Associations between sleep duration, shift work, and infectious illness in the United States: Data from the National Health Interview Survey

Sleep Health. 2021 Oct;7(5):638-643. doi: 10.1016/j.sleh.2021.05.004. Epub 2021 Jun 27.


Objective: Insufficient sleep and circadian disruption have been linked to immune system dysregulation. The aim of this study was to examine the associations between self-reported sleep duration and work schedule with reports of head and chest colds among adults 18 years and older in the United States.

Methods: Associations between self-reported habitual sleep duration and work schedule (regular daytime, regular evening, regular nighttime, rotating, other) with reports head and chest colds in the past 2 weeks were examined using data from the 2010 and 2015 National Health Interview Survey. Adults who slept 7-8 hours or reported a regular daytime work schedule were considered the reference group. Multivariate logistic regressions, incorporating sampling weights, were computed adjusting for sociodemographic and health characteristics.

Results: Analyses revealed in fully adjusted models that compared to 7- 8 hours sleepers, those sleeping 5 or fewer hours were 44% more likely to report a cold (odds ratio [OR] = 1.44, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.29-1.61) while those sleeping 9 or more hours were 20% more likely (OR = 1.20, 95% CI 1.06-1.36). Participants who reported a rotating work schedule were 20% more likely to report a cold (OR = 1.20, 95% CI 1.07-1.36) than those reporting a regular daytime work schedule.

Conclusions: Short and long sleep duration, as well as a rotating shift work schedule, were associated with increased reports of head and chest colds in a nationally representative sample of US adults. Sleep and circadian function may serve as relevant targets to reduce susceptibility to infectious illness.

Keywords: Circadian; Cold; Infection; Shift work; Sleep.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Shift Work Schedule*
  • Sleep / physiology
  • Sleep Deprivation
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • United States / epidemiology