Research shows an important link between sleep and viral infections. Too little sleep makes you more vulnerable to illness, while getting sufficient rest boosts your immune response. The same information applies to getting the most benefit from COVID-19 vaccines.
According to Well+Good, that is why experts recommend prioritizing sleep before after getting your COVID-19 vaccine.
“There are several studies from U.S. and European groups that have shown that people who get a good night’s sleep in the nights shortly before and after vaccinations, such as seasonal flu and hepatitis, produce more immune-specific antibodies and virus-specific memory immune cells than those who do not get sufficient slumber,” Dr. Christian Benedict, Ph.D., an associate professor of Neuroscience and sleep expert from Uppsala University in Sweden, told Well+Good.
Dr. Benedict and a colleague recently wrote a paper on the topic of sleep and the immune response to vaccines that was published in The Lancet. He noted that in one study, people who received the vaccine for hepatitis A who suffered acute sleep loss on the night following vaccination failed to build enough antibodies to fight the disease.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has officially endorsed sleep as a proven way to get the most benefits from COVID-19 vaccines.
“Sleep is critical for optimizing immune function,” said board-certified internist Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, author of the best-selling book, From Fatigued to Fantastic. “One of the most powerful ways to suppress immunity is through sleep deprivation. Studies have shown that vaccines are more likely to enhance immunity if you have good sleep for a few nights before and after a vaccination.”
The AASM points to a 2020 study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine showing that the flu vaccine was more effective for people who had enough sleep two nights before vaccination compared to those who did not have sufficient shuteye.
The reason that sleep may have a significant effect on building immunity against viruses and other pathogens is that our bodies produce cytokine proteins when we sleep. According to the Mayo Clinic, lack of sleep lowers the production of these cytokine proteins and makes you more susceptible to getting sick of you are exposed to a virus. Infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you do not get enough sleep. The Mayo Clinic experts say that adults should aim for seven to eight hours of good quality sleep.
When you get vaccinated, your body depends on innate immune response to develop protection, says Dr. Esther Odekunle, a British neurobiologist and antibody engineer, according to Well+Good.
“A vaccine is a substance that stimulates your body’s immune system to fight against, and therefore protect you against, a pathogen,” she explains. “The benefit of a vaccine is that it imitates an infection and therefore provides immune protection.”
Shockingly, a 2002 study found that people who lost sleep after having a flu shot reduced their protection by half. Similar results were found in subsequent stories of other vaccines, says Well+Good.
Dr. Benedict says that the three vaccines we have now in the U.S. are extremely effective in fighting COVID-19 but to maintain their high percentage of efficacy, it is important to ensure that you have a good night’s sleep prior to, and after vaccination.
Nancy Rothstein, MBA, known as The Sleep Ambassador, offers these tips on improving your sleep hygiene:
- Set a consistent sleep and wake time 7 days a week. Your circadian rhythm will appreciate a set schedule so it can support your immune system.
- Create a relaxing bedtime routine that begins an hour before going to sleep. Turn off all devices and technology, take a shower or bath, or read a physical book with a dim light.
- Take care of your body. Even if you are homebound, try to maintain as normal a routine as possible. Get some exercise, eat sensibly, do not drink too much alcohol, and avoid caffeine too close to bedtime.
- Keep your bed predominantly for sleep. Try not to watch television in bed or use your bedroom for work. If you cannot sleep, get up and do something relaxing in a dim light that is quiet and away from the bedroom. Go back to bed when you are ready to fall asleep.
- Meditate or pray. These practices can have a profound effect on the quality of your sleep.
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