Sleep: A Keystone Of Your Immunity Toolkit
Here at Leapfrog Remedies, we are always talking about the ways in which we can actively look after our health and support our immune systems to prevent us from getting ill. These include exercising regularly, spending time outdoors, taking cold showers, eating nutritious meals, and taking immunity-supporting supplements such as Leapfrog IMMUNE. While following these steps will decrease your risk of falling ill, sometimes a cold or the flu is unavoidable, and even healthy people with strong immune systems catch these common infectious viral illnesses.
This year the flu has been particularly hideous, due largely to our post-covid immune systems that are less equipped to fight off common colds and viruses. There’s been a rise in the number of influenza-related hospitalisations in England, and many of us will have spent winter holidays and weekends with a nasty cough or stuffed nose.
So, what do we recommend if you find yourself feeling under the weather this winter? As much as we love these immunity-boosting hacks, you won’t find the answer in ice-cold showers or taking yourself out for a walk in nature, but instead simply climbing back into bed and getting some much-needed sleep.
Why do I need to sleep when I’m ill?
When we feel awful, feverish, and sniffly, we owe it to ourselves to listen to our bodies to slow down and sleep. We might not be as productive as we usually are, but the desire for sleep we experience when we’re ill is a good thing. During sleep, our body is hard at work fighting off infection, a process which utilises lots of energy. Sleeping allows us to divert our body’s resources and energy towards getting better again, as opposed to using them up on moving our body around and getting through our usual daily tasks.
Additionally, research reveals that our immune systems produce more cytokines while we sleep (1). These infection-fighting proteins play a key role in regulating the growth and activity of the cells in our body that support the body’s immune and inflammation responses. Therefore, doctors suggest that when we have the flu, getting more than the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep is a good idea as it helps fight off the illness.
How do I get to sleep when I’m ill?
We all know it’s not always easy to drift off peacefully to sleep, especially when your nose is so blocked up it’s hard to breathe or your chronic cough won’t give you a break. Here are some tips to try to help you get that all-important slumber when you’re under the weather:
1) Drink lots of water.
Not drinking enough water can cause our mucus to become thick, causing nasal congestion. Drinking lots of water will help to thin mucus and help drain your sinuses for clearer airways and easier breathing. Staying hydrated also helps with immunity. It does this by lubricating mucous membrane barriers in our mouth and nose, acting as a defence mechanism against viruses, as well as flushing out unwanted toxins, bacteria, and viruses via lymphatic drainage (2).
2) Steam inhalation
This is another way of using water to help with congestion. Using a humidifier in the room while you sleep releases steam and increases moisture levels in the air. The particles of moisture can break up the mucus causing your stuffed nose, allowing you to sleep easier. Alternatively, before you head to bed, position your face over a bowl of hot (not boiling) water, with a towel over your head and let yourself inhale the steam for a couple of minutes to clear those nasal passages. For bonus points, add Vicks VapoRub or Olbas Oil for the anti-microbials constituents of their blend of essential oils.
3) Keep your room cool
Sweating out a fever is a common myth based on the idea that sweating will make a fever run its course faster. While it might be tempting to dial the thermostat up or layer on some extra blankets when you are feeling feverish, there is no scientific evidence to support that doing so will help you recover faster. In fact, sweating more will contribute to fluid loss and dehydration, making it harder to sleep and recover. Additionally, research shows that hotter sleep environments can significantly disturb sleep by causing increased wakefulness. Sleeping in a cooler room may facilitate the 1-2 degree decrease in core body temperature associated with the onset of sleepiness. Experts recommend an optimal sleeping temperature of 18.3 °C, and this advice should be followed when we are unwell too (3). Make sure that if you wear pyjamas that they are in a light, breathable fabric. At Leapfrog, we are huge fans of Peachaus pyjamas – light-as-air cotton and ethically sourced, too.
4) Try Leapfrog SNOOZE to induce sleep
Try taking 1 or 2 SNOOZE tablets an hour before you head to bed if you struggling to get that essential shuteye. Inspired by the soothed state of a baby after feeding, the key ingredient in this supplement is Lactium, a natural milk hydrolysate which reduces cortisol levels and increases the flow of GABA, the calming neurotransmitter. SNOOZE may help de-frazzle a stressed mind, and set the stage for a more restful sleep.
5) Sleep upright
By sleeping on an extra pillow so that you are positioned more upright, you allow gravity to do some of the work in clearing your airways. It will help to avoid postnasal drip that can contribute to a sore throat and trigger a cough. As a beauty side note, this is the best position to avoid pillow friction on the face that leads to premature or deepening wrinkles.
Take home message:
If you’re not well and find yourself feeling sleepy and lethargic, don’t fight that feeling. Listen to your body, call in sick, crawl under that duvet, and let your body take care of the rest. Get a dose of the doze because sleep really is the best medicine.