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To Prevent A Cold You Need To Get This Much Sleep

posted: 09/04/15
by: Katie Morton
couple in bed with a cold
iStock

 

Cold and flu season is right around the corner, and your best defense isn't in the medicine cabinet. According to a new study, all you need to fight off a cold is more sleep.

In the study--published in the September issue of the journal Sleep--164 healthy men and women had their sleep habits measured for a week. Then, researchers infected them all with the cold virus and quarantined them for five days. What they found was that those who got the least amount of sleep were four times more likely to develop a cold.

"Short sleep was more important than any other factor in predicting subjects' likelihood of catching cold," said Ari Prather, PhD, assistant professor of Psychiatry at UCSF and lead author of the study. "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."

So what's the magic number when it comes to sleep? The study showed that of those who got more than seven hours of sleep per night, only 17 percent contracted the cold. Compare that to those who got less than five hours; 45 percent of that group got sick.

A 2013 survey by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) found that one in five Americans gets less than six hours of sleep on an average work night. If you're among them, there's still time to develop better sleep habits before we're in the throes of cold and flu season. The NSF's recommendations for sleeping better include sticking to a sleep schedule (even on weekends), practicing a relaxing bedtime ritual, and exercising daily.