Losing Sleep? You May be More Likely to Catch a Cold - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on November 18, 2015

Losing Sleep? You May be More Likely to Catch a Cold

A new study is reporting there’s yet another thing you should be doing to protect yourself: get plenty of sleep.

A new study found that people who sleep
less than six hours a night are
more likely to catch a cold.

You don’t have to look at your calendar to know it’s cold and flu season – you’ll know it’s here when you feel like you’re constantly surrounded by people coughing and sneezing.

Diligently washing your hands, steering clear of sick people, avoiding touching your eyes, mouth and nose are all great ways to protect yourself from catching a cold. But a new study is reporting there’s yet another thing you should be doing to protect yourself: get plenty of sleep.

The study found that people who sleep less than six hours a night are more likely to catch a cold – 39 percent of those study participants who slept less than six hours caught a cold. In comparison, only 18 percent of those who slept six or more hours per night got sick.

It’s not just the amount of time you sleep that can affect your ability to ward off a cold – quality is just as important. Other studies have found that the more soundly and deeply you sleep, the more likely you are to avoid getting sick.

All of this contributes to the growing body of evidence showing a link between sleep and the immune system. When people don’t sleep enough, it may negatively impact the immune system in a variety of ways, ranging from how cells act to enabling inflammation pathways.

In general, adults in the U.S. don’t get enough sleep. In 1985, the average amount of sleep was close to seven and a half hours. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the amount of sleep has dropped to 7.18 hours – and that’s an average.

So how can you get a better night’s sleep? The first way to ensure you’re getting quality sleep is to maintain the same sleep and wake times – falling asleep and waking up around the same time every day helps regulate your circadian rhythm, which plays a role in the production of the sleep-hormone melatonin. Put your devices away in the evening when it’s approaching your bedtime – the light emitted from your electronics and devices can inhibit the production of melatonin.

Other things you can do to help get more and better quality sleep are:

  • Exercise or get physical activity, just not too close to bedtime
  • Try to get outside in the natural sunlight during the day
  • Reduce or eliminate caffeine and alcohol a few hours before bed
  • Set your bedroom temperature cooler
  • Create rituals to calm and relax yourself before bed, like reading or a hot bath

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most adults average two to three colds a year and kids have even more. Simply sleeping a little more each night might help you avoid one or more of those colds this season.

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