Sleep deprivation is greatly detrimental to your health, making you four times more likely to catch a cold, a study has revealed.
The findings were published in the September issue of the SLEEP journal and were collected by researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Carnegie Mellon University.
The experts examined 164 volunteers aged 18 to 55, who were exposed to a cold virus by the experiment leaders. Researchers tracked each individual’s sleeping pattern in order to see to what extent it impacted susceptibility to viruses.
They had suspected that sleeping patterns affected the immune system, but this hadn’t been proven with certainty by objective research. Previous studies had taken place in laboratory conditions where rest had been disrupted or they had been based on the subjects’ self-reports which might have been affected by personal bias.
In the first stage of this new experiment, the subjects received thorough medical check-ups, and were asked to fill in questionnaires assessing their stress levels, personality, smoking and drinking habits.
The volunteers were afterwards required to spend a week in a hotel room from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where watch-like sensors called wrist actigraphs measured the quality of their sleep. Afterwards, the experiment continued, with the patients being administered nasal drops containing rhinovirus, the main cause of the common cold. Patients were tracked for a week, during which mucus was collected daily from each of them, in order to establish if they had caught the cold.
Researchers noted that subjects who had slept less than 6 hours a night were 4.2 times more likely to get the virus, compared to those who had enjoyed at least 7 hours of sleep. Those who had slept less than 5 hours during the night were 4.5 times more at risk of getting sick.
‘Short sleep was more important than any other factor in predicting subjects’ likelihood of catching a cold’, noted Aric Prather, study lead author and assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California.
Sleep length proved to be a much more important factor in determining the likelihood of a cold than other aspects such as the individual’s age, stress levels, race, income, education or even cigarette use.
The Center for Disease Control and prevention has declared inadequate sleep a ‘public health epidemic’, a statement which was supported by a National Health Interview survey outlining that nearly 30% of adult Americans sleep less than 6 hours a night.
Sleep deprivation is associated with chronic illness (diabetes, stroke and heart disease), premature death or disease susceptibility, aside from heightening the risk of car crashes, medical errors and industrial disasters.
As a result, it is obvious that sleep should be considered one of the main pillars of national health, just like healthy eating and physical activity. It is imperative to conduct more studies in this field, so that Americans acknowledge the importance of adequate rest in their lives.
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