A new study suggests that if you’re prone to getting a cold every now and then, you might want to track how much sleep you’re getting.

Yes, it might sound strange, but the study, published in SLEEP, a peer-reviewed journal on, well, sleep, tracked a sample set of 164 healthy individuals and monitored how much sleep they got. They also exposed them to rhinovirus, the official name of the humble and annoying common cold.

A Look At The Numbers, Please

The study suggests that those who sleep less than five hours a day were a whopping 4.5 times more likely to catch a cold than those who slept for seven hours.

And there’s a spectrum in between. For instance, only 18 per cent of those who slept for more than six hours got the cold despite exposure to the virus. But only 39 per cent of those who slept less than six hours got it.

A New Perspective On Thinking About The Cold

This throws some new light on older data. For instance, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention says that most US adults catch an average of two to three colds annually, with kids getting even more than that.

Aric Prather, lead author of the SLEEP study pointed out that when we don’t sleep enough, it may impact our immune systems in a variety of ways — from how the cells act to enabling our inflammation pathways.

“We don’t know conclusively what happens, but there are a variety of pathways and they all work together and ultimately put people at risk,” Prather said.

Shalini Paruthi, director of the Pediatric Sleep and Research Center at Saint Louis University, put it simply: “It looks like an adequate amount of sleep allows our body to mount a better immune response.”

The Takeaway

A third of humans’ lives is supposed to be spent in sleep. That’s 25 years on an average in, say, the US. But hectic work schedules and an increasing number of people working multiple jobs have compromised American sleeping habits.

One has to worry about more than the humble common cold when one is sleep-deprived. Lack of sleep has been associated with lack of mental alertness and a diminished driving ability. Moreover, correlations with an increased risk of heart attack, strokes diabetes and obesity have also been observed.

There is too much of a good thing, however. There are some studies, inconclusive as they might be, that warn of the risk of sleeping more than nine hours a day.

Putting The Issue To Bed

Getting more sleep is good for your health as a holistic whole. Its benefits certainly outstrip the basic be well-rested one. So adopt routine conducive to getting a good night’s sleep, like keeping your bedroom dark, waking up in the morning and getting some exercise and, most importantly, keeping an alarm clock to make you go to sleep i.e remind you it’s bedtime.