How to sleep your way out of getting a cold

A small US study has examined the role sleep plays in helping to prevent the common cold 1.

The research, carried out by several US universities, featured a group of 164 healthy men and women who were given a dose of the common cold virus. Researchers used electronic sleep sensors to monitor how long they slept for each night, and examined how many of the group went on to develop cold symptoms.

Those who slept for under five hours a night were four and a half times more likely to develop a cold than those who slept for seven hours or more.

These findings don’t quite demonstrate that sleep is the key factor when developing colds, which can be caught for a number of reasons. Some of these include the time of year, our health habits, and how physically active we are.

They do, however, confirm what we already know – a good night’s rest is important for both our physical and mental wellbeing. In addition, the best way of avoiding a cold is probably to wash our hands on a regular basis.


Prather AA, et al. Behaviorally Assessed Sleep and Susceptibility to the Common Cold. Sleep. 2015;38:1353–9.

News sources

Sleep less than 6 hours and chance of a cold quadruples. Daily Mail, August 31 2015

Sleep shortage increases susceptibility to catching a cold, study finds. The Guardian, August 31 2015

How too little sleep can make you fall ill. Daily Express, August 31 2015

Getting less than six hours sleep 'makes you four times more likely to get a cold'. Daily Mirror, August 31 2015

Sleep is most important factor in catching a cold. The Daily Telegraph, August 31 2015


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