Get some rest, you’ll sneeze less.
With the air still sticky and the days long, our thoughts are more on beaches and baseball than sneezy sinuses. But kids are headed back to school, fall clothing is hitting store shelves and sweaters will soon be back. It is also the start of the cold season. But now science is showing us a way to cut down on colds: Get more sleep.
A study published online Monday in the journal Sleep included a startling finding: People who get fewer than six hours of sleep a night are 4.2 times more likely to get colds than people who average more than seven hours.
It’s long been known that lack of sleep is bad for us. It’s been linked to chronically debilitating illnesses and shorter life spans. But this rigorous study is the first to connect lack of sleep to a susceptibility to infectious disease.
This research is not based on surveys in which people self-reported how much sleep they got and whether they got colds. Instead, scientists measured the sleep patterns of 164 participants for seven nights, then exposed each to a cold virus in nose drops for a week. The results speak for themselves.
People often brag about how little sleep they need. But cranking out an extra hour of work a day by sleeping less, only to lose days or weeks of work to illness, is a bad trade. It’s bad for the sick person, who loses not just productivity but also health, and it’s bad for co-workers and family members who risk increased exposure to the cold virus.
People young and old need their sleep. Recent studies have shown that middle school and high school kids don’t get enough, because school starts too early and homework lasts too late. Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged policymakers to start middle and high school classes later in the morning. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggested the same last year.
Things could change for adults, too. If we get some rest, we might get fewer colds. We’ll feel better. We’ll get more done. And we’ll no longer have to listen to (or be) those annoying folks who brag about how little rest we require.