An Irish proverb advises, “A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything.” Now, a scientific study suggests that high-quality sleep can, in fact, reduce vulnerability to infection. The study also found that those sleeping too little or too much were more likely to report a recent infection. Another finding indicated that patients who experienced chronic sleep problems were more likely to report needing antibiotics.
Researchers at the University of Bergen analyzed data from questionnaires about sleep quality and recent infections completed by patients. The researchers gave medical students a questionnaire and asked them to distribute it to patients waiting for surgical care. The surveys included questions about sleep quality (typical sleep duration, sleep cycle preferences, etc.). 1,848 surveys were collected across Norway. The survey included questions about recent infections or antibiotic use in the past three months, and also contained a scale used to identify cases of chronic insomnia disorder.
The study revealed that participants who reported sleeping less than six hours a night were 27% more likely to report an infection, and patients sleeping more than nine hours were 44% more likely to report one. Those patients who sleep for less than six hours or those with chronic insomnia are more likely to require antibiotic treatments. According to corresponding author Dr. Ingeborg Forthun, “The higher risk of an infection among those with a chronic insomnia disorder indicates that the direction of this relationship also goes in the other direction; poor sleep can make you more susceptible to an infection.” Previous studies indicated that sleep problems raise the risk of infection.
The study demonstrated how sleep boosts immunity, although the researchers acknowledge some potential for bias, given participants’ recall of sleep may be inaccurate. Dr. Forthun explained another factor: “We don’t know why the patients visited their GPs, and it could be that an underlying health problem affects both the risk of poor sleep and risk of infection, but we don’t think this can fully explain our results.” Further research on the link between sleep quality and infection risk factor is needed to develop effective preventative care plans.
Sources: Eureka News Alert, Frontiers in Psychiatry, Frontiers Science News