Get more sleep to ward off colds

As we are asked to do more with less time, a common victim is how long we sleep. A new study in the journal Sleep shows that those who sleep less can be more than four times as likely to get the common cold.

Dr. Aric Prather, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco, and colleagues from Carnegie Mellon University studied the effect of sleep on 164 healthy volunteers between 2007 and 2011. Volunteers were surveyed for health habits such as smoking and alcohol use and their sleep hours were assessed for one week using a wearable sensor. Volunteers were then housed in a hotel and exposed to a virus that causes the common cold.

Overall, about 30 percent of volunteers developed a cold after exposure to the virus. After controlling for differences between volunteers, researchers found that the fewer hours a volunteer slept, the more likely he was to develop a cold. Compared to those who slept more than seven hours per night, those who slept less than six hours a night were four times more likely to develop a cold. Those who slept six to seven hours per night were 1.7 times more likely to develop a cold.

Dr. Prather’s study found a graded relationship between hours of sleep and the chance of developing a cold. In terms of rest, it shows that seven hours of sleep a night is the best defense against a cold, with the risk of getting a cold increasing dramatically as one sleeps less than six hours a night. Dr. Prather’s results suggest that when deciding between work and sleep, it might be better to get that extra hour of sleep.