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Sleep Habits and Susceptibility to the Common Cold

Cohen S, Doyle WJ, Alper CM, Janicki-Deverts D, Turner RB. Sleep Habits and Susceptibility to the Common Cold. Arch Intern Med. 2009 Jan 12;169(1):62–67. PubMed #19139325.
Tags: random, sleep

PainSci summary of Cohen 2009?This page is one of thousands in the bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focussed on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided at the bottom of the page, as often as possible. ★★★★☆?4-star ratings are for bigger/better studies and reviews published in more prestigious journals, with only quibbles. Ratings are a highly subjective opinion, and subject to revision at any time. If you think this paper has been incorrectly rated, please let me know.

This research adds to the pile of reasons to get adequate sleep. It is particularly noteworthy because of how little sleep loss and sleep disturbance it took to dramatically increase rates of infection in experimental subjects. Getting less than seven hours per night is all it took to put these brave volunteers in the hot zone, nearly tripling (2.94) their rate of head colds. A lot of people don’t get more than seven hours per night.

And that’s not the worst of it. Sleeping badly had an even nastier effect. Subjects who were awake in bed for any more than 8 percent of their time in bed asleep were 5.5 times more likely to become ill. That’s just 40 minutes of tossing and turning out of 8 hours in bed — something many people probably do almost every night.

For more analysis, see Sleepless Nights Equal More Colds In U.S. Study.

~ Paul Ingraham

original abstract

BACKGROUND: Sleep quality is thought to be an important predictor of immunity and, in turn, susceptibility to the common cold. This article examines whether sleep duration and efficiency in the weeks preceding viral exposure are associated with cold susceptibility.

METHODS: A total of 153 healthy men and women (age range, 21-55 years) volunteered to participate in the study. For 14 consecutive days, they reported their sleep duration and sleep efficiency (percentage of time in bed actually asleep) for the previous night and whether they felt rested. Average scores for each sleep variable were calculated over the 14-day baseline. Subsequently, participants were quarantined, administered nasal drops containing a rhinovirus, and monitored for the development of a clinical cold (infection in the presence of objective signs of illness) on the day before and for 5 days after exposure.

RESULTS: There was a graded association with average sleep duration: participants with less than 7 hours of sleep were 2.94 times (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.18-7.30) more likely to develop a cold than those with 8 hours or more of sleep. The association with sleep efficiency was also graded: participants with less than 92% efficiency were 5.50 times (95% CI, 2.08-14.48) more likely to develop a cold than those with 98% or more efficiency. These relationships could not be explained by differences in prechallenge virus-specific antibody titers, demographics, season of the year, body mass, socioeconomic status, psychological variables, or health practices. The percentage of days feeling rested was not associated with colds.

CONCLUSION: Poorer sleep efficiency and shorter sleep duration in the weeks preceding exposure to a rhinovirus were associated with lower resistance to illness.

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This page is part of the PainScience BIBLIOGRAPHY, which contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers & others sources. It’s like a highly specialized blog.