Looking for the secret for keeping colds at bay this winter? Studies show it all lies in a good night’s sleep...

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If you need even more of an incentive to spend that extra hour in bed, recent findings and studies could prove to be the most page-turning of bedtime reads.

Looking into research conducted into sleep and the immune system, The Sleep Council  believes the secret ingredient for keeping coughs and colds at bay this winter is as simple as amping up our sleep cycles. “Experts agree that those who sleep better have a stronger immune reaction, suggesting that sleep can banish bugs as well as making you feel a lot healthier,” says Lisa Artis, of The Sleep Council. “A longer night's sleep - around seven to eight hours for most adults - seems to guard against common winter nasties such as coughs and colds, while scrimping on sleep appears to make you more likely to succumb to the sniffles. This seems to be particularly common in young people.”

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Research conducted in America exploring the link between being overworked and run-down and the increased chance of coming down with coughs, colds and upset stomachs supports this theory. Lisa explains; “The study, by boffins at the Bradley Hospital, Rhode Island, showed that bouts of illness declined when pupils had a longer night's sleep. Sleeping for longer also guarded against school absences because of illness, especially among boys.

“Meanwhile German researchers have suggested that the release of certain hormones during sleep may boost the immune system.

“This is all useful information for a nation where a third of us are afflicted with a bad cold between two and three times a year. Better sleep could be the answer, helping to reduce absence at both school and work.”

And if you’ve already got a cold? Sleep could still be the perfect ally for making sure you make a speedy recovery. “Experts suggest that eight hours of uninterrupted sleep when you are suffering from a heavy cold is essential for recovery. Taking to bed to relax can make a real difference to the way the body copes with a heavy cold,” says Lisa.

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Suddenly feeling the inclination to have an early night tonight? Here are The Sleep Council’s top tips for those feeling under the weather and helping them get well soon:

1) “Make sure you have a comfortable bed which allows you to properly relax and get the most health benefits from your sleep. If you are feeling ill, chances are your bed is the only place you want to be. A Sleep Council survey found that 89 per cent of people agree that comfortable sleep is important to aiding recovery from a cold.” (1)

2) “Choose a supportive pillow, especially if you're a girl. A Sleep Council survey suggested that four out of 10 women like to sleep propped up to ease congestion, which for many is the worst bit of having a cold. Men however, tend to prefer to sprawl out.” (1)

3) “Try a comforting hot drink to help sleep.”

4) “Make sure your bedroom is at a comfortable temperature. Experts say around 18C is the best.”

5) “Clear your bedroom of electronic devices which can inhibit a good night's sleep.”

1. The Sleep Council ‘Cold Comfort' Survey October 2005

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