Summary: A good night’s sleep can make you less susceptible to infections, a new study reports. Researchers found that sleeping less than six hours or more than nine hours each night was linked to a higher risk of getting an infection.
A good night’s sleep can solve all sorts of problems, but scientists have now discovered new evidence that sleeping well can make you less susceptible to infections.
Scientists at the University of Bergen recruited medical students working in doctor’s offices to hand out short questionnaires to patients, asking them about sleep quality and recent infections.
They found that patients who reported sleeping too little or too much were more likely to also report a recent infection, and patients who had chronic sleep problems were more likely to report needing antibiotics.
“Most previous observational studies have examined the association between sleep and infection in a sample of the general population,” said Dr. Ingeborg Forthun, corresponding author of the study published in Frontiers in psychiatry.
“We wanted to assess this association in primary care patients, where we know the prevalence of sleep problems is much higher than in the general population.”
Studying sleep in the doctor’s office
There is already evidence that sleep problems increase the risk of infection: in a previous study, people deliberately infected with rhinovirus were less likely to catch a cold if they reported healthy sleep.
Sleep disturbances are common and treatable, and if a link to infection and a mechanism can be confirmed, it could help reduce antibiotic use and protect people from infection before it happens. But experimental studies cannot reproduce real circumstances.
Forthun and his colleagues gave the medical students a questionnaire and asked them to distribute it to patients in the waiting rooms of the GP surgeries where the students worked. 1,848 surveys were collected across Norway.
The surveys asked people to describe the quality of their sleep – how long they usually sleep, how much they sleep and when they prefer to sleep – as well as whether they had had any infections or used antibiotics in the past three months . The survey also contained a scale that identifies cases of chronic insomnia.
Risk of infection increased by a quarter or more
The scientists found that patients who reported sleeping less than six hours a night were 27% more likely to report an infection, while patients sleeping more than nine hours were 44% more likely to report one. Less than six hours of sleep or chronic insomnia also increase the risk of needing an antibiotic to overcome an infection.
“The higher risk of reporting infection among patients who reported short or long sleep duration is not so surprising, as we know infection can cause both poor quality sleep and drowsiness. “, said Forthun.
“But the higher risk of infection in people with chronic insomnia indicates that the direction of this relationship is also in the other direction; poor sleep can make you more susceptible to infections.
Although there is some potential for bias in that the memory of sleep or recent health problems is not necessarily perfect, and no clinical information was collected from the physicians who then saw patients, the study design allowed for the collection of data from a large study group experiencing real-world conditions.
“We don’t know why patients visited their GP, and it could be that an underlying health condition affects both the risk of poor sleep and the risk of infection, but we don’t think this can fully explain our results,” Forthun said. .
She continued: ‘Insomnia is very common in primary care patients, but it is under-recognized by general practitioners. Increased awareness of the importance of sleep, not only for general well-being, but for patient health, is needed among patients and general practitioners alike.
About this health and sleep research news
Author: Brewer Gillham’s Displeasure
Contact: Angharad Brewer Gillham – Borders
Picture: Image is in public domain
Original research: Free access.
“The association between self-reported sleep problems, infection, and antibiotic use in general practice patients” by Ingeborg Forthun et al. Frontiers in psychiatry
The association between self-reported sleep problems, infection, and antibiotic use in general practice patients
Goals: There is new evidence that sleep problems and short sleep duration increase the risk of infection. We sought to assess whether chronic insomnia disorder, chronic sleep problems, sleep duration, and self-reported circadian preference were associated with risk of infections and antibiotic use in patients consulting their general practitioner (GP).
Methods : We conducted a cross-sectional study of 1,848 unselected patients in Norway visiting their GP in 2020. Patients completed a one-page questionnaire while waiting for the consultation, which included the validated Bergen Insomnia Scale (BIS) , questions about self-rated sleep problem, sleep duration and circadian preference and whether they had infections or used antibiotics in the past 3 months. Relative risks (RR) were estimated using modified Poisson regression models.
Results: The risk of infection was 27% (95% CI RR 1.11-1.46) and 44% higher (95% CI 1.12-1.84) in sleeping patients <6 h et >9 h, respectively, compared to those sleeping 7-8 h. The risk was also increased in patients with a chronic insomnia disorder or a chronic sleep problem. For antibiotic use, the risk was higher for patients sleeping < 6 h, and for those with a chronic insomnia disorder or a chronic sleep problem.
Conclusion : Among patients consulting their GP, short sleep duration, chronic insomnia and self-reported chronic sleep problems were associated with a higher prevalence of infection and antibiotic use. These results support the notion of a strong association between sleep and infection.