Don’t Want To Get H7N9 Flu? Get A Good Night’s Sleep!

As this H7N9 infection slowly gains steam, I thought I’d continue to post some quick updates, on top of my previous article mentioning prevention. I wanted to again mention a fascinating 2009 study from the Archives of Internal Medicine which proved that getting less than 7 hours of sleep dramatically increased your risk of getting infection from common viruses. Here’s the abstract:

Background  Sleep quality is thought to be an important predictor of immunity and, in turn, susceptibility to the common cold. This article examines whether sleep duration and efficiency in the weeks preceding viral exposure are associated with cold susceptibility.

Methods  A total of 153 healthy men and women (age range, 21-55 years) volunteered to participate in the study. For 14 consecutive days, they reported their sleep duration and sleep efficiency (percentage of time in bed actually asleep) for the previous night and whether they felt rested. Average scores for each sleep variable were calculated over the 14-day baseline. Subsequently, participants were quarantined, administered nasal drops containing a rhinovirus, and monitored for the development of a clinical cold (infection in the presence of objective signs of illness) on the day before and for 5 days after exposure.



Results  There was a graded association with average sleep duration: participants with less than 7 hours of sleep were 2.94 times (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.18-7.30) more likely to develop a cold than those with 8 hours or more of sleep. The association with sleep efficiency was also graded: participants with less than 92% efficiency were 5.50 times (95% CI, 2.08-14.48) more likely to develop a cold than those with 98% or more efficiency.

This study also was addressed in an article from the New York Times, which offered a less dry summary:

In a recent study for The Archives of Internal Medicine, scientists followed 153 men and women for two weeks, keeping track of their quality and duration of sleep. Then, during a five-day period, they quarantined the subjects and exposed them to cold viruses. Those who slept an average of fewer than seven hours a night, it turned out, were three times as likely to get sick as those who averaged at least eight hours.

Sleep and immunity, it seems, are tightly linked. Studies have found that mammals that require the most sleep also produce greater levels of disease-fighting white blood cells— but not red blood cells, even though both are produced in bone marrow and stem from the same precursor. And researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology have shown that species that sleep more have greater resistance against pathogens.

The fascinating part is that all test subjects had the rhinovirus dripped into their nose (!), so all were equally exposed — but the sleep deprived got actual cold symptoms 3 times more than the well rested. I think it’s dramatic evidence of the power of our immune system to keep us healthy. So get your sleep!




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