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Am I more likely to get a cold if I’m short of sleep? © Getty Images

Am I more likely to get a cold if I’m short of sleep?

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Sleeping over seven hours a night may help your immune system fight off illness.

Asked by: Alice Parker, Cardiff


There is some evidence to support this idea. In a study conducted by researchers from the US, the sleep of 164 participants was assessed over a week. Those in the study were then given some nasal drops containing rhinovirus, and monitored for five days to see if they developed signs of a cold.

As assessed by actigraphs (watch-like devices), those who slept for short periods (up to six hours a night) were more likely to develop a cold than those who slept for longer periods (over seven hours a night). This finding chimes well with other research showing that if we miss out on sleep for even a single night, our immune system is compromised.


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Alice is a Professor of Psychology at Goldsmiths. She has contributed to several diverse research areas, including the longitudinal associations between sleep and psychopathology, behavioural genetics, sleep paralysis and exploding head syndrome. In addition to her scientific contributions she also excels in the public engagement of science. She has published two popular science book (Nodding Off, Bloomsbury, 2018 and Sleepy Pebble, Nobrow, 2019). She regularly contributes articles to the media and has had her work published in outlets including the Guardian, GQ UK, Sud Ouest, Slate Fr, Independent.


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