Effects of an experimentally induced rhinovirus cold on sleep, performance, and daytime alertness

Physiol Behav. 2000 Oct;71(1-2):75-81. doi: 10.1016/s0031-9384(00)00322-x.


Study objectives: There is accumulating evidence that the common cold produces impairments in psychomotor vigilance. This has led some investigators to hypothesize that such illnesses may also have disruptive effects on sleep. While several self-report studies suggest that viral illness may influence sleep parameters, no studies have assessed polysomnographically recorded sleep following viral infections.

Design: Parallel control group comparison.

Setting: Sleep laboratory in a large urban medical center.

Participants: Twenty-one men and women with susceptibility to the rhinovirus type 23.

Interventions: Nasal inoculation with rhinovirus type 23.

Measurements: Polysomnographically recorded sleep for five nights (2300-0700 h) post-viral inoculation. Twice daily (1030 and 1430 h) performance assessment during each experimental day using auditory vigilance and divided attention tasks. A multiple sleep latency test (MSLT) was performed daily for the duration of the study.

Results: In symptomatic individuals, total sleep time decreased an average of 23 min, consolidated sleep decreased an average of 36 min, and sleep efficiency was reduced by an average of 5% during the active viral period (experimental days/nights 3-5) compared with the incubation period. Psychomotor performance was impaired. These changes were significantly greater than those observed in asymptomatic individuals.

Conclusions: The common cold can have detrimental effects on sleep and psychomotor performance in symptomatic individuals during the initial active phase of the illness.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affect / physiology
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Common Cold / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polysomnography
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Rhinovirus*
  • Sleep / physiology*