The winter months will soon be here, and the chance for catching a cold increases substantially. We all know how miserable having a cold can be. However, getting a good night of sleep every night might help prevent catching the rhinovirus.

Scientific evidence has shown that poor sleep is associated with the development of chronic illnesses. When a patient sleeps poorly, inflammatory pathways are activated, and their immune system does not work as well as it would with adequate sleep. Now, new research suggests that patients who don’t get enough sleep are more susceptible to the common cold as well.

In the study, the researchers measured participants’ sleep using wrist actigraphy. Participants were quarantined in a hotel room for 6 days where they were exposed to the rhinovirus via nasal drops.

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Careful screening excluded patients who had other sleep disorders or may have been developing a cold. Study participants were considered to have a cold if they were both infected by the virus and met illness criteria.

The researchers found that the participants who slept less than 6 hours a night for the 7 nights prior to the virus being administered were four times more likely to catch the cold than the participants who slept more than 7 hours per night.

Now we can tell patients who complain of cold symptoms that along with their chicken soup (which, by the way, has been proven to help with cold symptoms), they should also get plenty of sleep.

I am continually amazed at what sleep (and the lack of it) can do to the human body. Please encourage your patients to get adequate sleep every night. They could be protecting themselves from some nasty viruses!

Sharon M. O’Brien MPAS, PA-C, is a practicing clinician with an interest is helping patients understand the importance of sleep hygiene and the impact of sleep on health.


  1. Prather AA, Janicki-Deverts D, Hall MH, Cohen S. Behaviorally assessed sleep and susceptibility to the common cold. Sleep. 2015; doi:38(9):1353-1359.