We are now officially in the cold and flu season. Although flu activity has been low in the U.S., those at a higher risk of infection include the elderly, young children, pregnant women … and those who are sleep deprived.
Wait, what? Yes, that’s right. It turns out that you better be well-rested when you get your flu shot!
Research shows that if you are sleep deprived at the time of your flu vaccination, it could take two to three times longer for your immune system to respond to the vaccine to build up the defenses needed to fend off the illness.
A study conducted by the University of Chicago found that 10 days after a group of sleep-deprived subjects received their flu vaccination, their antibody levels were half as high as those of another group of well-rested, vaccinated subjects. It took three to four weeks from the time of the vaccination for the groups’ immunities to become equal.
Another study at Carnegie Mellon University investigated insufficient sleep and the common cold, and found that participants who slept less than seven hours per night were three times more likely to develop a cold than study subjects who got eight hours (or more) of nightly sleep. A recent Sleep Number study found that, on average, Americans get only 6.7 hours of sleep per night! So sleep in, America! Those extra Zs may keep you -- and your office mates -- healthier this winter.
The same study also took a close look at sleep quality and sleep efficiency, which measures the percentage of time you spend in bed and are actually sound asleep. For example, many people are in bed eight hours a night, but take a long time to fall asleep, or their sleep is interrupted throughout the night (due to late-day caffeine consumption, a snoring partner, a pet, or the wrong mattress and pillow).
As an example, the study suggests that sleepers who spend almost 40 minutes awake in bed during an eight-hour night were 5.5 times more likely to develop the common cold than those who are only awake 10 minutes in an eight-hour slumber.
These findings suggest that it might be better to get a solid seven hours of sleep rather than a fitful eight, at least when it comes to cold prevention. Better yet -- a solid eight!
The Good News
Our immune systems seem to respond favorably to any additional quality sleep. So if you can’t manage to get an extra hour per night, every little bit may still help, even an extra 15 minutes.
Many people think that they can “learn” to get by on less sleep, or believe that they can “catch up” on their sleep later. These studies are stark reminders that neither of those strategies supports your immune system. There is a growing body of evidence that says every moment we are sleep deprived, we impair ourselves in some way. In other words, while you might become accustomed to too little sleep, your body will not adapt to it.
Just like diet and exercise, sleep is important for your optimal health -- especially during flu season. Sleep Number® beds adjust on each side to your ideal level of firmness, comfort and support to ensure you're well-rested enough to fight germs that could be making you sick this season.