Sleep tight — don’t let the cold bite

By • Published: March 5th, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Those hours you spend turning and tossing at night? They could affect your body’s ability to resist illness. Researchers writing in the Archives of Internal Medicine reported that people who spend less than ninety-two percent of their time in bed sleeping were five and a half times more likely to come down with an illness than those who spend ninety-eight percent or more of their time in sweet slumber. This measure of how much time in bed a person spends sleeping is called sleep efficiency.

The scientists studied one-hundred-and-fifty-three people over a four-year period, inquiring about their nightly sleep habits for two weeks and asking how rested they felt after sleep. The participants were then exposed to rhinovirus, the cause of the common cold, and were asked to report signs of illness. The researchers also removed secretions from the subjects’ nasal passages and took blood samples to see whether their immune systems were mounting a response against the cold virus.

The findings? Those who slept the least were more likely to come down with a cold. But feeling rested wasn’t associated with whether participants developed a cold.

The researchers wrote that sleep efficiency played the biggest role in whether a person showed signs of illness. Waking up during the night may affect the distribution of chemicals in the body that help fight illness.

The best bet to keep bugs at bay? Sleep tight… for about seven to eight hours a night.