A group of scientists from University of California-San Francisco found that sleep deprivation make people more likely to catch a cold than their peers that get enough sleep at night.
Scientists explained that people who force themselves into accomplishing incredible feats with minimum sleep may expose themselves to hidden risks on the long run. Past studies had shown that poor sleep can also lead to chronic illness and even death if the problem is not solved.
But the latest study is the first to provide evidence that sleep deprivation indeed boosts risk of infectious diseases. To be more specific, researchers found that sleeping six hours or less may up the risk of catching a cold by four times.
Dr. Aric Prather, lead author of the study, said that he has colleagues that boast on their ability of dodging the 7 hours of night sleep requirement to have more time to accomplish things.
Dr. Prather now hopes that the new study may help those colleagues and many other people out there realize that chronic short sleep has a cost.
The research team argued that sleep deprivation was a more accurate indicator of the risk of catching a cold than other factors including, smoking, stress levels, and age. These indicators have been often tied to a high risk of infectious illness by previous research.
A recent CDC report shows that insufficient sleep has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S. One in five Americans is sleep deprived and gets less than six hours of sleep on work nights. The U.S. was deemed the country with the least amount of sleep in a 2013 survey that involved five other nations.
Unlike other studies that had based their results on what people reported, the recent study actually monitored volunteers sleeping for seven nights.
About 160 participants were asked to wear a watch-like sensor while sleeping. They were also asked to use nose drops that contained a flu virus for seven days. Scientists planned to learn who would catch the virus and who wouldn’t.
In order to learn whether participants got sick, researchers took mucus samples on a daily basis. Surprisingly, participants who slept less than 6 hours had a 4.2 percent higher chance of catching a cold than their peers who got enough sleep.
The research team believes that the link may be caused by a disruption in the immune system when people do not get enough sleep. And a weak immune system usually makes the patient more prone to catching a wide range of viruses, researchers noted.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends adults at least seven hours of sleep if they plan to stay healthy.
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