While you are sleeping, your body is hard at work. Not only is it creating memories from the previous day and repairing connective tissue, but it is also fighting off pathogens. Research has shown that sleep may also play a role in how effective the COVID-19 vaccine works in your body. Here’s what you should know about sleep, immune health, and vaccine effectiveness.
The importance of sleep
Sleep is essential, and the consequences of sleep deprivation can be devastating. Short-term sleep loss, for example, has been shown to affect a person’s judgment, mood, and ability to learn and remember information. It is also associated with an increased risk of accidents.
Chronic sleep deprivation, on the other hand, can lead to serious health problems. Long-term sleep loss is associated with obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Studies even show a correlation between chronic sleep loss and an increased risk of mortality.
How sleep deprivation can affect the immune system
Both short and long-term sleep loss can affect your immune health. Even losing sleep for just one night is enough to compromise your immune system.
A study showed that those whose sleep was restricted to four hours one night had reduced natural killer (NK) cells an average of 72% compared to those who slept a full night. Reduced NK cells are known to increase the risk of dying from cancer by up to 1.6 times.
What’s more, is those who restricted sleep also had an increase in inflammatory cytokines. These are known to play a role in developing cardiovascular and metabolic disorders.
Sleep Loss and Vaccine Efficacy
Because sleep loss affects the immune system, it makes sense why researchers would want to study the relationship between sleep and vaccine efficacy.
One study of particular interest looked at the effect sleep deprivation had on the response to influenza immunization. Researchers restricted sleep to four hours a night for six consecutive days, then increased sleep to twelve hours per night for seven days. The participants had more than a 50% decrease in antibody production in response to the influenza vaccination than those who had regular sleep hours.
Another study that highlighted the potential effects sleep had on vaccine efficacy involved the hepatitis B vaccine. This study also showed that sleep reduction was associated with producing fewer antibodies in response to a vaccine.
Research about sleep and COVID-19 is not yet available, but these studies give us an idea of how important sleep is for a healthy, responsive immune system.