is officially here, and with it, cold and allergy season.
While each are certainly unpleasant, new research shows that allergies and colds affect our sleep in completely different ways.
For seasonal allergies, the general sense is that one goes to bed feeling miserable and wakes up feeling miserable. Feelings of daytime fatigue and impaired memory--common signs of poor sleep-- increase, leading some to question their sleep quality.
However, in cognitive tests allergy sufferers' performance did not differ significantly from that of non allergy suffers, leading some to conclude that sleep is not affected by allergies. Subsequent studies have yielded similar results.
One possible explanation is that allergy sufferers may focus on how uncomfortable they feel as a result of their allergies, which can indirectly affect how they view their sleep. Another possibility is that grogginess associated with some allergy medicines can cause people to think that they are not getting restful sleep.
That said, if you do suspect something more than allergy-related fatigue--and studies have shown a higher instance of sleep apnea among some allergy sufferers --consult your doctor.
A fever is often a common symptom of some types of viral colds and infections; it makes the body a less hospitable place for an infection to thrive. Shivering helps the body to keep this higher temperature; the more your muscles work, the hotter you are.
However, the body does not shiver during REM sleep (due to normal sleep paralysis); in order to allow this the body appears to actively suppress REM sleep when simultaneously fighting a cold. You can see some of this in the graph below:
All that said, scientists agree that more research is needed to better understand all the ways sleep and cold viruses interact; for the time being, make sure to follow your doctor's orders when treating a cold.
The silver lining is that getting more sleep can keep the colds away.
Considering that most adults have 2-3 colds per year (and kids 6-8), getting enough sleep on a regular basis could be one of the easiest ways to avoid getting sick this fall. Your body--and your health-- will certainly thank you for it.