Do you often have to cut back on sleep in order to extend your waking hours? This strategy could apparently have some unpleasant consequences. According to an American study, sleeping fewer than seven hours per night could triple the risk of catching a virus, including a cold virus.
It seems that a lack of sleep (or having poor-quality sleep) impairs the immune system. To test this hypothesis, researchers recruited over 150 healthy volunteers and interviewed them on their sleeping habits over a two-week period. The scientists then had the participants inhale nasal drops containing rhinovirus, the type of virus that usually causes the common cold. Over the next five days, the participants had to write down whether they experienced any signs and symptoms of a cold.
Based on the results of the study, it would appear that sleep truly does help protect against colds, although the quality of sleep also seems to play an important role – the participants who spent less than 92% of their time in bed asleep were 5.5 times more likely to get infected by the virus than those who slept for at least 98% of their time in bed.
Other studies have investigated the many benefits of a full night of sleep on alertness and the risk of suffering from heart disease or obesity. But while this latest study provides yet another reason to enjoy a good night’s sleep, we mustn’t forget that washing our hands frequently and thoroughly is the safest way to avoid catching the pesky viruses that come along with cold weather. Good night, sleep tight!