a sleeping child, wound

The next time you suffer a cut, a scrape or a blister, you may want to make sure you get plenty of sleep. That will help your wound heal more quickly. People recovering from surgery may also heal faster with more sleep, even though it can be difficult to sleep in the hospital.

How Can You Help a Wound Heal Faster?

Scientists conducted an experiment to find out how sleep and nutrition affect healing (Smith et al, Journal of Applied Physiology, online, Sept. 14, 2017). To learn about this, they relied on sleep restriction.

One group of volunteers was allowed to sleep normally for three nights. Another group got a beverage containing nutritional supplements twice a day but were allowed to sleep only two hours a night for three nights. The third group slept two hours a night and got a non-nutritive placebo beverage twice daily. The scientists used suction to create blisters on each volunteer’s forearm.

The investigators monitored the wounds by collecting fluid from their vicinity and analyzing it for inflammatory compounds called cytokines. They also measured skin-barrier recovery time.

The volunteers who drank the supplement beverage had a more robust immune response at the site of the wound. Unfortunately, their healing times didn’t improve. The most important variable in skin recovery was sleep. The individuals who were only allowed two hours of sleep a night had slower healing times.

The authors conclude that

“Relatively modest sleep disruption delays wound healing.”

What Was in the Nutritional Supplement?

Since the supplement boosted immune system activity at the wound site, it might be helpful to know what it contained. In addition to adequate protein of 1.5 grams/kilogram body weight/day, the scientists provided arginine, zinc sulfate, glutamine, vitamin C, vitamin D3 and omega-3 fatty acids. We have long heard that taking extra zinc and vitamin C for a few days might help skin heal. Perhaps adding in a few extra nutrients would be useful as well. Curcumin derived from turmeric has also been tested for its ability to speed healing and found beneficial.

Don’t forget, though, that the most important factor in quick healing is not to skimp on sleep!

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  1. Bernadette

    I have a question. I heard from someone that microwaving food is not good for you–that it scrambles the cells of the food and the food is not the same nutritious food after heating. Is there any truth to this? I previously heard the opposite–that nutrition is retained and less “scrambled”.
    Many thanks. I enjoy your newsletter and newspaper column very much!

  2. Peggi

    I don’t think only 2 hours a night for 3 nights is “modest” for sleep disruption. That sound pretty significant. It would be more convincing if it were 4-5 hours per night.

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