It’s officially cold and flu season. The average adult suffers between two and four a year – most of which will gradually increase now.
And many will notice that the much-hated sniffles, muscle aches, and sore throats are much worse after the sun goes down. Now, experts have revealed exactly why.
There are several reasons, they say. But the answer lies primarily in the body’s circadian rhythm, or internal biological clock.
Almost all bodily functions are programmed to operate at full capacity at certain times of the day and slow down at others.
For example, when the sun sets and the body senses that sleep time is approaching, the brain releases fewer stress hormones like cortisol and tells the gut to slow down digestive processes.
But some immune cells become more active. These cells are designed to track down and destroy pathogens like viruses.
This “fight” triggers inflammation – an evolutionary tool that kills bugs but is also responsible for the telltale symptoms of the common cold.
‘I“immune cells can cause irritation and inflammation, which ultimately makes respiratory symptoms worse at night,” said Dr. Diego Hijano, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in New York. Times.
Declining stress hormones like cortisol can make the problem worse, as the chemical can effectively calm inflammation.
Experts also point out another important factor: Quite simply, cough and cold symptoms get worse when you’re lying down.
This is because mucus begins to build up in the back of the throat – a problem doctors call postnasal drip.
“Throughout the day, mucus buildup is less of a problem because gravity helps flush it out when you’re up and moving,” said Dr. Juan Chiriboga-Hurtado, a family medicine specialist at Keck Medicine from the University of Southern California.
Finally, there’s the lack of distraction at night that forces you to focus on the irritating cough that you can’t move.
So what can you do to get a good night’s sleep?
Experts recommend simple things like drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day to thin the mucus and using a saline nasal spray to remove some of the sticky fluid.
Others suggest using menthol-flavored products. cough drops – or throat sprays – to provide a cooling sensation to the throat and help beat irritating tickles.
But there’s no point in trying not to cough.
“There is no benefit in trying to suppress a cough since the reason you cough is because the body perceives that it needs to get rid of a source of irritation,” explains Dr. Anindo Banerjee, health consultant. pulmonologist working in a UK hospital.
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