Sleep Disorders

Updated 11 August 2014

More sleep = less colds

People who get less than seven hours of sleep per night appear about three times as likely to develop a cold as those who sleep eight hours or more.


People who get less than seven hours of sleep per night appear about three times as likely to develop respiratory illness following exposure to a cold virus as those who sleep eight hours or more, according to new research.

"Experimental studies have demonstrated that sleep deprivation results in poorer immune function," Dr Sheldon Cohen, at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, and co-investigators explain. However, there is little direct evidence to back up the theory that sleep affects susceptibility to illness.

Cohen's team interviewed 153 men and women daily for 14 consecutive days regarding how many hours they slept per night, what percentage of their time in bed was spent asleep (what researchers call "sleep efficiency") and whether they felt rested. The study subjects were then quarantined and administered nasal drops containing the common-cold-causing rhinovirus.

Results showed that the less an individual slept, the more likely he or she was to develop a cold.

7 to 8 hours sleep best
Lower sleep efficiency was also associated with developing a cold - men and women who spent less than 92% of their time in bed asleep were five and a half times more likely to become ill than those whose sleep efficiency was 98% or more.

Feeling rested was not associated with colds.

These data support seven to eight hours of sleep as "a reasonable target," the team concludes. However, "even a minimal habitual sleep disturbance (sleep losses of 2% to 8%, 10 to 38 minutes for an 8-hour sleeper) is associated with 3.9-times the risk of developing a cold." - (Reuters Health)

SOURCE: Archives of Internal Medicine, January 12, 2009.

Read more:
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January 2009


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Dr Alison Bentley is a general practitioner who has consulted in sleep medicine and sleep disorders, in both adults and children of all ages, for almost 30 years. She also researches and publishes on a number of sleep-related topics both in formal research journals and lay publications including as editor of Sleep Matters, an educational newsletter on sleep disorders for doctors.

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