SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 1 (UPI) -- People who sleep 6 hours or less per night are about 4 times more likely than those with 7 or more hours of sleep to catch a cold if they are exposed to one, according to a new study.
Sleep should be considered as important an aspect of basic health as diet and exercise, researchers in the study said, but because of cultural norms and the realities of life people skip out on the amount of sleep their bodies actually need.
"In our busy culture, there's still a fair amount of pride about not having to sleep and getting a lot of work done," said Dr. Aric Prather, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco, in a press release. "We need more studies like this to begin to drive home that sleep is a critical piece to our wellbeing."
Researchers recruited 164 healthy men between the age of 18 and 55, who were asked to wear devices to monitor their sleep, as well as keep a sleep diary, for 7 consecutive days. The men were then quarantined in a hotel and exposed to a form of the common cold, using nose drops, and monitored for 5 days for the development of a clinical cold.
When compared with those who got at least 7 hours of sleep the week before, participants who slept less than 6 hours per night were 4.2 times more likely to develop a cold after exposure and those with 5 hours or less were 4.5 times more likely to get sick.
Poor sleep patterns have been linked to car crashes, medical errors and industrial disasters, as well as to being more susceptible to disease and chronic illness.
"Short sleep was more important than any other factor in predicting subjects' likelihood of catching cold," Prather said. "It didn't matter how old people were, their stress levels, their race, education or income. It didn't matter if they were a smoker. With all those things taken into account, statistically, sleep still carried the day."
The study is published in SLEEP.