Thursday, March 4, 2010

Sleep - More than Just Rest

I know this is a nutrition blog, but there is some news that worth megaphoning and today it's sleep.  We tend to think about sleep in different ways - rest & recovery, turn off life, cuddling with loved ones.  But there is an aspect of sleep that is overlooked - immunity building.  Recent research from Carnie Mellon University shows that sleep quality and efficiency is "an important predictor of immunity and, in turn, susceptibility to the common cold." 

In a study of 153 healthy men and women, participcants who reported less than 7 hours of sleep were 2.94 times more likely to get a cold than those with 8 hours or more of sleep.  Similarly, participants with less than 92% sleep efficiency were 5.5 times more likely to get a cold than those with 98% or greater sleep efficiency.  [Sleep efficiency is defined as the percentage of time in bed actually asleep for the previous night and whether they felt rested.]  Poorer sleep efficiency and duration is associated with lower resistance to illness!slee

This is a huge wake up call for me :)  I tend to get 6 hours of sleep nightly not because of insomnia, but rather workload.  My body tells me at least twice a week that 6 isn't enough, so I'll relinquish to 8 or more.   To assist with your sleep without drugs, consider melatonin pills, a natural hormone that your body produces to prepare for sleep. 

Besides nutrition, hydration and exercise, sleep is an essential part of building a strong immune system so it's in top shape to handle the constant exposure to illness-causing germs.

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