When you have a cold, have you ever wondered why you suddenly feel ten times worse at night? It’s bad enough during the day, with the congestion, headaches, and fever, but at night your symptoms become a real nightmare.
Blame It on Hormones
Research shows that our bodies are on a 24-hour clock called a circadian rhythm. Hormone levels fluctuate, increasing and decreasing within this daily cycle. Cortisol, a hormone made by the adrenal glands, helps regulate blood sugar levels, metabolism, and blood pressure. It also helps the body manage stress.
In addition, cortisol helps your immune system function properly and reduce inflammation. In other words, it helps you fight off infection and sickness.
More cortisol circulates in your blood during the day, which suppresses your immune system. This means that your white blood cells, which are responsible for fighting infections, are less active during the day.
At night, there is less cortisol in your blood. As a result, your white blood cells readily detect and fight infections in your body at this time, provoking the symptoms of the infection to surface, such as fever, congestion, chills, or sweating. Therefore, you feel sicker during the night.
Day versus Night
A couple of other things to consider are the natural differences we experience during the day and at night:
- Position of Your Body: Pressure in your body is continually changing. Gravity has a lot to do with how your body adapts and feels. Laying down will always cause your cold or flu symptoms to become worse.
Keeping your body upright can make a world of difference for your congestion and breathing, by helping to drain mucous from your airway. During the day you are naturally more upright, as you go about your routine, while at night you eventually lay down to sleep. Try adding an extra pillow to raise your head higher and promote sinus drainage.
- Distractions: Your daily life can be extremely hectic, with little time for yourself. Going from one task to the next doesn’t leave much time to dwell upon your symptoms. At night, however, you tend to wind down and relax, which is when your immune system kicks into gear.
As you have heard many times, the best thing to do when you are sick is to rest. Otherwise, you will be stressing out and elevating your cortisol levels.
Tips to Help You Fight Illness:
- Stay hydrated: Drinking fluids is the best thing you can do, along with getting plenty of sleep. Flushing out the infection or bacteria attacking your immune system will help you recover faster.
- Be prepared: Having all your essentials near you at night, such as tissues, medicine, and water on your bedside table, will be a lifesaver. Saving your energy and getting the most rest possible will do wonders.
- Support your immune system: For your immune system to fight off infection from colds and flu, it needs to be strong. Taking vitamin C, drinking hot tea, and getting plenty of sleep are all things that can help strengthen your immune system.
When you feel sick, turn to the doctors at Intercoastal Medical Group. One of our family practice or internal medicine providers will be happy to see you and get you on the path to recovery. You can request an appointment online now.