Does sleeping fewer hours than needed cause the common cold? If so, how?

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    $\begingroup$ The question can be interpreted ambiguously: 1) literal meaning, sleep deprivation causes common cold, or 2) sleep deprivation causes "common cold"-like symptoms. (1) has been answered with weakened immune system and virus, though it'd be interesting to see if someone can explore on case (2), moreover if it's not caused by external source. $\endgroup$
    – Andrew T.
    Oct 28, 2019 at 2:57
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    $\begingroup$ Technically speaking, no. Common cold is caused by a virus. Practically speaking, as the answers show, lack of sleep makes you more vulnerable to any virus. $\endgroup$
    – Gloweye
    Oct 28, 2019 at 11:14
  • $\begingroup$ Generally the answer to “does X cause cold” is “no, unless X is rhinovirus”. In particular, cold doesn't cause cold... $\endgroup$ Oct 28, 2019 at 12:06

2 Answers 2


There have been some studies directly linking sleep deprivation to increased risk of catching a cold ("Behaviorally Assessed Sleep and Susceptibility to the Common Cold Sleep". 2015;38:1353–9.).

Colds are caused by a family of viruses. There is pretty solid evidence that sleep deprivation has a significant weakening effect on your immune system. Given a weakened immune system, it would be more likely that you would catch a cold if you are exposed to one of the cold-causing viruses.

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    $\begingroup$ Though it would be not just colds, but any infectious disease. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Oct 25, 2019 at 16:44
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    $\begingroup$ @jamessqf Sure, but that wasn't the question. The first reference looks specifically at the common cold, the second reference looks at the general issue of weakened immune system. $\endgroup$ Oct 25, 2019 at 17:35
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    $\begingroup$ It's a matter of correctness, I think. If the question is simply whether sleep deprivation causes colds, then the answer is no. Rhinoviruses cause colds. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Oct 26, 2019 at 3:42
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    $\begingroup$ @jamesqf And next time a rabid dog bite does not cause rabies, the virus does? $\endgroup$ Oct 27, 2019 at 7:53
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    $\begingroup$ @jamesqf What actual point are you trying to make? The answer explicitly says "Colds are caused by a family of viruses" and refers to "cold-causing viruses". It explicitly says that lack of sleep weakens the immune system and that this makes it more likely to catch a cold. OK, it doesn't explicitly say that a weakened immune system also makes it more likely that you'll catch any other infectious disease, but isn't it obvious enough that it doesn't need to be said? Are you just upset that the answer doesn't include the one-word summary, "no"? $\endgroup$ Oct 27, 2019 at 9:02

A new study published in this week's journal SLEEP finds that people who sleep less than six hours are more likely to catch a cold. Researchers tracked 164 healthy men and women for a week at a time, monitoring how much they slept and exposing them to the rhinovirus, also known as, the common cold.

Aric Prather, lead author of the study, and his colleagues found that those who slept less than five hours were 4.5 times more likely to have a cold than those who slept seven hours.

Only 18% of those who slept six or more hours got a cold, while 39% of those who slept less than six hours got the virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most adults average two to three colds a year and kids have even more. Prather pointed out that when we don't sleep enough, it may impact our immune systems in a variety of ways -- from how the cells act to enabling our inflammation pathways.

  • $\begingroup$ I take it the baseline for control was around 13% had a cold? $\endgroup$
    – Tim
    Oct 28, 2019 at 11:37
  • $\begingroup$ How has the cold virus survived for so long? Is it able to lie dormant within a host until their immune system is weaker than normal? More people seem to get a cold in the winter. $\endgroup$ Oct 28, 2019 at 13:55
  • $\begingroup$ @PaulMcCarthy Generally diseases likes colds survive by circling through large populations, and mutating quickly enough that you don't have much resistance to it by the time it comes back around to you. $\endgroup$
    – azurefrog
    Oct 28, 2019 at 22:23
  • $\begingroup$ @azurefrog Yes but more people appear to get a cold in Winter. If the virus was just circulating, roughly the same numbers of people would have a cold all year round. $\endgroup$ Oct 29, 2019 at 11:30

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