Sleep Affects Your Risk of Catching a Cold


Sleep is definitely one of the most precious resources these days. With about one in three Americans suffering from at least mild insomnia, it’s obvious that there’s something going on keeping us awake more than usual. Whether it’s simply because of the time we live in or if there’s a natural factor involved is irrelevant, as fewer and fewer of us are sleeping properly.

It may seem obvious to most that sleep is linked to your health, but scientists do have to test things in order to be satisfied. So, linking sleep and illness, a team of researchers from the University of California in San Francisco showed that sleep affects your risk of catching a cold. Of course, not getting enough shut-eye seriously increased your chances of getting sick.

According to the study’s lead researcher, assistant professor of psychology Aric Pather from USFCA,

People who sleep five or fewer hours on average are at a substantially increased risk for both colds whether head or chest or other infections, compared to people who sleep seven to eight hours on average.

For his study, the assistant professor performed a meta-analysis by using the data of some 23,000 men and women with an average age of 46 collected from the very large U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination surveys taken from 2005 to 2012. The points of interest were sleep duration, the existence of any sleep disorders, as well as the prevalence of colds, infections, flu, or pneumonia in the preceding month.

The results showed some pretty interesting numbers, although with the study being observational, a cause and effect relationship could not be found. According to Carnegie Melon’s Sheldon Cohen, also involved with the study,

We found that seven hours is about the breaking point. People who got less than seven hours were at greater risk, basically. […]The consistency across studies really does suggest that sleep is playing a role [in susceptibility to colds]. Whether it is because sleep maintains a strong immune system, we can’t say for sure at this point. The data suggest that sleep may be altering the immune function in some way.

Sleeping for five hours a night or less was related to 28 percent increased chances developing a cold in the past month, as well as with as high as 80 percent higher chances of developing an infection. Also, even if sleep was fine recently, those with sleeping disorder suffer from a 30 percent higher chance of catching a cold.

Even though the reason isn’t certain, the team suspects that it has something to do with T-cells, a type of blood cells that help fight off infections and that tend to slack off when the body is sleep-deprived. Nothing really proved as important in preventing these conditions as simply getting enough sleep.

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