LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - As we search for the best ways to stay healthy during the coronavirus pandemic, right at the top is getting good sleep.
Many of us are preparing to get back out in public more in the coming months and a Louisville doctor told us getting enough sleep is critical in the fight. It can be difficult as we may be losing sleep with health and financial worries over the coronavirus, but according to Dr. Robert Karman, a specialist with Expert Sleep Medicine, "Think of sleep as a super power in the fight against the coronavirus," Dr. Karman added, "We need to understand the power of sleep and how important it is for us."
Dr. Karman said good sleep anchors our immune system and not getting enough - five hours or less a night - can take a direct hit on the macrophage function, a white blood cell that fights infections and cancer. Karman said new data shows lack of sleep can take it down to about 30 percent of normal.
"We did not know that, we used to think chronic sleep deprivation did bad things to us and our immune system and cancers and cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity" Dr. Karman said,"we had no idea that a single night of five or less hours of sleep could do something that dramatic."
So how much sleep do we need? Adults should get at least seven hours and children need at least nine. Elite athletes also need a minimum of nine hours to recover.
"There was a really neat study, the Stanford sleep extension study, done almost seven years ago that shows when Division I college athletes get more sleep they improve their free throw shot, their wind sprints, their percentages," Dr. Karman explained.
Improving immunity could be key once teams are back together.
Because Dr. Karman's background is pulmonary and critical care, we also wanted to ask him one of our viewers most frequent questions: How important is it to wear a mask as we get back out there?
“Everyone should really be wearing masks,” said Dr. Karman, who told us he wears one with patients and believes we should all wear them in public to be cautious and to protect everyone else.
“Many of us may have asymptomatic infections and I don’t want to make my mother, my grandmother or your mother sick,” Dr. Karman said, “I don’t want to make anyone else sick.”