Saturday, January 29, 2011

Rest Assured on Seven (7) Hours of Sleep

Experts believe that your rest is assured on seven (7) hours of sleep, but what if you are sick with a cold or flu? How many hours do you need when you are sick? Suffering from a hacking cough, throbbing head, a sore throat and a stuffy nose; you’ve got a cold or even the flu and all you want to do is sleep easy. With all these symptoms you might find that a restful night’s sleep is impossible, especially since cold and flu symptoms seem to get worse at night and can interfere with sleep at a critical time when your body needs rest the most. Congestion also worsens during the night as we produce more mucus and it forces us to breathe through our mouth instead of our nose when we lie down in bed. Mouth breathing irritates airways causing us to cough more often that can interrupt our sleep. The end result, we get less sleep and wake up feeling drained, which only makes your cold and flu symptoms seem worse.

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Cold medication may help us with our symptoms, but can affect our ability to fall asleep and stay asleep by making us feel jittery and nervous, especially if you are taking a decongestant, pseudoephedrine that is commonly found in some cough medications. Diphenhydramine found in Benadryl and other cold and allergy medications can have a paradoxical effect making some of us sleepy. Until you know how you will react to these medications is it best to avoid them after 6pm especially if you have to work early the next day. If you have a stuffy nose, try a topical nasal spray decongestant and/or external nasal strips to keep your breathing passages open while you’re asleep.

Do you take a nighttime liquid cold medication right before you go to sleep? Many doctors don’t recommend them because of their alcohol content. Alcohol can cause you to relax and fall asleep faster, but can interfere with deep sleep which is needed the most when you are recovering from a cold. Alcohol also causes dehydration that can make cold symptoms worse. Acetaminophen tablets are best and the safest remedy to use at bedtime according to experts at WebMD. Keep in mind that many multi-symptom medications already contain this ingredient, so make sure you check labels.

When you don’t feel well little things seem more irritating and annoying so make sure you have a comfy sleep environment while you are ill. See: Sleep Environment for more information on how to keep your room sleep inducive and reduce the number of night awakenings. A humidifier or vaporizer can also help keep the air moist and can make it easier to breath and calm a cough. Remember to drain and clean it every night otherwise you could circulate bacteria back into the air. You can give yourself a steam treatment in your own bathroom by turning your shower on full blast and inhaling the steam for about 10 minutes. This will loosen congestion and hydrate your nasal and throat passages.

6 More Ways to Sleep Better With a Cold

If you're still having problems sleeping during your cold or flu, the experts at WebMD offer six more tips that might help you feel better and get a better night's rest.

1. Drink at least 64 ounces of fluid a day. This will help maintain hydration in the nasal passages and throat, which in turn will help you feel more comfortable. If your liquids include fruit juices high in vitamin C, you'll also get a nutritional boost.

2. Drink a cup of warm, caffeine-free liquid before bedtime: herbal tea and honey, honey and warm water, decaffeinated coffee, or clear broth. This can open nasal passages, soothe a sore throat, and help you sleep.

3. Suck on hard candy before bedtime to moisten the throat, and keep a water bottle in easy reach to help quell a nighttime coughing spell.

4. If you must take a medicine for symptoms, opt for single products -- such as a pain reliever, a decongestant, or a cough medicine -- rather than a combination cold pill. Less is more, and many cold remedies have more than you need.

5. Read the labels of any medicines you do take, and make certain there is no crossover in ingredients. For example, if your multi-symptom pill also contains acetaminophen, you won't want to take an extra for pain or fever.

6. Don't be tempted to take a sleeping pill when you have a cold or flu, even if you take them regularly. A sleeping pill can make it harder to get up in the morning. If you are using sleeping pills regularly, never take them with any cold medicines, particularly those containing alcohol.

Here are 10 cold and flu survival tips from Lifescripts:

1. Washing works

One sure way to reduce your risk of getting sick is keeping your hands clean. Most cold and flu viruses are spread by direct contact: To get sick you have to touch something contaminated by someone who already has the virus. Blankets and pillows on airplanes are notorious for harboring nasty bugs. And health clubs that don’t scrub down their equipment may not be so healthy after all. Television remote controls are also havens for viruses.

But washing our hands all day is easier said than done. We come into contact with contaminated surfaces pretty much every time we set our palms down. And we’re reluctant, hurried scrubbers: Only two-thirds of men and 80% of women wash their hands after using the restroom – and most don’t wash adequately. The CDC recommends a 20-second scrub – about the time is takes to sing the alphabet song at a moderate pace, a lot longer than most people spend.

Another winning strategy: Keep a bottle of hand-sanitizing gel with you and use it frequently. These gels are highly effective and often less harsh on your skin than frequent soap and water washes.

2. Hands off

Beware of contaminated surfaces, fixtures and other shared objects. If you think you touched an unsanitary surface, don’t touch your face until after you clean your hands. And nail biters beware: Viruses are spread by bringing your now-contaminated hands into contact with mucous membranes in your mouth, nose or eyes. From there, the viruses scoot into your throat, nose and sinuses. At home, make sure whoever has a cold doesn’t go near anybody else’s towels.

