immune system


Why You Should Get Plenty Of Sleep Tonight: Avoid That Cold

Lack of sleep can lead to bad outcomes, from crankiness to extreme mental distress.

Now researchers report an association between insufficient sleep and getting sick. Specifically, they conclude that shorter sleep duration was associated with increased susceptibility to the common cold. Adults who slept fewer than 5 hours or between 5 and 6 hours were at greater risk of developing a cold compared to those sleeping more than 7 hours per night, according to the study, published in the journal Sleep.



The authors conclude:

Given that infectious illness (i.e., influenza and pneumonia) remains one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States, the current data suggest that a greater focus on sleep duration, as well as sleep health more broadly, is indicated.

NPR reports further on the study:

Aric Prather, a psychologist at the University of California, San Francisco, who studies how our behaviors can influence our health…wanted to document the extent to which a good night’s sleep is protective. So, he and a group of colleagues recruited 164 healthy men and women — their average age was 30 years old — to take part in a study. Using sleep diaries and a device similar to a Fitbit, the researchers assessed each participant’s sleep for a week.

Then the scientists sprayed a live common cold virus into each person’s nose.

“We infected them with the cold virus,” Prather says, then quarantined everybody and watched to see who got sick…

“What we found was that individuals who were sleeping the least were substantially more likely to develop a cold,” Prather says. Continue reading

Suck On This: Pacifier-Licking Parents Have Less Allergic Kids, Study Finds

Admit it, you’ve done this: your kid drops her pacifier on the floor and, too exhausted to schlep to the kitchen sink to rinse it, you just give it a good lick and hand the binky back.

Well, it turns out this not-so-pretty cleaning method you turn to when no one else is looking may, in fact, be one helluva gift for your child’s immune system.

Joe Suspence/flickr

(Joe Suspense/Flickr)

Researchers in Sweden report that “children whose parents sucked on their pacifiers to clean them had one-third the risk of developing eczema (the most common early manifestation of allergy), at 18 months of age, compared to children whose parents did not use this cleaning practice.”

It gets better. Infants who were born vaginally and were lucky enough to have a parent suck clean his or her pacifier got an added boost, the study found: “The prevalence of eczema was approximately 2.5 times lower at 18 months of age in vaginally delivered children whose parents sucked their pacifiers than in caesarean section-delivered children whose parents did not have this habit (20% vs. 54%),” the study says.

The takeaway from the study, published online today in the journal Pediatrics, is this: It looks like early exposure to parents’ saliva may help stimulate a baby’s immune system, Continue reading

Why To Exercise Today: I’m Scared Not To

Confession: I haven’t been posting these “Why To Exercise Today” pieces for the last week or two because I haven’t been exercising, and so felt sadly uninspired. I tweaked my knee so badly that I had to go down stairs like a toddler, landing on each step with both feet before moving on to the next one. “Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!” is what I sounded like as I descended.

Now, after a few days of rest, the pain is gone but so is my new habit of working out five days a week instead of my former three. And frankly, I’m demoralized. I’m afraid of doing the high-impact workouts that make exercise fun — the running and step aerobics. To add to my frustration, I’ve been searching and searching fruitlessly for studies that demonstrate that you only lose a little bit of fitness when you miss a week or two of exercising. That’s what I really want to hear right now. But no luck.

Still, you have to get back on the horse sometime, right? Already, writing about all the health evils that exercise helps us avoid has changed my attitude forever: I have to keep exercising because, with what I now know, I’m too scared not to. Latest case in point: A study out of Boston University that found that in obese mice, moderate exercise may help improve immune system damage linked to some of the most prevalent diseases, including heart disease, cancer and high blood pressure. Really, what more does it take to get back on the hamster wheel?

The study itself was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. From the press release:

Diet and exercise restore immune function in obesity

Boston University scientists say that moderate daily exercise and dietary control might reverse immune dysfunctions found in people with obesity.

Overeating and a sedentary lifestyle are well-known risk factors for obesity, which is linked to hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, gum disease, certain cancers, and asthma.

Research has suggested that a change in immune function is a predecessor to all these diseases and researchers at Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine (GSDM) have previously shown that obesity causes immune defects that make it hard to fight infection. Continue reading