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Health, Science & Tech

Sleep Is Key To Preventing Colds, Study Says

cold.jpg
William Brawley
/
Flickr

A University of Pittsburgh researcher was recently a sleep expert on a study led by UC San Francisco to determine the connection between sleep and health; namely if the amount of sleep a person gets is related to their susceptibility of catching a cold.

“We now know, quite clearly, that the amount of sleep you get at night is related to a really important function of the body, and that is its ability to fight off the common cold,” said Martica Hall, professor of psychiatry, psychology and clinical and transitional science at Pitt.

Researchers recruited 164 volunteers from the Pittsburgh area between 2007 and 2011. For two months, they underwent health screenings, interviews and filled out questionnaires. One week before the study began, their sleep habits were monitored with a device similar to a FitBit.  

The volunteers were sequestered in a hotel, researchers gave them the cold virus via nose drops and then monitored them for one week.“We determined who got a cold by medical criteria,” Hall said. “There were samples taken from their mucus to actually measure cold virus. We measured the weight of Kleenexes that each individual subject threw away over the course of a week and then we measured symptoms.

Hall said the results were clear – those who got six hours of sleep a night or less were four times more likely to get a cold than those who slept more than six hours. Hall said this is a unique study of this particular topic because it was measured physically.

“These participants were all infected with the same virus, under controlled conditions, in a quarantined environment, so we weren’t just saying, ‘Hey, did you get sick last year? Oh? How much did you sleep?’" Hall said. “We actually measured their sleep, we gave them a virus, we exposed them to a virus and we measured the cold.”

The study prompted questions about whether the same could hold true for children or the elderly and whether increasing sleep can improve overall health.

Carnegie Mellon University was also part of the research team for the study, which was published in the journal Sleep.