Try Catching a Few ZZZ's to Stop Catching Colds

Anne Dunev, PhD
Turns out there was something else your mother was right about. You should get more rest to prevent yourself from getting sick.

As printed in the Daily Dose by Dr. William Douglas researchers from Carnegie Mellon University actually performed a study, which they claim is the first to show that getting less than seven to eight hours of sleep every night makes you more apt to catch the common cold.

The results of the study claim that getting less than seven hours of sleep each night can make you three times more likely to catch a cold. And if you sleep restlessly, that makes you five times more susceptible.

Americans are sleeping approximately 20% less than they did 100 years ago. “Our biology has not changed by 20 percent. It’s our lifestyles that have changed,” according to Adam Moscovitch, a sleep researcher with the Canadian Institute of Sleep Medicine in Calgary, as quoted in the Denver Post.

The risks associated with sleep deprivation may be more serious — and deadly — than a few missed days from work due to a cold. People who didn’t sleep for 20 hours drove as poorly as those with blood alcohol of 0.08 percent, the legal limit for driving in Colorado.

Think about that the next time someone veers into your lane or cuts you off in traffic. If one or both of you is sleep deprived, your judgment may be dangerously impaired.

And you might consider asking how well your doctor has been sleeping recently.

Three days after a sleepless night on call, medical residents still performed poorly on simple tests.

Going without sleep can be pure torture. Just ask the ancient Romans who used tormentum vigilae (waking torture) to extract information from their enemies. The KGB, Japanese Army and various other assorted “bad guys” have used sleep deprivation as torture. Menachim Begin, former Prime Minister of Israel, described his experience, “In the head of the interrogated prisoner, a haze begins to form. His spirit is wearied to death, his legs are unsteady, and he has one sole desire: to sleep… Anyone who has experienced this desire knows that not even hunger and thirst are comparable with it.” Of course, the “good guys” may have resorted to this type of torture at times, as well. “It is such a standard form of torture that basically everybody has used it at one time or another,” says Andrew Hogg, of the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture.

True sleeplessness produces irritability and impaired function in the short term, but will induce psychosis, including delusions, paranoia and hallucinations, if continued night after night. Is your teen-ager getting enough sleep? The pineal gland, which governs sexual development is also the producer of melatonin and responsible for day/night cycles.

How much sleep should you be getting? The average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep each night to be fully rested. 39 percent of American adults get less than seven hours of sleep each weeknight, and more than one in three are so sleepy during the day that it interferes with their function and activities.

Why do we sleep? As a Naturopath and practitioner of energy medicine, I consider sleep a time to recharge our batteries. Our bodies are like bio-electric cars, and they need to be “plugged in” to get enough juice to run all day long. In Chinese medicine it is understood that the organs are active at night and may use the “down-time” of sleep for repair and routine detoxification. In fact, one of the first things I check, when someone consults me about sleep difficulties, is the need for a liver or gall bladder detox. Waking after 2:00 a.m. with worries that keep you tossing and turning are a symptom of this.

Hypothyroid or hypoadrenals may be another physiological reason why sleep is evasive. Feelings of depression or anxiety are commonly symptoms of endocrine problems or imbalances.

Artists and entertainers have a tendency to burn the midnight oil. So do web surfers and Shopping Network browsers. Electricity lit the way to the modern world. But our bodies have changed little since we were hunter-gatherers. We still need the same vital nutrients; air, water, food from nature. And sleep. Dreaming optional.