3. Get a shot

For those whose immune systems are weak – the elderly, young children and diabetics – a flu shot can be a life saver, lessening the impact of the flu virus. Most doctors recommend the shot for all age groups. The vaccine is an inactive virus, so it won’t actually give you the flu – although in rare cases, people develop flu-like symptoms for a day or two after a shot.

4. Stay home

If you’re the one who’s sick, there’s no reason to spread the misery. Call in sick so you won’t infect others with your sneezing and coughing. However, if you can’t stay home, take precautionary measures to limit other people’s exposure. Covering your mouth and nose may prevent a germ-laden blast, but it will leave your hands covered with germs. Wash frequently, as this will limit how many people you can infect. Use a disposable tissue or, if stuck without one, cough into your elbow or arm instead. But really, do everyone a favor and stay home.

5. Check your medicine cabinet

The use of vitamin C to treat or prevent colds has many supporters, including the late Nobel Prize-winning scientist Linus Pauling. But most studies have not shown much effect, particularly on those who already had a cold. Some studies suggest, however, that children who regularly take vitamin C before a cold may suffer fewer days of illness.

Those overexposed to cold temperatures or who are under stressful conditions, such as soldiers and endurance athletes, seem to benefit the most from preventive vitamin C: They had as much as a 50% reduction in colds.

Echinacea, too, has had mixed reports. However, a recent study in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases has reopened the debate. Researchers at the University of Connecticut found that preventive use of Echinacea reduced chances of developing a cold by 58% and reduced a cold’s duration by a day and a half.

Zinc is another controversial therapy. Half the controlled studies looking at its effectiveness found that zinc reduced the cold’s severity and/or duration. The other half found no such effect. And no research has shown a preventive effect. A review of more than 100 studies on zinc and colds by Stanford University found that zinc nasal gel may cut a cold’s duration, but not the chances of catching a cold.

One caution, though: More than 80 milligrams of zinc per day may increase the likelihood of urinary tract infections in women.

You can try acetaminophen (Tylenol) to help dull aches and pains. Decongestants, antihistamines or a combination may help relieve congestion, coughs and drippy noses. However, many combination medications contain pain relievers, so be sure to read the labels on the packaging. You don’t want to get multiple doses of the same thing and end up overdosing.

6. Abandon the gym

You can’t sweat out a cold by exercising. In fact, that may make matters worse. Sweating may cause dehydration, further weakening you at a time when your appetite and energy are already low. Also, exercise can worsen the muscle soreness and aching common to viral illnesses. Take it easy.

7. Sip the soup

Most warm soups provide a respite from the symptoms of colds or flu, soothing the throat and opening up sinus passages (if only briefly). They also provide needed fluid.

Yet soups may do even more: In 2000, researchers found that chicken soup might contain a number of anti-inflammatory substances. The findings don’t mean chicken soup’s a cure but certainly it’s a comforting way to nourish your way back to wellness.

8. Stay warm

Chilly temperatures do not cause colds or flu; winter is simply the time when viruses tend to spread. But the stress that can come from chronic cold exposure may lower your immune system, making you more vulnerable to viruses. So your mother was right: Pull out the hats and gloves.

9. Call your doctor

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Two antiviral medications have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – Tamiflu and Relenz. If you start taking them within the first two days of flu symptoms, they may reduce both the intensity and the duration of your symptoms. Doctors usually prescribe them for five days. Alas, no antiviral medications can curb the common cold.

While most colds go away without incident within days or weeks, sometimes they do pave the way for other problems like sinus or ear infections and bronchitis. Ring the doctor if your cold becomes severe, if you have a high fever, ear pain, a sinus headache, or a cough that gets worse or produces green or brown sputum.

10. Do as your mother says

There’s no getting around it. Mom may not have had the science down, but in general her advice was solid. The best ways to avoid a cold or flu in the first place include eating lots of fruits and vegetables, which boost the immune system; exercising at least 30 minutes most days; getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep; and trying to keep stress at bay.

According to the Mayo Clinic, people who consistently get enough sleep have a stronger immune system and are less likely to get sick if exposed to a virus. When you sleep, your body produces proteins called cytokines. These proteins help fight infections, so if you have higher levels, you are better able to fight infections. You may avoid getting sick altogether, or if you do get sick, you can recover more quickly. You will also have more mental and physical energy and a better memory. People who slept less than seven hours were about three times more likely to get a cold than people who slept seven to eight hours a night.

In conclusion, it seems that 7-8 hours of sleep keep us from getting sick and help us recover from a cold or flu when we are sick. It’s the quality of sleep that is just as important as the quantity of sleep because healing takes place most effectively in deeper phases of sleep. More information about the quality and quantity of sleep see: mind your p’s and q’s … The content in Rest Assured on Seven (7) Hours of Sleep is for information purposes only, intended to raise the awareness of different solutions for your sleep problems and should not be considered medical advice. For medical diagnosis and treatment, please see your qualified health-care professional.
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