Updated March 24, 2020 In the midst of stockpiling supplies and planning a self-quarantine if needed, you might have overlooked one of the simpler ways to protect yourself against the new coronavirus—a good night’s sleep. Sleep does more than help you recover when you’re sick—sleep reduces your chances of getting infected by supporting your immune system. It’s not a guaranteed protection against the coronavirus, but getting a full night’s rest will keep you healthier than losing an hour or two of sleep every night. What is Coronavirus? Coronavirus has been used by many to refer to the current outbreak. However, the term “coronavirus” technically refers to a virus family that includes the common cold and more serious diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. The new coronavirus disease, known as COVID-19, was first reported in China on December 31, 2019. The virus is believed to spread from person to person through close proximity (within 6 feet) or by inhaling residue droplets in the air from a person’s cough or sneeze. It is also possible the virus spreads through a person touching an infected surface, then touching their mouth, nose, or eyes—however, this is likely not the virus’s primary route of infection. Coronavirus has been found in at least 97 countries and has affected more than 113,700 people worldwide. Evidence suggests many people have contracted a mild case of coronavirus and recovered without special treatment. Specialized laboratory tests can determine if you have coronavirus. As of March 4, anyone who wants a test can receive one with their doctor’s approval. Symptoms of Coronavirus Symptoms for coronavirus may be mild: a fever, cough, and shortness of breath 2 to 14 days after exposure. If severe, the virus’s symptoms may resemble pneumonia symptoms. If you develop symptoms, stay at home. Don’t go to work or school; if possible, leave only to get medical care. Try to avoid people in your home, and if you can, have a bathroom reserved for your sole use. If you see a doctor, wear a facial mask and call ahead so the doctor’s office can make preparations to minimize infection risks. You should seek medical attention immediately if symptoms worsen, such as increased difficulty breathing. How to Prevent Coronavirus Infection There is no vaccine or cure for the current coronavirus outbreak, so avoiding exposure is the best precaution you can take. Steps the CDC recommends are: Stay home if you are sick, and avoid getting too close to others who are sick. Use a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and throw each used tissue away. Try not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth. Wash your hands after eating, using the restroom, and coughing or sneezing. Make sure you use soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If you can’t wash your hands, use a hand sanitizer that is at least 60 percent isopropyl alcohol. Regularly disinfect commonly touched surfaces and objects (light switches, tables, remotes, sinks, toilets, doorknobs) with a cleaning spray or a wipe. You should only wear a facemask if you are exhibiting symptoms or if you are taking care of someone who is showing symptoms. What Does the Immune System Do? The immune system’s job is to minimize infection and illness. It does this with different organs, cells, and proteins in the body. Without an immune system, our bodies could not protect themselves from harmful bacteria and viruses. Your immune system recognizes and fights off disease-causing pathogens (bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites) and other harmful foreign substances. Your body detects germs through signs such as foreign proteins, and once a germ is detected, your body undergoes a series of processes to fight it off. After your body encounters a specific germ for the first time, it stores information on how to fight it to make a second encounter easier. Sleep and the Immune System Your body works at its best only when you get a full night of sleep—and your body includes your immune system. “Without enough sleep, your mind is less able to pay attention to your surroundings and retain information,” certified sleep science coach Andrea Strand said. “You’re more likely to injure yourself. And your immune system operates at a reduced capacity.” For example, sleep makes your body’s T-cells react more efficiently. T-cells are a type of white blood cell and they specialize in fighting one kind of virus. There are between 25 million to a billion T-cells in your body. There are two types of T-cells, killer and helper cells—killer T-cells destroy infected cells, while helper T-cells use chemicals to communicate with parts of your immune system. A 2019 study found that losing a couple hours of sleep decreases how well your T-cells respond. Sleep also helps your body produce cytokines, a type of protein that affects the immune system. Some cytokines stir up your immune system, while others slow down the system. Experiments suggest that too much or too little production of cytokines may contribute to disease development. Cytokines are released when you sleep (and some help you sleep). Losing sleep cuts down on your cytokines and renders your immune system less effective. Weakening your immune system through sleep loss leaves you more susceptible to disease, as a 2015 study found. The study observed sleep habits of 164 healthy men and women for a week before giving them the rhinovirus. The subjects were then monitored for 5 days to see who developed cold symptoms. The study found those who slept less than 5 hours had higher chances of developing a cold than those who slept for more than 7 hours. Sleep and Anxiety Minor to moderate anxiety and stress about the coronavirus is normal—a little bit of fear keeps us safe, after all. However, as concerns rise, it’s important to keep yourself from falling into a panic. