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Do You Feel Like Hibernating?

Every Autumn, as the days get shorter, I can feel an urge to rest more. Is this a good sign I wonder? Is it my age showing? Or could it be that my body naturally knows that, at this time of year, it is more vulnerable to colds and other bugs and my immune system needs more sleep in order to stave off infections successfully.

In a recent study (1) investigators examined the effects of sleep deprivation on our immune system’s ability in fighting off infection. Volunteers were inoculated with the cold virus and were permitted varying lengths of sleep. It was discovered that those who slept less than 5 hours had a 4.5 greater chance of developing a cold and those who slept 5-6 hours had a 4.24 greater chance of developing a cold than those who slept longer than 7 hours ( the recommended duration of sleep time by the National Sleep Foundation ). Another previous study (2) showed that sleep deprivation does lead to alterations in the number of immune cells that are involved in fighting infections.

Getting back to my sleepiness at this time of year – I have been a bit sniffly following a recent flight and one of the consequences of illness does include sleepiness. Our immune cells secrete substances that fight infections but also seem to be a natural sedative – amazing how the immune system communicates this need directly to our brains!

So, this Autumn, don’t rely on vitamin C or other supplements – just get more sleep!

1. Prather AA, Janicki-Deverts D, Hall MH, Cohen S. Behaviorally Assessed Sleep and Susceptibility to the Common Cold. Sleep 2015. 2. Irwin M, McClintick J, Costlow C, Fortner M, White J, Gillin JC. Partial night sleep deprivation reduces natural killer and cellular immune responses in humans. FASEB J 1996 10:643-653

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