A new study from the University of Bergen has found that a lack of sleep increases the risk of infection, with patients who report sleeping less than six hours or more than nine hours being more likely to require antibiotics. The findings were published in the journal Frontiers of Psychiatry.
The study, which involved almost 2,000 patients, highlights the potential benefits of good sleep in reducing the risk of infection and the need for antibiotics. The findings, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry, emphasise the importance of sleep quality for maintaining overall health.
The researchers recruited medical students working in doctors’ surgeries to hand out short questionnaires to patients, asking about sleep quality and recent infections. They found that patients who reported sleeping too little or too much were more likely to report a recent infection, and patients who experienced chronic sleep problems were more likely to report needing antibiotics.
“Most previous observational studies have looked at the association between sleep and infection in a sample of the general population,” said Dr Ingeborg Forthun, corresponding author of the study. “We wanted to assess this association among patients in primary care, where we know that the prevalence of sleep problems is much higher than in the population at large.”
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 raised the risk of needing antibiotics to overcome an infection.
The study design allowed for the collection of data from a large study group experiencing real-world conditions. While there was some potential for bias in the sense that people’s recall of sleep or recent health issues is not necessarily perfect, the study provides valuable insights into the importance of sleep quality for maintaining overall health.
“Insomnia is very common among patients in primary care but found to be under-recognised by general practitioners. Increased awareness of the importance of sleep, not only for general well-being but for patients’ health, is needed both among patients and general practitioners,” said Forthun.
The researchers hope that the findings will encourage people to prioritize their sleep and seek help if they experience chronic sleep problems. They also suggest that if a link between sleep and infection can be confirmed, it may be possible to cut down on antibiotic use and protect people against infections before they happen.