A new reason to take sleep seriously

09.10.15 |

Regular readers of my blog and books will know that Habits of Healthy Sleep are one of our more talked about topics.

This is for two major reasons:

  1. Medical research continues to confirm what physicians have suspected for some time: sleep is immensely important to our overall health.
  2. Despite its importance, millions of people are still failing to get healthy, restful sleep.

We’ve talked about how coffee can impact your sleep. We’ve talked about how our children are struggling to get restful sleep as well. And we’ve talked about how our love for screens is affecting our sleep. If you’ve read Dr. A’s Habits of Health, you know that failing to get restful sleep will affect your mood, will dull the parts of your brain responsible for learning, and a lack of sleep can even weaken your immune system.

Sleep and your immune system

That last point should be especially concerning with a new cold and flu season around the corner. New research has helped to confirm the link between sleep and the strength of your immune system. Researchers found a strong correlation between lost sleep and an increased susceptibility to the common cold (this study was published in the journal Sleep). Multiple studies that came prior to this one found evidence of this relationship, but this study makes it more concrete.

Defending against the common cold might sound like a small priority in our greater quest for longevity, but preventing any and all disease can dramatically improve quality of life. A common cold might not be serious in the grand scheme of potential illnesses, but a case of the sniffles can result in the following:

  • Further disrupted sleep, which can strain other areas of your life.
  • Reduced activity levels, which means you spend less time maintaining muscle mass and building on the rewards of consistent healthy movement.
  • Lost productivity at work, which could mean a rise in your stress levels.
  • The potential to spread the cold, which could mean interrupting the dynamics with your loved ones.

Contracting the common cold is not the end of the world, but it’s certainly worth avoiding. Beyond that, this study’s conclusion could also mean that our susceptibility to diseases in general increases when we lose sleep. The existing body of research around sleep supports this notion, so in resting up you might be avoiding other seasonal illnesses that can be far more serious.

So brush up on your Habits of Healthy Sleep and have a healthier fall and winter.