Get Your Zzz's Before Getting Vaccines

Vaccination after poor sleep means a weaker immune system response

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Insufficient sleep can make it harder for your body to fight illnesses, but it can also make it easier for your body to get sick in the first place.

A recent study revealed that even getting vaccinated may not provide sufficient protection against a disease, if a person is not getting enough sleep for the body to effectively respond to the vaccine.

"Be sure you get a good night's sleep before a flu shot or hepatitis vaccination."

The study, led by Aric Prather, PhD, a clinical health psychologist at the University of California San Francisco and the University of California Berkeley, investigated the impact of sleep quality on the body's response to the hepatitis B vaccination.

The researchers gave the standard three-dose hepatitis B vaccine to 125 healthy, non-smoking adults between the ages of 40 and 60. The second dose was given one month after the first, and the final booster was given six months later.

The antibody levels in each participant's body were measured before the second and third shots and six months after the third shot.

Meanwhile, each participant completed a "sleep diary" that included what time they went to bed, what time they woke up and how well they sleep. Eighty-eight participants also wore actigraphs, an electronic sleep monitor to help researchers determine how much they slept.

The results revealed that individuals who slept less than six hours a night, on average, were 11.5 times more likely not to receive the same protection from the vaccine than people who slept an average of seven or more hours a night did.

The bodies of those sleeping under six hours a night were much less likely to produce the antibodies in response to the vaccine that are necessary to protect them. In fact, the researchers found that 18 participants were not adequately protected from the vaccine.

The quality of the participants' sleep did not appear to have any connection to how well their bodies responded to the vaccine.

These results match up with past research which has shown the importance of sleep to an immune system that functions well. Not getting enough sleep can mean a weaker immune system.

"Based on our findings and existing laboratory evidence, sleep may belong on the list of behavioral risk factors that influence vaccination efficacy," Dr. Prather said. "In time, physicians and other healthcare professionals who administer vaccines may want to consider asking their patients about their sleep patterns since lack of sleep may significantly affect the potency of the vaccination."

Dr. Prather pointed out that the societal pressures that affect people's sleep today can have significant health consequences.

"With the emergence of our 24-hour lifestyle, longer working hours, and the rise in the use of technology, chronic sleep deprivation has become a way of life for many Americans," he said. "These findings should help raise awareness in the public health community about the clear connection between sleep and health," Prather said.

The study was published in the August issue of the journal Sleep. The research was funded by the National Institute of Nursing Research, a National Institute of Health fellowship and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Society scholars program. The authors declared no conflict of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 9, 2012
Last Updated:
June 25, 2013