Sleep More to Prevent the Common Cold

Healthnotes Newswire (July 9, 2009)—For anyone that has ever suffered from the misery of a summer cold, here’s a great prevention tip: a good night’s rest goes a long way to boosting your immune system. A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that sleeping longer and more “efficiently” can make you less susceptible to the common cold.

Getting enough zzzs

People are getting less sleep than ever, with most people averaging one hour of sleep less per night than the norm 20 to 30 years ago. In 1900, people got about nine hours of sleep per night. Recent estimates place current sleep times at just over six hours.

Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to lowered immune function and an increased risk of certain cancers, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. When the body isn’t given adequate rest, inflammatory substances are released in the body. These substances, along with lower levels of the hormones melatonin, ghrelin, and leptin, are all parts of the sleep loss-immune dysfunction puzzle.

Sleeping for health

The new study investigated the effects of sleep duration (how many hours people spent in bed each night) and sleep efficiency (the percentage of time actually spent asleep while in bed) and the occurrence of the common cold.

The study included 153 healthy people, ages 21 to 55. For two weeks, they gave information about the times they went to bed in the evening and woke in the morning, if they had difficulty going to sleep or staying asleep, and how rested they felt upon waking. They were then given nasal drops containing a cold virus and monitored for the development of the common cold for the next five days.

The people’s average sleep duration was 7.45 hours per night at 94% efficiency. In the morning, 77% of the people reported feeling rested. Those people who got less than seven hours of sleep per night were almost three times as likely to catch a cold as were those who slept for eight or more hours.

Even more predictive of susceptibility to the cold was sleep efficiency; people with less than 92% sleep efficiency were 5.5 times more likely to contract a cold than were people with 98% or higher efficiencies. How rested the people felt had nothing to do with their likelihood of contracting the cold.

“These results really aren’t surprising,” says Dr. Clara Barnett, a physician practicing in Manhattan. “We’ve known for a long time that people who don’t get enough sleep have impaired ability to get over infections, and children who are sleep-deprived don’t reach their full height potential. Regular sleep is an important component of self care that shouldn’t be overlooked.”

(Arch Intern Med 2009;169:62–7)

Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. She cofounded South County Naturopaths in Wakefield, RI, and now sees patients in East Greenwich and Wakefield. Inspired by her passion for healthful eating and her own young daughters, Dr. Beauchamp is currently writing a book about optimizing children’s health through better nutrition.

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