A new study emphasizes the important of a good night’s sleep, as sleeping six or fewer hours or per night more than quadrupled the risk of developing a cold in healthy patients in a study published in the September issue of the journal Sleep. It is the first study to use objective sleep measures to assess natural sleep habits and risk of illness from the common cold.

Aric Prather, PhD, from the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues recruited 164 healthy men and women ranging from 18–55 years of age from 2007–2011 for this research. First, sleep duration and sleep continuity were evaluated over seven days via wrist actigraphy and sleep diaries; participants were then quarantined and nasal drops containing the rhinovirus were administered. The study participants were monitored over five days for development of a clinical cold, defined by infection in the presence of objective signs of illness.

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Those who slept <5 hours and 5–6 hours per night were 4.5 and 4.2 times more likely to develop a clinical cold compared to those who slept >7 hours per night, respectively. However, those who slept 6.01– 7 hours were at no greater risk. The association was independent of baseline antibody levels, demographics, season of the year, body mass index (BMI), psychological variables, and health practices.

“In our busy culture, there’s still a fair amount of pride about not having to sleep and getting a lot of work done,” Dr. Prather stated. “We need more studies like this to begin to drive home that sleep is a critical piece to our wellbeing.”

For more information visit UCSF.edu.