Lack of sleep can increase risk of colds

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  • Get your eight hours sleep - any less and you may catch cold

    If you’re suffering with coughs and colds this January, then one significant way to beat the lurgy is to clock up at least seven hours sleep a night, says new U.S research.

    According to a recent study by a team at Carnegie Mellon University, people who struggle to get seven hours or less sleep a night treble their risk of catching a cold, compared with those who nodded off for eight hours or more.

    The theory is that a lack of sleep hampers our immune systems and our body’s ability to fight off the viruses that lead to colds and flu.

    Previous research into the benefits of longer sleeping patterns suggested that those who slept for eight hours or more lowered their risk of heart disease.

    However, this is one of the first pieces of evidence to suggest that a lengthy sleep in the sack can stave off cold symptoms.

    After studying 153 healthy men and women of an average age of 37 over a four year period, analysing their sleeping habits over two weeks, the volunteers were given nasal drops containing the rhinovirus – the cause of the common cold.

    After blood samples were taken to see if volunteers had developed antibodies to fight the infection, tests showed that the less an individual slept, the more likely they were to develop the virus.

    The quality of our sleep is also a important issue. The study found that those who spent less than 92% of their time in bed sleep were five-and-a-half times more likely to get ill than those who were asleep for 98% of the time.

    Scientists have concluded that interrupted sleep upsets key chemicals in our body that help protect the immune system.

    Professor Ron Eccles, director of the Common Cold Centre at the University of Cardiff, said sleep and the immune system were definitely linked.

    He explained: ‘The immune system may control the sleep-wake pattern and lack of sleep or sleep disturbance may depress the immune response to infection.

    ‘I do believe there is enough information on this to indicate that lack of sleep or sleep disturbance will reduce our resistance to infections such as colds and flu.’

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