As the temperature and leaves fall, our bodies are challenged with adapting to a “new normal” for a few months before the Sun warms us up again. With the change of season comes the increase of runny noses, flemmy throats, and achy bodies. Cold and Flu Season is probably one of the most frustrating times of year- sometimes no matter how careful you are, no matter how many times you wash your hands or avoid people that are sick, you get hit with a blocked nasal cavity forcing you to mouth breathe and go into coughing fits at any given moment. It’s really a glorious time (NOT!). While you might not be in total control over whether or not you get sick, there are still things you can do to minimize the opportunity for pathogens to affect you. We all walk around with viruses flowing through our bodies, but the healthiest bodies can successfully suppress them. So how do you ensure your body is healthy enough to withstand the wrath of Flu Season? This is going to be a multi-part series, because there are foundational things you can do, and then there are deep in the weeds things you can do.
So let’s check out part 1:
Sometimes I feel like I’m beating a dead horse (figure of speech!) but really don’t think I can stress enough the importance of keeping your body well-hydrated. It’s not always easy (trust me, I’m the queen of not drinking enough water) but it’s SO important. I have set reminders every hour to get myself in a cadence to drink enough water throughout the day. Do whatever you need to do to ensure you’re getting an ample amount of agua (water).
Aim for at least your body weight in ounces each day, and if you’re super active, you might even need more. This might seem like a lot- it is, but it’s definitely doable. It might even help you if you feel like you’re always hungry, even if you’re eating the right amount of food for your goals. Easiest way to keep track of your water intake is to get yourself a sweet reusable water bottle (shoutout saving the planet) and aim to drink a specific number of them. Get a bottle that’s at least 24 ounces, so you aren’t filling it up every 2 seconds- although if you work in a desk job you might want to extra little walks to the water fountain throughout the day!
Go the F to Sleep
If you do nothing else besides drink enough water and get enough sleep, you will probably be able to fight off most sicknesses that roll through. Giving your body the necessary time it needs to recover each night will keep your immune system strong enough to fight off most anything going around. Sleep affects your memory retention, immune and gut health, and stress management. So just keep that in mind!
The National Sleep Foundation recommends 6-9 hours of sleep for the average adult. I’d go as far as to say that 6 really isn’t enough for most people- even if you think you’re a unicorn and you say you can get by on 4 hours of sleep, I’d guess you’re going to be wrecked in 10 years.
Aim for at least 7 hours each night- if you get 6, awesome. Here’s the kicker- if you’re more active than the average adult (if you do any sort of high-intensity exercise), then you need to be getting closer to the 8-9 hour range of sleep. The more stress you subject your body to, the greater the demand for recovery. So go the F to sleep, people!
The thing is that it isn’t really about the number of hours you sleep, but also the quality of the sleep you get. Developing a nighttime routine to unwind and relax before bed, and practicing good sleep hygiene are both huge for sleep quality.
As you’re developing a nighttime routine that works for you, focus on doing things that help you unwind and relax.
That might mean:
Warm bath/ shower
Snuggling your loved ones
Pick one or two of these things (or your own) and try them out to see how you feel getting into bed. Stay consistent with the routine you develop. The routine itself will trigger your body to get ready for sleep. Your Nighttime routine is linked really closely with good sleep hygiene, because you kind of need one for the other to work.
Sleep hygiene is how you set yourself and your space up for a good night’s sleep. You can use your nighttime routine to help with this. Sleep hygiene includes:
Totally dark room
Avoid Blue Light 2-3 hours before bed
Totally Dark Room: try covering or eliminating any extra light in your room when you are sleeping. Believe it or not, those little lights can affect your sleep whether or not you notice them. Use blackout curtains or an eye mask (or both if you really want) to stay in a completely dark room.
Cool Temperature: if the room is too hot, or your body is too hot when you’re sleeping it gets really hard to stay asleep. If you’ve ever been in bed in the middle of the summer without AC you know this firsthand. Keep the temperature cool (around 68 degrees) to allow yourself a comfortable night’s sleep.
Avoid Blue Light 2-3 hrs Before Bed: Blue Light is the light from computer and phone screens, which raises cortisol levels in the body. Avoid using screens with bare eyes right before bed (aka quit scrolling on your phone in bed!) to let your cortisol levels drop and melatonin levels to rise until you wake up in the morning. You can use your phones/computers, but scoop a pair of Blue Light Blocking Glasses to shield your eyes. Side note about screens: sometimes it’s purely the content on the screen that can raise your cortisol levels, so even if you are wearing Blue Light glasses, you could be raising those cortisol levels. This comes into stress management, but try not to take work home with you, especially not into your bedroom (or wherever you sleep).
Water and sleep are the foundation for general health, and specific health and fitness goals. It’s the bottom of the pyramid, and you can build from there. These are also the least sexy things that you can do. There’s no magic pill, or a quick solution to developing these solid routines and habits. But these are the most important ones, and anything worth having was hard to get.
Stay tuned for Part 2!