The First Thing You Should Do When You Start Feeling Sick

While your first instinct may be to grab some vitamin C, there is another, easier thing you could do that may work better.

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The moment the aches, shivers, or headache of a cold or fever set in, what’s your best move? Power down some cold medicine? Take some Tylenol? No, and no, according to new research that brings some welcome news: If you want to prime your immune system to fight off viral or bacterial intruders, your first move should be toward your bed.

In a new study published in the The Journal of Experimental Medicine, researchers tracked ten people, keeping half of them awake for a night while the other half slept; two weeks later, the volunteers switched roles. The researchers took blood samples from the groups each time, measuring immune system T cells.

The researchers found that sleep allows infection-fighting T cells to perform better. In the participants that stayed awake during the night, researchers found that other hormones within the body, such as adrenaline and noradrenaline, hindered the ability of the T cells. However, in those participants that were allowed to fall asleep, researchers found that adrenaline and prostaglandin levels dipped and T cells remained vigilant and active. Here are more simple things you can do to boost your immune system.

“Our findings show that sleep has the potential to enhance the efficiency of T cell responses, which is especially relevant in light of the high prevalence of sleep disorders and conditions characterized by impaired sleep, such as depression, chronic stress, aging, and shift work,” said Luciana Besedovsky, PhD, at the University of Tübingen in Germany, in a press release. So the moment you begin to feel lousy, you can tell your boss or your spouse you need to hit the sack right away. Now, make sure you aren’t committing any of these innocent mistakes that can ruin your immune system.

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