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Your Cold-Fighting Secret Weapon

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You drink plenty of fluids, always wash your hands, and have already received your annual flu shot. Other than that, there's not much you can do to avoid getting sick this winter, right? It turns out one of your best germ defense might be literally right under your nose, in the form of your mattress and comfy pillow.

In a recent study from Carnegie Mellon ­University, people who slept an average of only 7 hours or fewer per night were almost 3 times (!!!) more likely to develop a cold than their peers clocking the recommended 8. When bogged down with sinus pressure, aches, and worse, you're bound to lose more than an hour per day in productivity - the perfect excuse to sleep in a little later tomorrow. My boss will totally understand.

Okay, maybe it's the perfect excuse to sleep in this weekend.

With holiday parties, family members stopping by to visit, and all the other fun (Shopping! Cookies! Sledding!) activities typical of this time of year, getting enough sleep every night can be a challenge. You may have errands to run and gifts to wrap, but nothing gets done when you're sick. Here are a few sleep tips you can implement tonight, which are also terrific cold fighters:
  • Relax before bedtime with a hot mug of echinacea tea, such as Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime Echinacea Complete Care, made with a splash of milk. Studies have shown echinacea may limit cold severity and improve sleep. The milk you add doesn't just create a creamy beverage. Low levels of vitamin D, more common during the winter due to less time spent in the sun, have been linked to reduced immunity.
  • Enjoy a hot bath with Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate). When you sleep, your body temperature naturally drops. Heating your body before bed, then letting it quickly cool down, signals to your brain that it's time to rest. This tip may help you fall asleep more quickly, plus sleep more deeply - especially beneficial if you're prone to wake at every noise throughout the night.
  • Make sure your bed isn't costing you Z's. Is your pillow supportive? Are your blankets too heavy or too light? On our recent vacation, we stayed in 4 different places and had trouble sleeping on all 4 spring mattresses. There's not much you can do about that when traveling, but there's no reason to put up with an uncomfortable mattress in your own bedroom. I've said it before and stand by it - nothing beats the support of a memory foam mattress and pillow! We love our Amerisleep Liberty Bed and missed it every night of our vacation.
  • Incorporate exercise into your bedtime routine. Stretching, going for an evening stroll, and certain yoga postures can improve your health, all while preparing you for a deeper sleep. A popular move that even the most yoga-averse can enjoy is the simple "legs up the wall" pose. Close to bedtime, lie on the floor or on your mattress, with your body parallel to the wall. Swing your legs up against the wall, straighten them, and stretch your arms out, palms up. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and relax for 5 minutes.
Who knew avoiding getting sick could be so pleasant? Armed with eight hours of sleep tonight, germs don't stand a chance.

 Sexy Nerd took this photo of me conked out on the train in Copenhagen and said I'm "not cut out for so much adventuring". Little did he know, I was simply replenishing my cold-fighting arsenal!

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