Could Lack of Sleep Be Making You Ill

In every lecture hall I sit in on, the teacher’s voice is equally matched or drowned out by a cacophony of coughs and sniffles. It is no secret, the plague is among us, people are getting ill. There are many reasons why college students could be prone to sickness. Primarily, college is a hub of thousands of kids all packed into one small confined space. My building alone houses over three hundred students, over forty kids share the same bathrooms, and lecture halls can be up to five hundred or six hundred people. The sheer amount of germs concentrated into small areas in college makes it easy to catch something.

But, as I’ve seen in the case of my roommate and many of my friends, many of us have a lot of trouble getting healthy after getting sick. Common colds and and basic symptoms are lasting weeks and weeks for some people. In my basic research of what mainly makes people sick, I came across one that could definitely affect college students: sleep deprivation.

As on team of scientists found, the level of sleep that you get has a direct effect on your health and likelihood for illness. Researchers at the University of California San Francisco recruited 164 healthy adults and observed their natural sleeping patterns for a week. The next week, 124 of the subjects were given a nose drop containing rhinovirus, which causes common cold. The remaining forty were administered a placebo nose drop. Then, all 164 of them were observed for the next five days to assess the results (Engelking).

Their results supported the hypothesis that less sleep correlated with a higher likelihood of sickness. The scientists physically weighed disposed tissues to measure the health of their subjects. The scientists concluded that out of the 124 participants that were infected, 48 contracted the virus. The one trend that scientists found: those who slept less than five hours per night were four times more likely to catch a virus than those who got six hours of sleep or more.

In college, this is ever so applicable. Students have late nights out, study at length for tests, and wake up early for class. Staying up late and waking up early for your 8am class could be depriving you of sleep and be perpetuating your illness.

It is important to clarify, though, that lack of sleep is 100% not a cause of illness, but a contributing factor. As I tried to further my research, though, every article pointed back to the same study. While in one sense it is hard to say with certainty that a single study is proof of something, it is also worth nothing that a mass of articles were written on this study alone, which certainly adds to the validity of the finding.

As a result, keep in mind that if you have an early class, it is essential to go to sleep earlier than if you did not. Further, if you, like so many others, are feeling the effects of the Penn State plague, make sure you rest up, it might just be your saving grace.

5 thoughts on “Could Lack of Sleep Be Making You Ill

  1. Tyler Mitchell Azar

    While I agree that sleep (or lack of it) could definitely be a major cause of illness, I can’t help but think that there are many confounding variables that could be causes as well. Students are under tremendous stress during the semester, they may not be getting proper nutrition, they’re in constant contact with a large amount of people, it’s even possible that alcohol consumption is to blame for their weakened immune systems. That’s not to say that not getting enough sleep isn’t the reason (I don’t get enough sleep and often find myself battling colds), there just may be more to it. Awesome blog btw!

  2. Emily Fiacco Tuite

    I completely agree with you on this because I am starting to get over the Penn State plague and when I was at my worst with it I now realize that I was not sleeping as much as I should have been. Your post helped me see that even though it is hard to sleep when you are sick, it is something that is completely beneficial to your health. Here is an article about how sleeping a lot helps you get better.

  3. Erin Kelly

    I like your post! Its definitely true that sleep helps when you’re sick. I’ve been sick for weeks and can’t get enough sleep to let my body heal. However, sleep can also help with studying too!
    This article from harvard points out that sleep is crucial for memory and coding. That means if you have an exam, you’ll most likely perform much better if you get a good night sleep after studying!

  4. Samantha Liebensohn

    As a victim of the Penn State plague for two straight semesters, this blog post speaks to me. I am also a victim of constant lack of sleep. I constantly put the necessity of sleep on the back burner in order to finish my work, catch up on a Netflix series, or socialize with my friends. My parents alway lecture me about how important sleep it but I never knew that it was scientifically proven that a lack of sleep could increase my chances of getting sick. Here’s a video going into other side effects due to lack of sleep:

  5. Jacqueline Brocco

    This post was great! I know that when I do not get enough sleep I always feel sick and gross. When I am sick sleeping a lot helps me recover. Sleeping a good amount also helps me focus more in class and gives me enough energy to get through the day! Getting enough sleep is critical to human health! But too much sleep also is not the best thing! Here are some downsides of getting too much sleep.

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