“Most previous observational studies have examined the relationship between sleep and infection in a sample of the general population,” said Dr. Ingeborg Forth. “We wanted to assess this relationship among patients in primary care, where we know the prevalence of sleep problems is higher than in the general population.”

There is already evidence that sleep problems increase the likelihood of infection. In a recent study, participants who were intentionally infected with rhinovirus were less likely to catch a cold if they reported getting enough sleep. Sleep disorders are common and treatable, and if the link and mechanism to infection can be established, it may be possible to reduce antibiotic use and protect patients from infections before they occur. However, laboratory studies cannot replicate real-life situations.


Forthun and colleagues administered a questionnaire to medical students and asked them to distribute it to patients in the waiting rooms of general surgery surgeries where the students worked.

In total, 1,848 questionnaires were collected across Norway. People were asked to describe their sleep quality – how much sleep they usually get, how long they sleep and when they prefer to sleep – and whether they had had any infections or taken antibiotics in the past three months. The survey also included a scale to detect persistent insomnia.

The risk of infection has increased by a quarter

Those who reported sleeping less than six hours a night were 27% more likely to get an infection, and those who reported sleeping more than nine hours a night were 44% more likely. Less than six hours of sleep per night or chronic insomnia increases the likelihood of needing antibiotics to treat the disease.

“The higher risk of infection among patients reporting short or long sleep duration is not surprising because we know that infection can cause both poor sleep and drowsiness,” Forthun said. “However, the higher risk of infection among those with chronic insomnia suggests that the direction of the relationship also goes in the other direction; poor sleep may make you more susceptible to infection.”

Although there was some potential for bias in that people’s recall of sleep or recent health problems was not always perfect, and no clinical data was collected from physicians who saw the patients later, the study design allowed for the collection of data from a large study group who experienced actual sleep. – world conditions.

He continued: “Insomnia is very common among patients in primary care, but is under-recognized by general practitioners. There is a need to increase awareness of the importance of sleep not only for general well-being, but also for the health of patients. Both patients and general practitioners.”


  1. The relationship between sleep problems, infection and antibiotic use in patients in general practice – (https:www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2023.1033034/full)

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