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Too little sleep may quadruple risk for colds

Staff writer |
When you're run down from lack of sleep, you really are more apt to catch a cold, a new study finds.

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Scientists exposed 164 adults to a cold virus, and found better-rested folks more likely to resist infection.

Those who slept fewer than six hours a night were more than four times as likely to catch a cold as those who got more than seven hours' shuteye.

"The role that sleep has on the immune system is well-established, though not completely understood," said study lead author Aric Prather, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco.

The study doesn't prove that insufficient sleep actually causes you to catch a cold. But it builds on prior investigations that have linked bad sleep habits to a weakened immune system and a potentially higher risk for developing an array of chronic illnesses.

Prather noted that animal and patient investigations have shown that "when an otherwise healthy person is (temporarily) deprived of an entire night of sleep, we see fairly robust changes in things like which types of immune cells are circulating in the blood and what types of chemical messengers are released from cells that aid in immune system communication."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has expressed concern about an "epidemic" of insufficient sleep, the study authors noted. They also point to a recent National Sleep Foundation survey indicating that, on average, 20 percent of Americans get less than six hours of sleep a day.


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