Lack of sleep is the most important factor in a person’s probability of catching a cold, according to a new study led by a sleep researcher at the University of California. The study found that sleep was a more important factor in catching a cold than stress, smoking, education, or income.
Every year, Americans get approximately 1 billion colds. According to the study, those who sleep six hours a night or less are four times more likely to catch a cold when they are exposed to the virus. People who sleep seven hours or more are less likely to get the virus, and those who do are able to recover more quickly.
“It didn’t matter how old people were, their stress levels, their race, education or income. It didn’t matter if they were a smoker,” Says Dr Aric Prather, lead author of the study and professor of Psychiatry at the University of California. “With all those things taken into account, statistically sleep still carried the day.”
As reported by the Chicago Tribune, researchers recruited 164 volunteers from the Pittsburg area between the years of 2007 and 2011. These participants went under two months of health screenings, interviews, and questionnaires to establish their levels of stress, temperament, and use of alcohol or cigarettes. The researchers also measured the patients normal sleep habits a week before they were infected with the virus.
The patients were placed in hotel rooms, where researchers administered the cold virus through nasal drops. The subjects were them observed for a week, and were asked to collect daily mucus samples to check if the virus had spread.
Despite their findings, researchers say convincing people to get more sleep is still a challenge.
“In our busy culture, there’s still a fair amount of pride about not having to sleep and getting a lot of work done,” Prather says. “We need more studies like this to begin to drive home that sleep is a critical piece to our wellbeing.”
The study will be released in the September edition of the journal Sleep.