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety and stress can worsen sleep habits, whether generalized anxiety or an anxiety disorder. “Stress is one of the great enemies of sleep,” Strand said. “And the coronavirus is currently one of the big stressors. We see not only daily updates, we watch firsthand how it impacts our lives, even if we remain uninfected.” Following precautions and stocking up on supplies may reduce your sense of anxiety. Limit how much attention you’re giving the media—you don’t need to read every single article on coronavirus if it stresses you out. Check with reliable sources like the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) for updates. Try to break out of your head if worries continue. Talk to friends and family members, and look for ways you can help out in the community. When it comes to sleep, take the time to relax before bed with a warm bath, stretches, or a good book. If worries tend to wake you up when you’re falling asleep, set aside time in the evening to write down your fears and work through possible solutions. How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep Most of us need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep. We grow sleepy because of our circadian rhythms—we wake up when it’s light and get tired when it’s dark. Our core body temperatures also cool down when we get ready for sleep. Set up your bedroom so it’s cool and dark to promote sleepiness. Use blackout curtains or an eye mask, and set your thermostat to 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. If you can, try to use your bedroom for sleep only. If you use your bedroom for other activities such as watching TV, exercising, or doing work, your brain is more likely to dwell on thoughts of these tasks when you’re trying to fall asleep. When you wake up, try to get some morning sunlight as soon as you can. Open the curtains or go for a brisk walk. Limit your electronic use an hour or two before bed. The screen’s blue light tricks your brain into thinking it’s daytime, which delays the body’s preparations for falling asleep. Similarly, try not to consume caffeine within six hours of bedtime. Though you stop feeling caffeine a few hours after taking it, it lingers in the body for hours and can prevent you from falling asleep. Make sure you’re sleeping on a high-quality mattress. If your mattress is sagging or lumpy, it’s likely to cause sleep disturbances and leave you waking up with aches. The best mattresses relieve pressure, maintain spinal support, and keep you cool throughout the night. Check your pillow’s quality as well. Old pillows tend to accumulate allergens, which can cause a morning flare-up of allergy symptoms. If your pillow is too thin or too thick, you may wake up with a sore neck or a headache. Try to fall asleep and wake up at around the same time every day, even on weekends. Keeping a consistent sleep schedule makes it easier to fall asleep. If you’re waking up a few minutes before your alarm clock, it’s a good sign you’re getting enough sleep. Frequently Asked Questions Will buying a product from China give me the new coronavirus? No. The virus cannot survive outside of a host for long, not long enough to survive days or weeks of transit. The most likely route of infection is inhaling droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze. Who are the most at risk for coronavirus? According to Harvard Medical School, older people and those with an underlying medical condition, such as chronic bronchitis or diabetes. However, people of all ages can be affected. Can a mosquito give me coronavirus? There is no evidence to suggest mosquitoes can transmit the coronavirus, according to WHO. Evidence suggests its a respiratory virus that transfers through droplets from coughs and sneezes. Do hand dryers kill coronavirus? No. By the same token, cold weather, snow, and a hot bath cannot kill the coronavirus once it’s inside your body, as your internal body temperature remains relatively consistent despite the external temperature. Washing your hands with soap and water or an isopropyl alcohol-based wipe can prevent contamination. Are antibiotics effective against coronavirus? Antibiotics are only effective against bacteria, not viruses. However, doctors may give you antibiotics if you’re hospitalized for coronavirus to prevent bacterial co-infection. Conclusion Sleep is not the only measure you should take against the new coronavirus. Stay updated with the news, frequently disinfect shared items and surfaces such as the kitchen table and the TV remote, and make a plan for what your household will do if anyone falls sick. Doing research keeps you from falling prey to myths and misinformation. This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.