How Sleep Prevents Colds

Cold & Flu How sleep can prevent cold?

How sleep helps prevent colds  [OR] How sleep can help keep colds away

Your immune system is your best defence against colds  and protecting it can be as simple as getting a good night’s sleep.

How sleep helps fight colds

Getting around 8 hours of sleep a night, and getting good quality sleep has been shown to decrease your chance of getting a cold.1

In contrast, people who lose just a little bit of sleep are more likely to come down with a cold. In a recent study, those who got less than 7 hours of good sleep were almost 3 times more likely to get sick than people who got 8 or more hours.1 What’s more, if you’re normally an 8-hour sleeper and you lose as little as 10 minutes of sleep in an average night – you’re more likely to catch a cold!1

How you can get more sleep, and better quality sleep

As beneficial as sleep is for keeping colds and sickness at bay, many of us struggle to get enough of it .2

Lack of sleep affects work performance, leisure activities, relationships, the ability to think clearly, and mental and emotional well-being.2

Motoring organisations also estimate that fatigue is also a key factor in one in six fatal road accidents.

Try these small changes to help ensure sufficient, quality sleep.

  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule. - go to bed and wake up at the same time every day – including weekends!3,4
  • Don’t sleep on a full stomach. Limit food and beverage consumption at least two hours before bedtime to prevent heartburn and to keep from getting up for trips to the bathroom.3,4
  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol before bed. These substances are known to interfere with sleep.3,4
  • Create a pro-sleep bedroom environment. That means low lighting, a comfortable temperature and a noise level that suits your preference. It’s also important to have a comfortable mattress and pillow to prevent tossing and turning.3,4
  • Take time to wind down before bed. Ease the transition from the working day to restful sleep by engaging in relaxing activities before bed. Take a warm bath, listen to soft music, or read a book.3,4
  • Exercise regularly. In general, exercising regularly makes it easier to fall asleep and contributes to sounder sleep. Finish exercise at least 3 hours before bedtime.3,4
  • Keep prescription sleeping pills to a minimum.  Sleeping pills are effective but can have side-effects, so they should be used sparingly and for the shortest amount of time possibleand under medical supervision.

It’s worth remembering that regular sleep disruption could be an early sign of a sleep disorder. If you’re in any doubt, it’s a good idea to seek advice from a doctor or physician.



  1. Sleep Habits and Susceptibility to the Common Cold. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(1):62-67.Sheldon Cohen, PhD; William J. Doyle, PhD; Cuneyt M. Alper, MD; Denise Janicki-Deverts, PhD; Ronald B. Turner, MD.
  2. Associations of frequent sleep insufficiency with health-related quality of life and health behaviors. Sleep Medicine, Volume 6, Issue 1, Pages 23-27. T.Strine, D.Chapman.
  3. Healthy sleep tips. National Sleep Foundation. . Accessed September 2010.
  4. In brief: Your guide to healthy sleep. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. , Accessed September 2010.