Sleep Affects Vaccine Power

If you’re sleep deprived, vaccines may not work as well to protect you from disease, suggests new research in the journal Sleep.

To study the effects of a good night’s rest on immunity, researchers from UC San Francisco looked at healthy, non-smoking men and women between the ages of 40 and 60. Each was given a standard three-dose hepatitis B vaccine. Before the second and third injections, and six months after the final booster shot, scientists measured antibody levels for each subject.

Meanwhile, the participants kept a journal of what time they fell sleep and woke up, and how well they slept through the night. Many of the subjects also wore an actigraph (an electronic sleep monitor) as an objective measure of sleep length and quality.

People who slept fewer than six hours per night on average were less likely to have sufficient antibodies to provide immunity after the shots. These sleep-deprived individuals were 12 times as likely to be unprotected against hepatitis B disease than subjects who slept more than seven hours per night on average.

Researchers already know that sleep has an impact on the immune system. For example, one recent study showed that severe sleep loss mimics a high stress reaction in the body and disrupts the activity of white blood cells. Chronic sleep loss is also known to make people more vulnerable to catching cold and flu viruses. The current study adds to this by suggesting that our usual protective measures to fight off infectious disease can also be undermined when we do not get sufficient sleep.