The Surprising Power of Sleep Unlocks Vaccines' Full Potential

The Surprising Power of Sleep Unlocks Vaccines' Full Potential ...

A meta-analysis published in Current Biology found that adequate sleep plays a critical role in boosting the immune system's response to vaccination. Individuals who slept less than six hours per night produced significantly less antibodies than individuals who slept seven hours or more, with the deficit equivalent to two months of antibody fading.

A meta-analysis published in the journal Current Biology on March 13 found that good shut-eye helps our immune systems respond to vaccination more efficiently. The difference was equivalent to two months of antibody fading.

“Good sleep enhances vaccination protection, but may also prolong the duration of vaccination protection,” says senior author Eve Van Cauter, professor emeritus at the University of Chicago who, together with lead author Karine Spiegel at the French National Institute of Health and Medicine, in 2002.

Spiegel and Van Cauter set out to sum up our current knowledge about the impact of sleep duration on vaccination response when the COVID-19 epidemic hit, and mass-vaccination became a global goal.

Spiegel et al., cartoon, shows the effects of inadequate sleep on immunization.

The researchers compared the antibody response for people who slept a "normal" amount (7–9 hours, as per the National Sleep Foundation's recommendation for healthy adults) with "short sleepers" who sleep less than 6 hours per night.

Overall, the authors found that less than six hours a night decreased the immune response to vaccination. When they examined men and women separately, the result was only significant in men, and the effect of sleep duration on antibody production was much more variable in women, according to the authors.

Spiegel says: "We know from immunology studies that sex hormones affect the immune system," although none of the studies we examined contained any data on sex hormone levels.

Adults aged 18 to 60 tended to sleep less in general; going from seven hours to less than six hours per night isn't as significant as going from eight to less than six per night.

Short sleep duration was associated with decreased antibodies in both instances, but the effect was stronger in the cases that used objective sleep measures, likely due to people's poor judgments about how much sleep they have had.

According to the authors, knowing that sleep duration influences vaccination may give people some degree of control over their immunity. "When you see the variability in protection provided by the COVID-19 vaccinations, people who have pre-existing conditions are less protected, men are less protected than women, and obese individuals are less protected than individuals who don't have obesity."

According to the authors, there's still a lot more to be learned about sleep and vaccination. "We need to understand which days are most critical at the time of vaccination," Spiegel continues. "This is a skill that can help maximize protection."

For further information on this research, click here.

  • Sleep and Vaccination: The Critical Connection You Should Know About
  • Poor Sleep May Weaken Vaccine Response

Karine Spiegel, Amandine E. Rey, Kieran Ayling, Tanja Lange, Aric A. Prather, Daniel J. Taylor, Michael R. Irwin, and Eve Van Cauter, from 13 March 2023, Current Biology. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2023.02.017

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