Getting a full night’s sleep could be more important than simply preventing groggy, sluggish mornings. According to a 2015 study conducted by researchers at the University of California San Francisco, Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the amount of sleep that people receive directly correlates with their resistance to getting sick.
The study examined the sleep patterns of healthy subjects using a wristband that could monitor movement throughout the night. Combined with a survey on sleep habits, the sensor provided a measurement of the average number of hours each person slept. Next, the researchers divided the subjects into groups and confined everyone to a hotel room. The groups were then squirted with nose sprays containing the rhinovirus – the virus that causes the common cold – or a control spray that was virus-free. Over the next five days, the participants were carefully monitored for the development of cold symptoms.
Since the symptoms of a cold can vary in different people, the researchers looked for common indicators, such as increased mucus production and congestion. They also measured the immune response to the virus by looking for levels of antibodies in participant’s blood. Together these tests revealed who developed a cold and who remained healthy.
The big discovery? Receiving less than six hours of sleep each night made the participants over 4 times more likely to get sick. Furthermore, people with less than five hours of sleep each night got sick 4.5 times more than the deep sleepers! The key seemed to be receiving 6 or more hours of sleep each night, after which there was no increased protection from the virus.
The study did not establish a mechanism to explain why a lack of sleep could put you at a higher risk for a cold, but previous studies had also linked a lack of sleep to decreased immunity. Together, these results seem to show how important it is to get enough sleep. So climb into bed early tonight – it’s the easiest thing you can do to avoid the common cold!
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