How to Prevent the Cold or Flu by Getting Better Sleep

If you’re looking to avoid the cold or the flu, make time for sleep!

Did you know that you can avoid getting sick by improving your sleep patterns?

Sleep deprivation has an adverse effect on immune function, and chronic sleep loss increases your vulnerability to infectious diseases.  The Sleep in America poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found that on average that children and the elderly, identified as high-risk populations, do not meet the low range of recommended hours of sleep each night.

In a recent study performed at the University of San Francisco and the University of Pittsburgh Medical centers, sleep time of 164 male and female volunteers was measured continuously for 7 days.  The subjects were then quarantined and exposed to drops of the cold virus and observed for 5 days.  Scientists found that those subjects who averaged less than 5 hours to 6 hours of sleep a night were over 4 times more likely to develop symptoms of a cold compared to those subjects who slept 6-7 hours a night who did not show an increased risk for developing a cold.

Listen to how getting better sleep can help prevent infection and disease

FusionHealth’s Medical Director, Dr. Parina Aggarwal shares tips on how to get the rest needed to avoid getting sick. Click the play button below to listen to the audio or the download link to download the audio file.

Podcast Part 1

Schedule sleep like any other daily activity. Put it on your “to-do list” and cross it off every night, but don’t make it the thing you do only after everything else is completed — stop doing other things so you get the sleep you need.

To pave the way for better sleep, follow these simple yet effective healthy sleep tips:

  • Stick to a sleep schedule, even on weekends.  Set an alarm to remind you to stop doing what you are doing to start getting ready for bed.
  • Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual.  Examples include deep breathing, mediation, reading, listening to books on tape or relaxing sounds.
  • Exercise daily.  Exercise increases deep sleep.
  • Evaluate your bedroom to ensure ideal temperature, sound and light.
  • Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows.
  • Beware of hidden “sleep stealers,” like alcohol, nicotine and caffeine.
  • Turn off electronics before bed.  Electronic devices can trick the brain to thinking it is daytime.

Your health depends on it!

What should you do if you are currently on treatment for sleep apnea and get a cold?  

Upper respiratory infections such as the common cold make it more difficult to use Positive Airway Pressure (PAP), which is an effective treatment for sleep apnea.  If you are being treated for sleep apnea:

  • Use decongestants ONLY as recommended by your doctor or pharmacist.  If you are taking blood pressure medications, ask your doctor to prescribe a decongestant for you as some will cause your blood pressure to elevate.
  • Consider a heated humidifier to restore moisture levels in your nasal passages to help you sleep easier and wake up more refreshed.
  • Use a full face PAP mask as opposed to a nasal mask to make it possible for the continuous airflow to actually work.
  • Clean the mask with mild soap and water and clean the tank and tubing with a 50/50 vinegar and water solution.
  • Sleep with your head and upper back propped up to avoid an increase of mucous to build up.
  • Try a hot shower before bedtime to loosen up your congestion and sinus passageways.
  • Use saline nasal spray to moisture the lining of your nose.

FusionHealth offers technology-enabled sleep health management programs that identify, treat and continuously manage employees at risk for sleep issues. The value of a well-rested workforce extends across an organization from safety and risk mitigation to improving employee productivity, retention and health. Contact us for more information on joining our programs.

1. National Sleep Foundation, Sleep in America Poll,
2. Aric et al. “Behaviorally assessed sleep and susceptibility to the common cold.” SLEEP 38. 9 (2015):1353-1359