less than 7 hours a night were almost 3 times more likely to develop a more serious infection than those who slept 8 hours. Those that exhibited the best “sleep efficiency”, the actual time that a person enjoys undisturbed asleep, had the strongest chance of avoiding a cold.
The National Sleep Foundation estimates that only about 28% of our population currently sleeps 8 hours a night. Since 2000, the number of Americans sleeping less than six hours nightly has gone from 13% to 20%. With the economy in recession, a worry free night’s sleep may be a luxury to many. In fact almost one third of the respondents to the NSF Poll claimed that financial worries have caused them to cut back on their sleep.
So why doesn’t our society embrace the common sense notion of getting more sleep? Why do so many frown upon those getting a good night’s rest? Sleeping has become synonymous with being self indulgent, lazy, or even obese. Should you be multi-tasking instead of snoring? Time and again we see media profiles of successful people and hear them boast of needing only a few hours of sleep every night. Some efficiency experts say you should simply start your day earlier citing the old adage of “you snooze, you lose”. This gift of an extra hour is intended to benefit those of hectic schedules as opposed to the undisciplined slobs that keep hitting the snooze button on the alarm. But how beneficial is the practice of depleting your body’s much needed immunity reservoir? Maybe it’s time to stop pitting sleep against productivity and embrace a “you sleep, you win” philosophy.
Perhaps Dr. David Katz, co-founder of the Yale Prevention Research Center and the author of nearly 100 scientific papers, said it best, “Time invested in sleep will almost certainly be paid back in dividends of better health (with) fewer colds and greater productivity”.
Sources: National Sleep Foundation 2009 Poll, Archives Of Internal Medicine (Vol. 169), Yale School of Public Health