Sleepy and Sneezy Are Close Companions
- Site Admin
- Tuesday, January 13th, 2009
By Lori Wiviott Tishler, M.D.Harvard Medical School
Cold season has arrived! Patients I see for routine check-ups often tell me they have colds all winter long. They wonder if there is something wrong with them since they get sick so often. I spend a lot of time reassuring them that there is nothing wrong. But beyond using good hygiene techniques, I'm at a loss to tell them how to prevent the common cold.
An article from the Archives of Internal Medicine offers a helpful, safe suggestion. To be less susceptible to the common cold, sleep more and sleep well!
In this small study, 153 people answered questions for 14 days about how long and how well they slept the night before. After these two weeks, they were deliberately infected with a cold virus. This is called a rhinovirus. Then study leaders carefully monitored them to see if they developed a cold.
The study found that people who slept less than seven hours a night were nearly three times as likely to catch a cold as those who slept eight hours or more. In addition, people who stayed awake longer in bed (less sleep efficiency), were 5.5 times as likely to get a cold.
The findings in the study could not be explained by age, education, income level, weight, season of infection, psychological factors or health practices. The study really showed that eight hours of good-quality sleep can help prevent the common cold!
What Changes Can I Make?
- When you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with the crook of your arm. That helps prevent hand-to-hand spread of viruses.
- Wash your hands a lot. This is probably the single best thing you can do to prevent the spread of infection.
- Help small children wash their hands a lot, too.
- It's not too late to get the flu shot. Influenza is a lot worse than the common cold. For some groups, it can even be life-threatening.
- Sleep well and sleep more.
Follow these tips for getting better sleep:
- Have a good sleep routine.
- Use your bed only for sleeping -- not for working or watching TV.
- Don't take too many naps.
- Avoid sleep aids when possible.
- If you have a serious sleep problem, consult your primary care doctor.