Sleep Health

How to boost your immune system this winter with sleep and other tips

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It's that time of year again when the wind picks up, and the skies grow darker – winter. It's the time of year when my nose, my throat, and my lungs become a battleground.

I have asthma, you see, so I'm always conscious of the colder months. If you're anything like me, you'll also be looking for ways to boost your immune system and avoid the cold and flu.

Let me first say that there's no single cure that'll completely prevent you from catching a virus outside of a vaccine. Besides the no-brainers like washing your hands, not hugging, and no parties, the best way to avoid getting sick is to have a healthy immune system. Do you know how you're doing this? Let's start with the obvious.

 

1. Be wary of the advice you find online

We're all looking to protect ourselves, but we should note that some advice you find online is dangerous, for example, taking vast amounts of vitamins. For all the charms of the internet and social media, there are also many flaws. The recent pandemic has brought out a lot of misinformation, so please speak with your doctor before trying anything new. We recommend looking out for guides from medical institutions and academia for best practices on spotting fake medical news.

 

2. Get the flu shot

I'm not fond of needles as much as the next person, but if they can save me from two weeks of being bedridden, a quick nurse jab can play a huge difference. If you have an underlying condition, the flu can also make you far more ill than the average person. So it certainly helps to get your shot.  The flu vaccine prevents thousands of hospitalizations each year. For example, during 2019-2020 flu vaccination prevented an estimated 105,000 flu-related hospitalizations.

 

3. Eat a nutritious diet

There is a strong correlation between diet and our health. We've written a thorough article outlining the many benefits of a nutritious diet. Meals featuring a diverse set of colors is often a good indicator that it is a stable source of essential micronutrients. Additionally, eating more balanced and nutritious can help reduce regular sweet cravings, which may be the by-product of not having enough nutrients during the day. 

 

4. Get Plenty of Rest

When you sleep, your body is working hard to ensure that it has the energy to fuel your immune system. There is a strong connection between sleep and health, While medically it’s not fully understood why we need so much sleep, we can safely say that sleep helps us to restore ourselves physically. While we are awake we spend so much of our energy doing our everyday routines, sleep gives our bodies a chance to rest and repair.

5. Go outside to exercise

It's worthwhile to go outside for a run each day. You'll not only be getting exercise but also the vitamin D your immune system needs. If it's too wet or cold, then I recommended checking out YouTube videos for an indoor workout. While some winter weight is forgivable at this time of year, you'll need to stay active to maintain proper blood circulation for your body.

 

What else is there?

Yes, these tips are less interesting than the magical promises you'll find on the web. But sleep, diet, exercise, plus a flu shot is a great start on things you can do to help your body maintain a healthy immune system. In doing so, you might just minimise your risk of getting the cold, flu or even the coronavirus.

If you're still eager to do something a bit extra, I recommend sticking to food, and even that in moderation. I've read somewhere that taking cinnamon and turmeric with black pepper can stimulate the immune system. I won't pretend to know the health benefits of that. To me, it purely sounds like a delicious recipe base for a warming curry – perfect for any winter.

Have you checked your sleep lately?

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Andrew Mun

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Citations

1

Gharpure R, Hunter CM, Schnall AH, et al. Knowledge and Practices Regarding Safe Household Cleaning and Disinfection for COVID-19 Prevention — United States, May 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. ePub: 5 June 2020.

2

Cohen S, Doyle WJ, Alper CM, Janicki-Deverts D, Turner RB. "Sleep habits and susceptibility to the common cold", Arch Intern Med, vol. 169, 2009, pp. 62-7.

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