The Value of Sleep: Deprivation and the Common Cold

The Value of Sleep: Deprivation and the Common Cold

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Sleep is important for everyone—it helps us function properly throughout the day and keeps us healthy. A new study published in the journal Sleep reinforces the important of getting enough sleep. Researchers demonstrated that not getting enough sleep could increase a person’s risk of catching a cold.

In their report, researchers state that, “people who only get 6 hours of sleep a night or less are four times more likely to catch a cold after exposure to the virus than people that get 7 or more hours of sleep a night.” The study’s leader author, Aric Prather is a professor of Psychiatry at the University of California-San Francisco. Prather states that, “Short sleep was more important than any other factor in predicting subjects’ likelihood of catching cold. It didn’t matter how old people were, their stress levels, their race, education, or income. It didn’t matter if the were a smoker. With all those things taken into account, statistically sleep still carried the day.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has previously stated that insufficient sleep constitutes a public health epidemic, linking exhaustion with motor vehicle accidents, industrial disasters, and occupational errors. Other studies have reported that poor sleep may also be linked to poor metabolic health and raising a person’s risk of heart attack and stroke. Insufficient sleep is all too common in the United States. The National Sleep Foundation says that, “1 in 5 Americans obtain less than 6 hours sleep on an average work night.”

In Prather’s study, 164 participants were given the common cold virus via nasal drops. Researchers then analyzed the factors that affected the body’s capacity to fight the virus off. Participants were monitored for a week and had mucus samples taken every day to assess the virus’s progress. Participants also underwent a two-month pre-trial screening to observe their normal sleep habits. Dr. Prather explained that, “one of the strengths of the study is that it is based on the participant’s usual sleep cycles rather than artificially depriving the volunteers of sleep. This could be a typical week for someone during cold season.” Those who normally got less than 6 hours were 4.2 times more likely to catch a cold than participants who got 7 hours or more of shuteye. Participants who slept less than 5 hours were 4.5 times more likely to get sick.

While culture is still busy—valuing work over relaxation—more studies like this one could reinforce the importance of getting enough sleep. If you’re worried about sleep habits and are looking for ways to improve your overall health, contact your doctor at the Medical Alliance of Southern New Jersey today.