Lack of Sleep Linked to Recurring Colds, Infections


Patients visiting retail clinics for recurring colds may not be getting enough sleep.

Patients visiting retail clinics for recurring colds may not be getting enough sleep.

Between 50 million and 70 million individuals in the United States either have a sleep disorder or habitually insufficient sleep, according to the US Centers for Disease Prevention and Control. Alarmingly, there’s increasing evidence that too little sleep can haveserious health impacts.

A recent study published inJAMA Internal Medicinefound that adults who report sleep trouble or are diagnosed with a sleep disorder are more likely to contract a cold or infection.

Researchers analyzed data from nearly 23,000 Americans enrolled in the 2005-2012 National Health and Nutrition and Examination Survey. They were asked to report their typical weekday sleep duration in hours, whether they’ve ever been diagnosed with a sleep disorder, and whether they’ve ever told a health care professional that they’ve had trouble sleeping.

The participants were also asked to report whether they experienced a head cold, chest cold, or an infection, including the flu, pneumonia, or an ear infection, within the last 30 days.

Among the participants, 13.6% reported sleeping 5 or fewer hours a night, 23% slept for 6 hours, 56.3% slept for 7 or 8 hours, and only 7.1% slept for 9 or more hours.

Those who slept for 5 or fewer hours were more likely to report experiencing a head cold, chest cold, or infection within the past 30 days compared with those who slept for 7 or more hours. Meanwhile, adults who reported ever having a diagnosed sleep disorder or telling their physician that they had trouble sleeping were more likely to report a head cold, chest cold, or infection within the previous 30 days.

“It may be time that sleep assessments become more commonplace in medical settings, as sleep may serve as yet another vital sign for help,” the researchers concluded.

Retail clinicians should inform patients who repeatedly present with infection or colds that their sleeping habits may be to blame. Pinpointing lack of sleep as the causal factor behind a patient’s illness could potentially cut down on futureunnecessary antibiotic prescribing. In addition, clinicians can recommend several different OTC or prescription medications tohelp managesleep habits.

The accessibility of retail clinics may also make them ideal locations to administer sleep assessments.

The National Sleep Foundation offers resources and tools for health care professionals to evaluate a patient’s sleep, including the National Sleep Foundation’s Sleepiness Test, the Insomnia Severity Index, the Epworth Sleepiness Scale, and the STOP BAND Screening Questionnaire.

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