Short Sleep Might Lead to the Sniffles

Lack of sleep tied to raised risk for common cold


Too little sleep is likely to affect your ability to function at work the next day, but could it also make you more likely to get sick?

Maybe so, a new study found.

"It goes beyond feeling groggy or irritable. Not getting sleep fundamentally affects your physical health," explained lead study author Aric A. Prather, PhD, of the University of California, San Francisco, in a news release.

From 2007 to 2011, Dr. Prather and colleagues observed a total of 164 adults between the ages of 18 and 55 for a week at a time in a hotel. The patients were exposed to rhinovirus — the common cold — via nasal drops and watched to see if they developed signs and symptoms of a cold.

Those patients who slept six hours or fewer a night were more than four times more likely to develop a cold than those who slept more than seven hours a night.

"Short sleep was more important than any other factor in predicting subjects' likelihood of catching cold," Dr. Prather said. "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."

Further research among more participants is needed to examine how sleep and risk for infections might be connected, Dr. Prather and team noted.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) recommends that adults get between seven and eight hours of sleep a night.

"Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life," according to the NHLBI. "Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety."

This study was published online Aug. 31 in the journal Sleep. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and NHLBI funded this research. Dr. Prather and team disclosed no conflicts of interest.