Want to avoid the common cold? Get more sleep

Common cold

People who regularly skimp on their sleep might be significantly increasing their odds of catching the common cold, according to new research out of UC San Francisco, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

When compared to those who get at least seven hours of sleep per night, those who catch six hours or less are four times more likely to catch the common cold virus.

“Short sleep duration seems to be a strong predictor of susceptibility,” says lead author Aric Prather, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry at UCSF.

For the study, researchers looked at 164 healthy individuals who didn’t have sleep disorders or immune issues. They objectively recorded their sleep patterns before exposing them to the common cold virus by way of nasal drops. From there, it was a waiting game that went on for a full week.

What they found was that getting insufficient sleep does a number on your physical health. People who got less than five hours of sleep per night had a 45 percent chance of catching the virus after being exposed. On the other end of the spectrum, people who slept more than seven hours only had a 17 percent chance of getting sick.

“We also tried to control, or hold constant, all these other factors like people’s age, gender, race, body mass index, socioeconomic indicators, their personality characteristics; even their level of stress, which has previously been shown to predict a cold,” says Prather, adding that short sleep duration still won out over all else.

Prather adds that this type of research is important in driving home just how significant sleep is to our overall wellbeing.

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