New COVID study claims sleep has a major influence on the risk of infection

The uncertainty of the pandemic can get to your head. Researchers have come up with a method for our everyday lives to reduce the risk of catching COVID.

New COVID study claims sleep has a major influence on the risk of infection
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New COVID study claims sleep has a major influence on the risk of infection

Not only is it pleasant, but also healthy: getting enough sleep doesn't hurt and is feasible for most with just a few small changes in everyday life.

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A recent study in the journal BMJ Nutrition, Prevention, and Health concludes that sleep contributes (visibly) to the immune defence against coronavirus

The contents of the study

The study examines more than 2800 people from six countries who work in healthcare and have been in regular contact with COVID-19 patients over a period of six months.

According to the results, the risk of contagion decreases by 12% for each additional hour of sleep. Those participants who are prone to burnout are at greater risk of infection.

These people also tend to have longer and more severe bouts of illness than those who are less stressed. A smaller study from China comes with similar results:

People who have not slept enough the week before they fall ill with COVID-19 show more severe symptoms. Now researchers are also investigating the connection with melatonin.

The hormone plays a major role in the sleep-wake cycle and could theoretically help prevent infection of the virus, or at least alleviate its course.

Criticism of the study

Sleep physician Steven Holfinger from Ohio University confirms that lack of sleep, sleep problems or burnout could well increase the risk of infection.

Nevertheless, in his opinion, the few studies are not sufficient to prove this definitively. There are also factors that the study did not sufficiently take into account.

For example, there is the possibility that the staff at risk simply had to deal with more patients. In addition, one should generally interpret the data very cautiously, as circumstances change very quickly in the pandemic.

Sleep is healthy

While experts caution that getting enough sleep is not a panacea for the coronavirus, there is no question that sleep is important for health and immune defence. Holfinger says in this regard:

As our body fights infections, we release cytokines that promote sleep and lead to an increase in sleep when infections occur. We hypothesise that this is beneficial for our immune system to fight infections. The current hypothesis is therefore that sleep is beneficial for our immune health.

So getting enough sleep is not only a good idea in relation to the current pandemic. It has also been shown to improve the overall quality of life.

You can easily improve the quality of your sleep. For example, you should know why the snooze function on your mobile phone alarm clock is more harmful than helpful. You can also change the position of your bed in the room and learn to sleep as deeply as a baby.

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