Low on Sleep? Your Immune System May Suffer

A study on twins reveals that rest and illness are closely linked.

Struggling to fend off winter colds? Getting too little sleep might be a factor, according to recent research published in the journal Sleep.

Researchers analyzed blood samples from 11 pairs of identical twins with differing sleep patterns. The twin who got less sleep also had a less robust immune system compared to their better-rested sibling. (The study used identical twins as a way to control for genetics, which account for 31 to 55% of how long we tend to sleep for.) According to Sina Gharib, MD, director of the University of Washington Medicine’s Computational Medicine Core at the Center for Lung Biology and the paper’s senior author, the study shows that chronic sleep loss may change our immune system in a way that makes us more vulnerable to sickness.

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The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that adults get 7-plus hours of sleep per night, but according to CDC data cited by the researchers, about one-third of working people in the U.S. get less than six hours a night. “Modern society,” the study authors write, “with its control of light, omnipresent technology and countless competing interests for time, along with the zeitgeist de-emphasizing sleep’s importance has resulted in the widespread deprioritization of sleep.”

Read more about the study on Science Daily.