Lack of Sleep Could Increase Cold Risk

Lack of Sleep Could Increase Cold RiskLack of Sleep Could Increase Cold Risk

A new study published in ‘Sleep’ has reinforced the importance of getting a good night’s sleep. Researchers have demonstrated that not getting enough sleep could increase the risk of catching a cold.

The team reports that people who only get 6 hours sleep a night or less are four times more likely to catch a cold after exposure to the virus than people who get 7 or more hours sleep a night.

“Short sleep was more important than any other factor in predicting subjects’ likelihood of catching cold,” says lead author Dr. Aric Prather, assistant professor of Psychiatry at the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF).

“It didn’t matter how old people were, their stress levels, their race, education or income. It didn’t matter if they were a smoker. With all those things taken into account, statistically sleep still carried the day,” reported.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had previously referred to insufficient sleep as a “public health epidemic,” linking it with motor vehicle crashes, industrial disasters and occupational errors.

In the past, studies found that poor sleep may be linked to poor metabolic health and could raise the risk of heart attack and stroke.

While Prather had previously found that people who get insufficient sleep are less protected from illness after vaccination than people who get adequate sleep, the aim of his team’s new study was to learn how sleep affects how the body responds to real infection.

A total of 164 participants were recruited and given the common cold virus via nasal drops so that the researchers could analyze how various factors affected the body’s capacity to fight the virus off. The participants were monitored for a week and had mucus samples taken each day so the progress of the virus could be assessed.

Prior to being given the virus, each participant underwent 2 months of health screening. Their normal sleep habits were also recorded during the week leading up to the administering of the virus, using a watch-like sensor that was worn overnight.

Researchers found that the participants who had slept less than 6 hours a night during the preceding week were 4.2 times more likely to catch a cold than participants who managed to get 7 hours or more a night. Participants who slept less than 5 hours were 4.5 times more likely.

While the study provides further evidence for the importance of sleep in keeping physically healthy, researchers believe it will take a lot more work before widespread attitudes toward sleep are changed.