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Fluff up the pillows and pull up the covers. Preventing the common cold may be as easy as getting more sleep. Researchers paid healthy adults $800 to have cold viruses sprayed up their noses, then wait five days in a hotel to see if they got sick. Habitual eight-hour sleepers were much less likely to get sick than those who slept less than seven hours or slept fitfully.
“The longer you sleep, the better off you are, the less susceptible you are to colds,” said lead author Sheldon Cohen, who studies the effects of stress on health at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University.
Prior research has suggested that sleep boosts the immune system at the cell level. This is the first study to show small sleep disturbances increasing the risk of getting sick, said Dr. Michael Irwin, who researches immune response at the University of California, Los Angeles. “The message is to maintain regular sleep habits because those are really critical for health,” Irwin said.
The people who slept less than seven hours a night in the weeks before they were exposed to the virus were three times more likely to catch a cold than those who slept eight hours or more. To find willing cold victims, researchers placed ads and recruited 78 men and 75 women, all healthy and willing to go one-on-one against the virus. They ranged in age from 21 to 55.
First, their sleep habits were recorded for two weeks. Every evening, researchers interviewed them by phone about their sleep the night before. Subjects were asked what time they went to bed, what time they got up, how much time they spent awake during the night and if they felt rested in the morning.
Then they checked into a hotel where the virus was squirted up their noses. After five days, the virus had done its work, infecting 135 of the 153 volunteers. But only 54 people got sick. Researchers measured their runny noses by weighing their used tissues. They tested for congestion by squirting dye in the subjects’ noses to see how long it took to get to the back of their throats.
Surprisingly, feeling rested was not linked to staying well. Cohen said he’s not sure why that is, other than feeling rested is more subjective than recalling bedtime and wake-up time. The researchers took into account other factors that make people more susceptible such as stress, smoking and drinking, and lack of exercise, and they still saw a connection between sleep and resisting a cold.
Dr Daniel Buysse, a sleep researcher at the University of Pittsburgh said, “Spending too much time in bed can lead to more interrupted sleep, which in this study “seems to be even worse than short sleep” for increasing the risk of catching a cold.”
Sources:The Times Of India