Illness Susceptibility and Sleep Quality

I’ve been ill for a few weeks and I was fairly sure (in my amateur opinion) that it was related to a significant lack of sleep over the last couple of months. Upon returning to full health I decided to do some quick research on my favourite topic: sleep.

In one recent study looking at sleep habits and resulting susceptibility to the common cold it was found that both sleep length and sleep quality were “important predictors of immunity and, in turn, susceptibility”.

Specifically, “those who slept an average of fewer than seven hours a night […] were three times as likely to get sick as those who averaged at least eight hours”. Furthermore, people who had 92% sleep efficiency were five and a half times more susceptible compared to those with 98% sleep efficiency (defined as the percentage of time in bed actually asleep).

The New York Times article that led me to this study continues:

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 more you know… (the more you sleep?)

Update: I’ve briefly mentioned this study on Lone Gunman before, but I think the cognitive impact was the most interesting titbit in that Jonah Lehrer article.

2 thoughts on “Illness Susceptibility and Sleep Quality

  1. Rob O.

    What’s really scary for me as a still kinda new-ish Dad is the sleep habits I see other parents instilling in their children. My son, now 5 has a fairly regimented schedule, which includes a bath to wind down and bedtime at 8:30 P.M. That time slips a few minutes on the rare occasion that we’ve had company that evening or were otherwise busy, but never by more than 20-30 minutes. And he’s up at 6:30 A.M. to get ready to leave for school. He’s past the point of taking afternoon naps, so he’s usually exhausted by bedtime.

    But other working parents we know don’t put their kiddos to bed until 10:30-11:30, which means those children are getting a scant 7 hours or so of sleep each night – and less on weekends.

    Still other folks we know don’t enforce any kind of standard bedtime schedule, so their kids – small children – are sometimes still up at Midnight!

    Not only do rapidly-growing little minds & bodies need more sleep than adults, but more importantly, you’re establishing sleep habits that will likely carry with them throughout their lives. Being lax on bedtime schedules isn’t being a cool parent, it’s shortchanging your kids in innumerable ways.

  2. Anonymous

    Its very important that you get regular sleep. If you dont sleep between 6-8 hours everynight there is a sure chance that you will become even sicker.

    There are supplements that you can take that will make you a better slep like melatonin. The doctors have precritption drugs as well but they have nasty side effects.

    LG Edit: Thanks for the (biased) information. I appreciate the comment and viewpoint, but this is not your sales page. I’ve removed your URL and anonymized your comment.

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